Gilgamesh, the Illiad, the Aeneid

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Classical literature has withstood the tests of time. Through the Anglo-Saxon era in history, long narrative poems, known as epics become all the rage. These poems were written in elevated styles that presented the adventures of a hero with superhuman qualities who embodied the national ideals. These ideals and adventures were presented through elements such as dreams, courage allowing the hero to overcome great trials, and a major battle scene. These elements, known as epic conventions, created epics that to this day continue to be read and taught throughout all the world.

Authors like Homer (Circa 850 B.C.) and Virgil (Circa 70-19 B.C.) capitalized on the growing popularity of epics through masterpieces like Gilgamesh, The Iliad, and The Aeneid. Epics like these were too good to allow them to disappear into the annals of time. Knowing this, Theodor H. Gaster, Robert Fitzgerald, and C. Day Lewis translated the epics into pros for future enjoyment. Gilgamesh, a mighty warrior is confronted by a more superior force, Enkidu, and is forced to transform from a tyrant into a caring and loving individual while seeking the plant of everlasting life. Through The Iliad Hector, displaying honor and pride, enters a battle he knows he shall surely lose to death. In "The Aeneid" the Trojan empire is attacked and overthrown by the Greeks formally ending the long and tedious Trojan War. Through these three epics, one learns the values of love, compassion, pity, pride, honor, and sacrifice which to this day represent the verities of life.

Using epics, Homer and Virgil translated the true meaning of the verity of love to everyday life. Before leaving for battle, Queen Ninsun, the mother of Gilgamesh, conversing with the sun-god pleads, ". . . dear Sun-God, he has taken it into his head to travel for days on long and perilous paths only to do battle with the monster Humbaba! I beg you to watch over him day and night, and to bring him back to me safe and sound." After enduring all of the trials placed before him, Gilgamesh finally solidifies a transformation from a tyrant to a lover of his people when, after discovering the plant of everlasting life, he implies, "I will carry it back to Erech and give it to the people to eat. So will I at least have some reward for my pains!" Homer, through the epic The Iliad, uses the verity of love when the character Hector dandles Astyanax, Hector and Andromache's son, and prays to Zeus for the safe keeping of the baby. Hera through love sends down an angel, "to help you control your wrath. . . for her heart holds equal love and concern for both of you". Creusa, in The Aeneid grabs the ankles of Aeneas and cries, "If it's deathwards you go, take us with you! O take us, and/come what may". Aeneas shows love for Anchises, Aeneas' father when Anchises is thrown on the back of Aeneas to escape the wrath of the Greeks. Through the three epics, one learns that love is not only a verity but a virtue of life.

Compassion, another one of life's verities, is presented through the epics. In Gilgamesh Enkidu has the opportunity to kill and dethrone the tyrant Gilgamesh; instead, Enkidu stands Gilgamesh up and says, "I shall oppose you no longer. Let us be friends." After the tearful plead of Queen Ninsun, the powerful sun-god melts with compassion and promises to help Gilgamesh and Enkidu on their journey. Andromache becomes compassionate during the funeral of husband Hector when it is said, "Hector, you gave your parents grief and pain/but left me loneliest, and heartbroken." In The Aeneid, Anchises prays for confirmation of the omen. Showing compassion, the god sends a shooting star, which left a blazing path as the answer to the prayer. Having compassion for not only the lives of family members, but also for the servants, Aeneas instructs, And to you servants, pay careful attention to what I shall tell you As you go out of the city, you come to a mound with an ancient Temple of...
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