The epic poems The Odyssey, written by Homer, and Gilgamesh, translated by David Ferry, feature the struggles and triumphs of two epic heroes, Odysseus and Gilgamesh. Epic heroes exemplify six common traits. They are all strong fighters, complete with physical beauty and intimidation. The epic hero is dangerous yet protects ordinary people. There is always an encounter with death and the cosmos. They are superhuman, but they are not supernatural, although they come in contact with the supernatural. There are struggles with overwhelming difficulties while on a quest for self-discovery or some sort of goal, however all ordeals are overcome by quick intellect. Despite all the difficulties and obstacles, epic heroes always return from an extremity back to a normal lived life. Odysseus and Gilgamesh both attribute these traits, however both have other similarities and differences. Both have several different virtues and faults.
Odysseus is on a journey home to Ithaca after a ten-year war in Troy. During his journey, he is forced to venture through a sadistic Cyclops, angered gods, deeply obstinate goddesses, the Underworld, and determined suitors that are after his wife Penelope. His goal is to return home to be with his wife and son. In the same turn, Gilgamesh is on an epic journey as well, although his goals are more selfish. He steals trees from a forbidden cedar forest, defeats the forest demon Humbaba, challenges the gods, kills the Bull of Heaven, and then journeys to find immortality. All his journeys were some sort of way to overcome the gods and become immortal. As we can see through their journeys, both heroes have superhuman strength and an intimidation factor. All the people in Uruk feared Gilgamesh for "there is no withstanding the aura or power of the Wild Ox Gilgamesh" (31-32). Odysseus, in the same way, was feared by the suitors who have infested his home back in Ithaca. This is evident after Eurymakhos begs Odysseus to spare their...
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