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Relationship Between Gods and Humanity

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Relationship Between Gods and Humanity

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  • October 1999
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The relationship between the gods and humanity in The Epic of Gilgamesh and The Odyssey are the same. In each saga, the gods seem to live nearby and are always present. Both epic poems portray humans as simply at the mercy of the gods. The gods feel that it is their duty to intervene if they feel that man is traveling off course from his destiny. However, the gods are not all powerful.

Each god has a certain domain and cannot control another gods' domain. All the gods including Zeus, the father of the gods, want Odysseus to be able to return home in The Odyssey. However, Poseiden, just one god, prevents Odysseus from returning. It is only when Poseiden is absent from Mt. Olympus that the other gods are able to take control and assist Odysseus in returning home.

Gilgamesh also has the same misconception that the gods are all powerful. After he and Enkidu kill the Bull of Heaven, the gods Anu, Enlil, Ea and Shamash convene and decide that one of the brothers must die for their evil deed. Shamash, Gilgamesh's protector, pleads with the other gods to spare his life. The other gods disregard Shamash's appeal and Enkidu dies. In each instance, one god is not able to impose his agenda against the wishes of the other gods.

Enkidu's death evokes a disturbing thought in Gilgamesh. He finally realizes that he is mortal. He then goes about trying to find the key to immortality. Gilgamesh first seeks out Utnapishtim, the only human to gain immortality. When Gilgamesh cannot pass the test of staying awake for seven days, Utnapishtim then gives him the plant "Old Men Are Young Again." Despite this second opportunity, Gilgamesh is not triumphant in his search for immortality because a serpent eats the plant and Gilgamesh's opportunity is lost forever. He does not realize that Enlil, the father of the gods, had already determined his destiny. It is clear from the events of the story that Gilgamesh was not to obtain everlasting life and it is no...