Shifting Roles: the Flaws of the Gods

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The Greek gods have played significant roles throughout literature for centuries. As the gods become more involved in the humans’ lives, they begin to exhibit more flaws and humanistic traits. The gods have shifted roles from an indirect approach in The Epic of Gilgamesh to a more direct one in The Odyssey and The Metamorphoses.

In The Epic of Gilgamesh, the Greek gods play an indirect role in the lives of the humans except in the case of Ishtar and Gilgamesh. The gods display this indirect role when they create Enkidu to intervene with Gilgamesh’s unacceptable behavior. By doing this, the gods indirectly interfere in the lives of the humans to help them. Direct interactions between the humans and the gods tend to result in unfavorable consequences. For example, when Ishtar offers herself to Gilgamesh for selfish reasons, the reader can see the gods’ flaws starting to unveil. Ishtar’s reaction is also very human and immature. When Gilgamesh denies her sexual advances she “[goes] sobbing before Anu, her father,” (Gilgamesh 126) which shows the audience that the gods are not all perfect and that they have flaws and emotions just as the humans do. The gods illustrate wisdom but still have the human trait that makes them seem less of a mentor in The Epic of Gilgamesh.

The gods in The Odyssey interact directly with Odysseus, which allows the reader to see the development of humanistic traits. The gods are not presented as grandly as they are in The Epic of Gilgamesh. They have more approachable characteristics and are more involved in the humans’ lives. Athena acts as a guide or mentor to the characters in Homer’s novel. Her actions are much more direct and caring than those of the gods in The Epic of Gilgamesh. When Athena states that “it’s Odysseus I’m worried about, that discerning, ill-fated man,” (Homer 333) she sets a protective tone for their relationship. The relationship between Athena and Odysseus could be characterized as a close, teacher/student...
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