The Odyssey vs. Enkidu's Dream

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"Look death in the face with joyful hope, and consider this a lasting truth: the

righteous man has nothing to fear, neither in life, nor in death, and the Gods will not

forsake him."-Socrates, a Greek philosopher and contemplative thinker. The above quote

is the basis for Greek belief, demonstrating the respectable Greek citizen. It displays

courage and obedience to the Gods in which the Greek world revolved around. Beyond

relaying a fantastic journey, featuring a glorified hero who embodies to perfection Greek

ideals, Homer uses the epic books of The Odyssey to explore all the nuances of Greek

culture. Each part of The Odyssey possesses a purpose beyond detailing popular

mythology. Book Eleven's Underworld becomes the culmination of all the values and

ideals that Homer touches on in prior books. Homer uses the underworld as a catchall to

reinforce societal protocol and religion among other things. Specifically, by focusing on

the scenery of the Underworld and its occupants, Homer reveals and reinforces the role

of religion in society – especially in conjunction with fate and the idea of death and


In parallel, "the tavern-keeper offered Gilgamesh her insights on the true goal of

life, which is not to escape death, but to enjoy the normal pleasures of life; " Gilgamesh,

where are you wandering? The life that you are seeking all around you will not find.

When the gods created mankind they fixed Death for mankind, and held back Life in

their own hands. Now you, Gilgamesh, let your belly be full! Be happy day and night, of

each day make a party, dance in circles day and night! Let your clothes be sparkling

clean, let your head be clean, wash yourself with water! Attend to the little one who

holds onto your hand, let a wife delight in your embrace. This is the task of mankind."

The Odyssey seems to present a much more elaborate description of the

underworld than the one described in Enkidu's Dream. In Enkidu's Dream, he refers to

all of the actions he took that were not righteous. "It was I who cut down the cedar, I who

leveled the forest, I who slew Humbaba and now see what has become of me." So the

Sumerians were indeed aware that your actions in life would determine your home in the

afterlife. Enkidu's Dream describes the underworld as a place from which none who

enter ever return. Here you sit in darkness and everyone is reduced to being no more than

servants. In The Odyssey, The Underworld, better known as Hades after the god who

ruled it, was a dark and dreary place where the shades, or souls, of those who died lived.

You could go to three different places in the Underworld, depending on your life on Earth

and what you had done. Most shades went to the Asphodel Fields, but before you entered

you drank from the Lethe River, causing you to forget everything that had happened in

your past life. Asphodel was an ugly, gray, ghostly weed that covered the Fields. This

place was for the normal, everyday person, who did nothing special in his or her life. The

second place they could go was the Elysian Fields or Elysium. Elysium was reserved for

the heroes, or people the gods favored. Regular feasts, banquets, and hunts were held

there. The third and final place you could go to was the lowest region of the world, called

Tartarus. It was surrounded by a wall of bronze and beyond that three-fold layer of night.

Tartarus, presided over by Kronos, was where the souls went who had defied the gods in

some way. The Hundred-headed Giants guarded it. Around Tartarus is Phlegethon, with

its flames and clashing rocks. One of the Furies, Tisiphone, sits upon the iron tower, with

her bloody robe, and sleepless day and night, guards the entrance. Through this much

more vivid description, we see that society has evolved since The Epic of Gilgamesh and...
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