The Story of the Flood in Three Gilgamesh, the Metamorphosis and Genesis

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Andrew Amechand

11/5/12

Professor Parascandola

HEG 21-005

The Story of the Flood in three Gilgamesh, The Metamorphosis and Genesis

It is apparent in our class readings, that when the gods are angry at the humans they created, these gods unleash unforgiving rains to flood the earth, and kill the human race. Over the years, there have been various texts about these floods. While the occurrences of the floods themselves are continuous throughout these texts, they have varying reasons for the cause of the floods and different aftermaths or consequences. Three of these texts in particular which tell the story of these floods, are Gilgamesh translated by Stephen Mitchell, Metamorphoses by Ovid and Genesis. The main factor in these floods was of course the god or gods who created it. Therefore, the floods in each of these three texts were different, because the gods who created the floods were different. Even though a flood occurs in all of the three texts, the cause, the flood itself and the aftermaths of the floods are different.

The reasons for the flood depended on the gods who created the flood. In Gilgamesh, the gods were arbitrary because they had no proper reasoning or explanation as to why they sent a flood to kill the human race. Because of this, it can be concluded that these gods did not have the wisdom of other gods, like in the other two works. These gods made rash decisions without thinking about the consequences. Gilgamesh’s Utnapishtim explains his story, “I was king once, a long time ago, / when the great gods decided to send the flood.”(pg181) These gods just decided to send a flood. They don’t give any reasoning. This shows that they don’t have the people in their interest. In Metamorphoses, the god says that people are becoming wicked, “The Iron Age succeeded…and righteousness fled earth.”(pg7) Similar to Genesis, this god is aware of what he is doing because he even came down to earth to survey the situation. This god actually wanted to give the humans another chance, unlike the god in Gilgamesh. But when someone tried to kill him, it was the last straw. This god was outraged with the wars breaking out on earth. This shows that this god has a much better sense of what he is doing than the gods in Gilgamesh. The god in Genesis, however, has the best sense of what he is doing, in all three of the works. This god is stronger than the gods in Gilgamesh because this god created the world out of nothing, while the gods in Gilgamesh needed clay to create Enkidu. He “saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth,” so he sent a flood. (6.5) This god is more aware of what he is doing because he has a justification for causing the flood. He even said it grieved him at his heart. This god is not rash like those in Gilgamesh. He doesn’t want to send the flood, but knows that he has to. In the cause of the floods, it is evident that the god in Genesis had the best knowledge of the situation. After him is the god in Metamorphosis, and lastly the gods in Gilgamesh.

The floods in the three texts are mostly similar. The flood in Gligamesh however, was a disaster. The gods did not plan it out at all. When the flood came, they could not control it. Stephen Mitchell writes, “Even the gods were afraid. The waters rose higher and higher until the gods fled to Anu’s place in the highest heaven.”(Page 186) These were the most cowardly of the gods. This shows that these gods could not control the power they had and were not fit to be gods in the first place. Jove, in Metamorphosis has more control over the flood than the gods in Gilgamesh. He was aided by Neptune who “let the river horses run as wild as ever they would. And they obeyed him” (page 11) This was a powerful flood, but Neptune had it under control. While the flood in Gilgamesh lasted six days and seven nights, we are unsure of how long the flood in Metamorphosis lasted. An explanation for this can be that since the gods in Gilgamesh...
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