GILGAMESH AND THE ODYSSEY
“Descriptive comparison between Gilgamesh and Odysseus”
Gilgamesh is an ancient poem that significantly marked its name as somehow being the first major heroic narrative in the world literature. Fractions of this literature were discovered uniquely carved in tablets even before the Roman, Hebrew and Greek civilization appeared. Gilgamesh depicts a unique and propinquity story of Gilgamesh and his companion Enkidu that transcribed a complex and moving gist of bonds of friendship, of the pursuit for prominence and of the enduring and timeless attempt to escape death, of which considered to be the common fate of humankind. On the other hand, Odyssey, an epic story by Homer, is concerned on the idyllic events proceeded after a war and mainly on the significant return of the heroes who survived the war. The main subject of this written epic work somehow focus on the enduring, drawn-out return of one of the heroes named Odysseus of Ithaca, whose fate is to amble in unknown seas for ten years before he returned to his rocky kingdom. This paper will provide detailed and comprehensive comparison between the two main characters from both epics Gilgamesh and Odyssey. Motivation, goals, self-control, pride, outside influences, behaviors and personal and social relationships will serve as points of comparison being grasped in this paper. Motivation and Goals
Gilgamesh, as described in the transcription, was provided with bizarre and astonishing strength, courage, and beauty by his divine and great creator. He is portrayed to be more of a god than a man. These characteristics of him profoundly surpass all circumstances all throughout his journey, a journey that significantly paved the greatest aspiration that probably mankind would have wanted – how to escape the universal fate of the human race. Simply, Gilgamesh wanted to run away from death and have eternal life. One of the tablets inscribed the mere dialogue between Gilgamesh and Utanapishtim (The Distant One). Utanapishtim is descriptively the wisest man who ever lived. Gilgamesh’s search for eternal life led him to ask Utanapishtim the greatest question, how to escape the universal fate of mankind? On a tablet transcribing such meeting, Gilgamesh apparently questions Utanapishtim of how did the latter join the ranks of the gods and find eternal life, though Gilgamesh described him not different; physically indifferent and yet his heart drained of battle spirit.
And as response to the wondering question of Gilgamesh, Utanapishtim told him the “story of the flood”. Utanapishtim profoundly stated that he was commanded to build a boat to save everyone from the wrath of a devastating flood made by a god named Enlil, the chief god living on earth to wipe out human race. This story somehow illustrates events similar to the biblical script “Noah’s Ark”. The punishment to human race by Enlil gave Utanapishtim the opportunity to have eternal life. Gilgamesh’s greatest achievement though was bringing back to the human race this untold and unknown story. Gilgamesh, by some means, got hold of a plant that can likely grant rebirth to those who eats it, but unfortunately, a serpent stole it from him. With greater wisdom, Gilgamesh returned to Uruk knowing that only the gods are immortal.
The goal of seeking immortality is what made both Gilgamesh and Odysseus, from Homer’s epic Odyssey, distinct and divergent with each other. Unlike Gilgamesh, whose goal is to seek and find answers on how to become immortal, Odysseus’s goal, on the hand, is merely the fact that he wants to find his way back home after a long and bloody war. During his voyage towards home, several temptations tested his mental qualities and physical endurance. Circe offered him the Lotus flower that endows forgetfulness of home and family. The greatest temptation however is offered by the goddess Calypso, whom he spent his seven years with – immortality. Instead of accepting such promising...
Cited: Foster, Benjamin R., trans. "Gilgamesh." The Norton Anthology of World Literature. 2nd ed. Vol. 1. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2009. 9-12; Tablet XI 72-6.
Fagles, Robert., trans. "The Odyssey." The Norton Anthology of World Literature. 2nd ed.Vol.1.
New York:W.W. Norton & Co., 2009. 169-174; Book XXIV 551-563.
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