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 eart 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 offer of immortality, he somehow denied such and still chooses the human conditions in spite of struggles, difficulties, disappointments and even its foreseeable death.
Odysseus’s motivational force that drives his willingness to go back home is his wife, Penelope. Self-control Gilgamesh was first described as a king without self-control, rash and violent. People of Uruk, his kingdom, often complained about his absence of self-control towards oppressiveness to the Sumerian gods. Due to this aggressiveness, the gods created Enkidu as counterweight to Gilgamesh. But surprisingly, both Gilgamesh and Enkidu became best of friends; they fought together in every battles and wars, and found in each other the true companion they both sought.
In an event where both took an adventure to seek universal fame and immortality pictures out the harsh and uncontrollable oppression to the gods overwhelmingly end the curtain to Enkidu. Enkidu’s death and his continuous and sole journey to seek immortality cause personal transformation. This change and transformation broaden his perception towards greater acceptance and recognition of reality and man’s mortality. On the other hand, Odysseus has extreme sense of self-control. Within the epic story, his remarkable self-control was described and admired.
Again, during his adventures on the voyage home, his mental abilities and his physical endurance were tested. Instances occurred that tempted him to descend from his struggle towards home. A Lotus flower is said to suggest forgetfulness of home and family. Circe, goddess of magic, offered a pleasant life in the island of Lotus eaters. In the Phaeacia, he once offered the love and marriage of a young princess. Calypso is an immortal goddess whom Odysseus spent his life with for seven years offered the most significant and most tempting proposal, which probably all of mankind cannot resist.
Calypso offered eternal life for Odysseus that will make him immortal. But all of these temptations were single-handedly denied by Odysseus as he preferred more to be mortal and be human amidst varied struggles, disappointments and the predictable end called death. Self-control might be a struggle for every man, but if every man has the drive to hold on to their will and embrace limitation, it will never be too late or too impossible to resist and deny any temptations. Pride
The story of Gilgamesh started out as depiction of his arrogance of power. Because of his extraordinary capabilities endowed to him by his divine creator, his egotism of power endangered the relationship between mankind and the Summerian gods. To end Gilgamesh’s arrogance and injustices, gods then created Enkidu. His arrogance and pride concerning his power and unusual capabilities were continuously tested all throughout their journey in quest of rejuvenation of life and immortality.
But then again, as mentioned earlier the previous section, after Enkidu’s death changed his perception not only towards man’s mortality but also the perception of one-self. One of the most significant limitations that Odysseus possesses is his pride which Odysseus had much. Part of the story somehow depicted Odysseus’s pride, particularly on the Cyclops’ island. When Odysseus and his men escaped safely from the island, Odysseus surprisingly brags and boasts about his exploit. Cyclops heard him and tossed huge rocks into the ship and some almost sing the ship.
Effect of circumstances surrounding the character There are several external influences that bounds and affects the transformation of the once-known arrogant and violent king of Uruk. Due to the egoistic personality of Gilgamesh, it resulted to the discontentment and complaints from his people in which Summerian God interfered. The effect of these external events somehow paved a new path towards the overall impacts of Gilgamesh’s journey that led to his transformation from an arrogant king to a more unselfish and wisdom-filled individual.
Another circumstance that greatly affected the character is the death of his supposed and destined enemy, Enkidu. Enkidu was a god-like mortal created by the gods intended to end Gilgamesh’s injustices and arrogance. Both somehow became friends and found a true and deep bond of friendship with each other. Death of his friend allowed him to solely seek answers for mankind’s immortality, which led him to his astonishment that there should no more battle to be fought and needs answers not surpassing violent circumstances.
His continuous journey to seek answer guided him to Unatapishtim, the Divine One who could answer Gilgamesh’s wonderings, and which that this Divine One is blessed with immortality and abundance from the gods. Their conversation drew in new and significant events of the Divine One that gave him unending mortality. This occurrence surprisingly influenced and changed Gilgamesh’s perception on man’s mortality and broadens his acceptance to reality. Odysseus’s journey back home from the Trojan War somehow had endowed circumstances that might affect his own beliefs and characteristics.
For example, when tempted by different immortal goddesses, most especially on the offering by Calypso to have everlasting and unending existence, he still grasps tightly to his humanity and instead chose to be human than immortal. His faith and dedication somehow proved that every obstacles and disappointments can be surpassed if he is optimistic enough to exceed and outdo every ounce of it. Behaviors In the beginning of the story, Gilgamesh’s subservient behavior is steered by his own self-contentment and self-sufficiency.
Arrogant, violent, harsh, and no self-control are self-seeking behaviors and characteristics being affixed to the king, in which all these opened doors to discontentment and dissatisfaction from people. Gilgamesh’s behavior guided him to destruction. This ego-centric manner blinded Gilgamesh from reality that his conscious tried to make him see. For an instance, Gilgamesh tried to strike down on Ishtar during their second adventure to Cedar Forest with Enkidu. Ishtar cannot handle Gilgamesh’s harsh rejection and provoked to send the Bull of Heaven against the people of Uruk.
Although they succeeded, it brought terrible damage to his kingdom and brought about the painful death of Enkidu. Unlike Gilgamesh, who is depicted as ego-centric individual, Odysseus has the contrast of this characteristic. Odysseus is optimistic and altruistic as he struggles not only for his own survival during the war, but also for his shipmate’s personal survival. Odysseus is described having versatility which either way compliments his physical strength and courage in battle, skills he showed during the war at Troy.
These behaviors somehow resulted from his eagerness to return home to his wife and from his perseverance to preserve and finish the heroic reputation and dignity that he won in war at Troy. The same scene that illustrated Odysseus pride also depicts his care and being concerned to his fellow shipmates. After Cyclops threw boulders to the ship, Odysseus hastily gave his identity to Cyclops and the latter called Poseidon, his father, to punish Odysseus who brought harm to him. That incident hurt Odysseus more than losing his fellow men. This showed Odysseus’s heed towards his fellow shipmen.
Personal and Social Relationships The Gilgamesh poem depicted not only ancient Mesopotamian myths and legends, but also endowed diverse and complex relationships and dealings between people involved in the epic story, particularly the main character, Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh’s relationship towards his people as a king is somehow in deep and shaky condition. There have been misunderstandings and lack of sense of unity between the king and its people that hindering a kingdom to flourish due to Gilgamesh’s disturbing and arrogant means of ruling Uruk. Another unstable relationship is with Gilgamesh and the Summerian gods.
Gilgamesh tends to oppress the gods which led to the creation of Enkidu. Although Enkidu was created as a counterweight of Gilgamesh, unpredictably, both became friends. Relationship between the king and the supposed enemy is probably the most light and happy relationship made by Gilgamesh. They think of each other as brothers and a true companion in which their common journey indeed deepened their brotherly bond and friendship. There are also different relationship built all throughout the story between Odysseus and other characters in the epic.
Again, he built a strong and deep bond and camaraderie with his fellow men. He even risked himself just to keep other from falling in the hands of Cyclops. Odysseus somehow has heart of gold for those who treasure him and appreciate him from his doings. His relationship with his wife, Penelope, also is as strong and sturdy as a diamond which no one can break even through rough and long times of being away from each other. To show his commitment and love to his wife, he even tricks his wife’s suitors and disguised himself as beggar.
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