Comparing Gilgamesh and Odysseus

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ComparingGilgamesh and Odysseus


Historically,stories of legends have provided the human race with a source of richculture. This foundation helps explain manifestations in myths suchas Odyssey and Gilgamesh. Odyssey and Gilgamesh represent works fromculturally diverse backgrounds and time periods. However, thesimilarities inherent in these writings are striking. For example,both folklores draw on historical, cultural and religious themes todevelop accounts that expose the fears and aspirations of theindividuals that created them. Also, the characters in these talesexhibit extraordinary prowess and bravery. Nonetheless, in spite ofthe special abilities that these persons had, they also showedweaknesses that they had to overcome to realize the missions thatthey set out to achieve. An analysis of the heroic characteristics ofGilgamesh and Odyssey brings the differences between the ancientGreek and Mesopotamian cultures to bear.

Gilgameshand Odysseus demonstrate uncommon courage. Gilgamesh revealsextraordinary bravery when he decides to battle “Humbaba theTerrible” (Epic of Gilgamesh, 2016, Tablet III). Gilgamesh requestsEnkidu to accompany him to the Egalmah Temple to visit the GreatQueen, Ninsun. Upon standing before the Queen, Gilgamesh reveals hisfear of Humbaba. He says that, in spite of his extraordinarystrength, he will engage in a war that he is not familiar with, andtravel on a path that is foreign to him. Odysseus also demonstratesextraordinary bravery. He displays unusual resolution when he bidshis comrades goodbye and sets out to capture sheep that belonged toPolyphemus, the Cyclops (HOMER, ODYSSEY 9, 2016). Odysseus says, “amonstrous man…shepherded his flocks…he was…a wondrousmonster,…not like man.”

AlthoughGilgamesh and Odysseus display similarities, regarding their heroicpotentials, differences in their qualities emerge distinctly.Gilgamesh’s intentions to kill Humbaba are motivated by the desireto please Shamash and the people of Uruk. He says, “Until…killHumbaba…eradicate from…land,…something…Shamash hates…I killHumbaba…let…be…rejoicing…over the land” (Epic of Gilgamesh,2016, Tablet III). Odysseus’ actions, on the other hand, seemedselfless however, upon reaching Polyphemus` cave, he actsegotistically. Odysseus’ men advised him to take some of the foodin Polyphemus’ cave and hurry away, but he ignored their counsel(HOMER, ODYSSEY 9, 2016). Odysseus greedily feasted on Polyphemus’food, placing the lives of his men in harm’s way. Odysseus says,“we offered…sacrifice…took…cheeses and ate…and…sat…untilhe came.” Due to Odysseus’ pride, Polyphemus killed two of hissoldiers.

Ritualsand festivals shaped the Mesopotamian culture, as illustrated above.Myths underpinned the core of the Mesopotamian culture. Gilgamesh`saction proves this assertion. Before embarking on his voyage, to theCedar Forest to kill Humbaba, Gilgamesh first visits Queen Ninsun toseek advice he says that she is all-knowing (Epic of Gilgamesh,2016, Tablet III). Gilgamesh also contends that his actions areinspired by the desire to please Shamash, and requests Ninsun toencourage the people to rejoice after Humbaba’s death. The Greekculture, in contrast, is defined by knowledge, tradition, andreverence toward leadership. Odysseus appears powerful, noble,courageous, confident, thirsty to acquire glory, and mostimportantly, intelligent. Respect for authority is revealed whereOdysseus’ men choose to remain in the cave with Odysseus, in spiteof the danger that lurked (HOMER, ODYSSEY 9, 2016). Odysseus`soldiers advised him to take the food and leave as hurriedly aspossible however, he ignored this advice. His actions led to thedemise of two of his soldiers. Also, Odysseus said that he lit a fireand offered sacrifice. This act reveals that the Ancient Greeks werereligious.

Gilgameshand Odysseus are the ideal role models and heroes of the modernsociety. These individuals behaved in ways that are consideredextraordinary. In the modern day, the word hero or role model islinked with meanings such as honor, adversity, challenges, victory,and strength (Shadraconis, 2013, p. 2). Heroes offer people a talefor sense making and viewing reality as a social construct. Throughsense making, people get a springboard that they can use to act. Thehero`s journey is used to bring to being a particular level of order.People deduce knowledge and understanding as they follow a story fromthe perspective of the hero. The abilities of these mythicalcharacters to realize the goals that they set and their aptitude tobend reality to their will inspire many individuals in society toseek ways of emulating them.

Ina recap of the above discussion, the authors of Odyssey and Gilgameshepitomize literature from culturally different civilizations anderas. However, the likenesses inherent in these texts areoutstanding. For example, both characters reveal extraordinarybravery. Gilgamesh shows unusual courage when he chooses to battle“Humbaba the Terrible” while Odysseus demonstrates exceptionalvalor when he leaves his soldiers and sets out to seize sheep thatbelonged to Polyphemus, the Cyclops. The actions of these personsreveal the proper nature of the word hero in modern day society.Since the concept hero is associated with constructs such as victory,strength, and honor, Odysseus and Gilgamesh offer readers the courageto face their challenges without fear.


Epicof Gilgamesh. (2016).&nbspEpicof Gilgamesh: Tablet III.& 25 August 2016, from

HOMER,ODYSSEY 9. (2016).&nbspClassicalE-Text: HOMER, ODYSSEY 9.& 25 August 2016, from

Shadraconis,S. (2013). Leaders and Heroes: Modern Day Archetypes.&nbspLUX,&nbsp3(1),1-13.

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