Comparing Gilgamesh and Odysseus





Comparing Gilgamesh and Odysseus













Epic is perhaps one of the most studied literary genres of the modern times. One of the most notable things about the ancient epics is thatthey represent skillfully interwoven embellishments and raw materials of the societies upon which they are created. Gilgamesh and Odysseus, for example, are two epic heroes who rose in different times in history. While the Gilgamesh epic was developed from early Mesopotamia, Odyssey is associated with the early Greece. On one hand, Gilgamesh was instrumental in developing the Mesopotamian culture,attitudes and behaviors towards gods (Simpson & Baskin, 1996). On the other hand, Odyssey was set at a time when mythology was at the center of every aspect of the Greece culture. Nevertheless, this essay will compare Gilgamesh and Odysseus alongside their heroic qualities, with specific attention on differences and similarities. After summarizing their implications on the ancient cultures of Greek and Mesopotamian lives, the essay would suggest the cultural ideals and expectations that would shape the modern thoughts about heroes and role models.

Odysseys and Gilgamesh are two notable heroes,whose interactions with life helped to explain theirattributes, including the relationships with gods. While Odyssey was written by Homer, Gilgamesh was translated by David Ferry. In both literary works, the heroes exemplify certain traits that are common: they are strong fighters with physical beauty and intimidation tendencies. Again, the epic figures are supernatural and in their day-to-day activities, they endeavor to protect the ordinary people in the light of death and cosmos (Randi, 2010).Through their life journeys, both Gilgamesh and Odysseus depicted as dangerous characters. For example, Odysseus pulls his men from the land of Lotus Eaters while Gilgamesh is referred by his Uruk people as wise shepherd and people’s protector.He seeks the help of sun god, Shamash, in the process of killing Humbaba, a monster who stayed in the forest(Ankumah,2014). Near death encounters and tendencies to challenge the godsare events that feature predominantly in these heroic characters. The two epic heroes’successis determined by the supernatural powers endowed in them.In spite of various difficulties and obstacles, all the epic heroes returned to their normal lives.

From the analysis of the two heroic figures, it appears that the ancient Greek and Mesopotamian peoplewere heavily depended on the cosmos and the supernatural. Their societies had supernatural heroes who would guard the people’s lives and offer them protection from the monsters and other evil powers. In order to achieve their mandate of protecting the people, the two heroic figures used intellect and strategic moves. They would trick the monsters, eat lotus flowers, and get them drunk before killing them. For example, during the encounter with beast Humbaba, Gilgamesh ensures that he attacks when his cloak of fear is at its lowest. In the process of challenging the monsters that threatened the people, Gilgamesh and Odysseus were guided by strong moral goals and virtues(Ankumah,2014). They desired to be godlike and exhibited courage, humility, faithfulness and brave leadership.

In the ancient Greece and Mesopotamia, Gilgamesh and Odysseus assumed role model roles in their respective communities.The modern notions of role models and heroes are greatly shaped by people’s cultural ideals and expectations. This is because in the modern world, people who are in positions of influence are looked upon by the societies when it comes to solving the problems that confront their societies. Political leaders, for example, play leading roles in helping the societies confront the threats of hunger, floods, terrorism and poverty (Ankumah,2014).





Ankumah, A. T. (2014). Nomenclatural poetization and globalization. London, Machmillan Pub.

Randi J. (2010). A Comparison Of The Epic Of .Gilgamesh And The Homeric Epics Their  Place In History And Literature, W E S 1 E Y A N U N I V E R S I T Y Press.

Simpson, M., & Baskin, L. (1996). Gods and heroes of the Greeks: The library of Apollodorus. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.






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