Comparing Gilgamesh and Odysseus

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The Gilgamesh Epic and the Odyssey are heroic poems in which the main characters, Gilgamesh and Odysseus, face challenges. Gilgamesh's story is one of the earliest literary works, written in Mesopotamia, whereas the Odyssey was written in Greece around 725 BC. The main characters or heroes in epic poems must overcome dangerous obstacles in order to achieve a specific goal, which appears to be a reflection of the modern society's hero or role model. It appears to demonstrate the qualities they should have in order to stand out and lead others (Maudlin, 2010)
In both epic poems, Gilgamesh and Odysseus face terrifying adventures in order to prove a point. Gilgamesh has to find, confront and kill Humbamba, which is a demon like an ogre in charge of the cedar forest in order to bring happiness all over the kingdom. Odysseus, on the other hand, is trapped in a cave in the land of Cyclopes and he has to devise a plan to save himself and his men so that they could return safely to Ithaca. While Gilgamesh is out to gain himself a name and achieve independence for his people through his endeavors, Odysseus strives to save his fellow men from a giant Cyclopes (Maudlin, 2010).

Gilgamesh's possession of physical attractiveness, courage, and strength as quoted, "…two-thirds of him was divine, one-third of him was human.." enabled him to conquer the Humbamba despite efforts by his people discouraging him. Odysseus, on the other hand, was quoted as “…Ithacan hero, no man could match Odysseus for cunning...” Therefore used his wits, cunning intelligence and deception to trick his captors knowing too well of the consequences should he be found out to be lying. Both main characters display self-confidence that is why Gilgamesh decides to fight the oppressor of their people while Odysseus was confident to confront the Cyclops to deliver his fellow compatriots free from his grip (Butler, 2009)

The people of Mesopotamia believed in their gods and goddesses who were supernaturally powerful immortal human beings. They could mate among themselves and beget children, and they could interbreed with humans to reproduce heroes. Those gods expected human being to respect them and they could regulate their ethical behavior. They were concerned with the rulers/ kings, and as it is evident from the epic poem, Gilgamesh evolved from unjust to a just king whose duty is to justly deal with his subjects. This is evident in the current Mesopotamian law codes. It is also apparent that the current Mesopotamia is a society that has differences in wealth and power and is determined in a hereditary way; there are distinct gender disparities as women should be subordinate to men. It also shows a warlike society with an admiration of military skill and physical strength. It further indicates that the city readily embraces urbanization and is appreciating literacy.

On the other hand, the Greek religious beliefs were explicitly defined and strict. They believed that their world was watched over by a god called Zeus assisted by other gods, and they believed that those gods decided their future. As it is evident, in the text that they had so much reliance on the prophets, and in one instance Odysseus went to consult an oracle who prophesied about his whole journey, and it is because of that prophet that he survived in his wanderings. One could expect that the modern Greece still embraces the rigid religious beliefs but the truth is, with the aspects such as modernization and industrialization, people are more enlightened about religion and can make rational decisions without supernatural influence.

Ideally, a hero or a role model is someone that can be looked up to due to their distinct behavior or abilities that make them stand out. It is a person whose behavior can be emulated due to the ability to produce tremendous achievement. From the comparison, we see that the two heroes possessed characteristics that made them successful in their endeavors. From those aspects such as confidence, we delude that a role model or a hero should always demonstrate self -confidence all the time because they may never know who is watching or listening. Also, they should demonstrate leadership and should show respect for all regardless of their gender, age or other factors because these are the small deeds that make a person different thus standing out. It is also advisable that they learn to be accountable when wrong, be morally upright and humble themselves (Maudlin, 2010).

From the stories of these heroes, we can as well equate the challenges that we go through in our everyday activities with the difficulties they went through. Though ours could be of a lower magnitude, we should learn from them and equip ourselves with some of their strengths to overcome such difficulties. Although some may argue that some of the features are inborn, we should strive to acquire them even if not wholly but a small piece. Combined with positive energy and the right attitude, we can overcome these challenges easily.



Maudlin, S. (2010).The Epic of Gilgamesh Retrievedfrom

Butler, S .( 2009) The Odyssey. Retrieved from;

Ceil, C. (2012). Epic of Gilgamesh.

August 09, 2021

Literature History

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Odysseus Gilgamesh

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