The Role of Gods in Gilgamesh and The Odyssey

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Mortals and immortals

Mortals and immortals have a relationship which is evidence through the wonderful feasts, elaborate sacrifices and jubilant celebrations. The epic of Gilgamesh and the Odyssey argue the same about the association between god and humanity. In the two pieces, gods seem to be present and living near humans (Kovacs, 1989). Also, the two epic poems show humans to be at the mercy of the gods. The gods have the feeling of the need to intervene when they identify that many going off his destiny. It is a flawlessly pleasant relationship between human beings looking for safety and provision from their god, although it is complicated and likely to become unrestrained. Although humanity and god have obvious power imbalance, they have mutual trust and dependency.

Power imbalance among gods

The gods are not equally powerful but each possess specific domain and not capable of controlling any other gods territory. All gods inclusive of the father of the gods, Zeus require Odysseus to manage to go back home in Odyssey. Nevertheless, Poseiden is the only god preventing the return of Odysseus. Only the moment Poseiden was not around at Mt. Olympus that the other gods managed to take control and offer their support to Odysseus to return home (Louden, 1999). Similarly, Gilgamesh perceive that gods equally powerful. The moment he and Enkidu managed to kill the Bull of Heaven and when the gods Shamash, Ea, Enlil, and Anu convene and made the decision of one of the brothers having the need to die for their evil behavior. Gilgamesh’s security guard, Shamash pleaded with other gods not to kill him. However, the other gods were not accepting the appeal and happened to kill Enkidu. In every situation, one god could not manage to apply his intention contrary to the will of other gods. The death of Enkidu induces a troubling concern in Gilgamesh. At the end, he understands that he is human. He then tries to realize the secret behind immorality (Riley, 2014). Gilgamesh begins by looking after Utnapishtum, the only human who managed to possess immortality. The moment Gilgamesh failed to accomplish his goal of remaining awake for a whole week; Utnapishtim provides him a plant identified as “Old Men Are Young Again.” Irrespective of another chance, Gigamesh failed to triumph in his test for immortality for the reason that a serpent consumes the plant and his opportunity never returns. He fails to notice that the father of the gods, Enlil has by then identified his destiny. It is evident from such occasions in the narration that Gilgamesh was not meant to possess everlasting life and it is not by chance that all his trials never succeeded in whichever way. This marks an example of man’s lack of ability to control the gods.

Gods favoring certain individuals

The Odyssey shows hot the gods preferred some men over the others (Louden, 1999). The moment man supported the gods he was assured to succeed in his ways. When he returned home, Odysseus, Telemakhos, Philoitios, and Eumaios manage to kill all the suitors, even if many suitors existed and just four managed to accomplish their goals. The reason is the favor of Odyesseus from Athena, which made it possible for the four men to kill many suitors. The gods also supported Gilgamesh when he prayed to Shamash for security and power the moment he and Enkidu were going in the cedar forest (Riley, 2014). Then, Gilgamesh managed to slaughter Humbaba despite Humbaba being a giant and LIKE a god. Enkidu and Gilgamesh managed to kill the giant because of Shamash’s divine intervention. Odysseus and Gilgamesh were highly favored by the gods since they had features like the gods (Riley, 2014). Gilgamesh is the king if Uruk and two-thirds god and Odysseus, although not formally a god, he has the physique and cunning significant to become a god and at the same time Ithaca’s King. Odysseus encounter’s several near-death incidences, although he keeps on overcoming the trial with no harm (Riley, 2014). He was able to blind the Cyclopes to run away from his island and return to the underworld and then came back to prevent his death through Laistrygonians (Kovacs, 1989). He protected him and the other men from songs of Sirens. He also heeds Teiresias advice to avoid eating the Helios cows and navigated between Charybdis and Scylla. The god Shamash as well offered protection to Gilgamesh from Humbaba and the Bull of Heaven (Riley, 2014).

Survival despite moral shortcomings

In conclusion, based on such events, even if Gilgamesh and Odysseus do not have moral standards, they were managed to survive. At first, Gilgamesh was attracted to Uruk women and Odysseus raped the Kikone women and had several affairs with some other women when in the journey. Their relationship with gods was of great interference to their success. The gods never judged them for their evil deeds. The gods offered protection to all the human beings in need of their support through making sacrifices and praying with no judgment concerning the person.


Kovacs, M. G. (1989). The epic of Gilgamesh. Stanford University Press.

Louden, B. (1999). The Odyssey: structure, narration, and meaning. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Riley, J. M. (2014). “Love the Child who Holds You by the Hand”: Intertextuality in The Odyssey and The Epic of Gilgamesh. Studia Antiqua, 12(2), 2.

November 24, 2023


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