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October 28, 2012

Essay on Gilgamesh and Odysseus


Gilgamesh and Odysseus

Introduction
           
Gilgamesh and Odysseus are both extremely prominent mythical and legendary figures from ancient literature which still immense fascination for its readers even to this day. Before moving towards the relation between both these characters with their respective gods, it is first and foremost important to have an understanding about the background of both these characters as it will prove helpful in relating this information to the events that these two characters encountered during the different years of their adventures and quests.
Written during the time of Sumerian civilization, the epic of Gilgamesh is regarded as one of the earliest pieces of literature written on twelve different clay tablets which till one point of time remained the most prominent instrument for information recording and storing pioneered by Sumerian.
The multitude versions of poetry written about Gilgamesh present him in the form of a protagonist who is a tyrant ruler for his people of Uruk (modern day Iraq) and therefore the people of his kingdom pray to God to free them from the atrocious rule of Gilgamesh. The sky god fulfills their wish by sending Enkidu who is a divine organism disguised in the form of a human and therefore possess extraordinary strength.
Within a very short span of time both of them develop close companionship and go on a number of adventures undertaking many hazardous tasks and quests in which many times they even earn the displeasure of gods and the compensation of all these quests and displeasures is avenged by gods by taking the life of Enkidu, through which it is also ensured that Gilgamesh turns towards piety and serves as a good and harmonious leader for his nation. Odysseus on the other hand is the ruler of the kingdom of Ithaca and was also among one of the suitors of Helen of Troy.
He fought courageously during the Trojan War and was also among the strategists who engineered the plan for attack. However his return from Troy to Ithaca took over 10 years which was marked by various adventurous tasks and disasters in which he proved his strength, will power and determination to every extent possible.
During the course of this discussion we will be analyzing both of these characters from a religious point of view in terms of the relationship that both of them had with their gods in different magnitudes and dimensions.
In addition to this we will also be shedding light on the similarities and differences that prevailed between these two characters regarding their behavioral approaches of their gods and the different tests that they were tested on by their gods in order to germinate and explore a better understanding about different facets of life.   
Gilgamesh, Odysseus and their Gods

Written during the time of Sumerian civilization, the epic of Gilgamesh is regarded as one of the earliest pieces of literature written on twelve different clay tablets which till one point of time remained the most prominent instrument for information recording and storing pioneered by Sumerian.
The multitude versions of poetry written about Gilgamesh present him in the form of a protagonist who is a tyrant ruler for his people of Uruk (modern day Iraq) and therefore the people of his kingdom pray to God to free them from the atrocious rule of Gilgamesh. The sky god fulfills their wish by sending Enkidu who is a divine organism disguised in the form of a human and therefore possess extraordinary strength. (Jackson, page 20)
As mentioned earlier Odysseus after participating as a valiant warrior in the Trojan War when Odysseus decided to return to his kingdom Ithaca, he was confronted with various disastrous episodes. In the poetry Odysseus that was written by the famous Greek poet Homer describes his journey. His ship was first struck by lightning after which it was wrecked leaving him as the sole survivor. He reaches the nymph island of Calypso who makes him her over as well as her captive. (Jackson, page 45)
Both these characters from the extremely reputable and highly acclaimed myths of their respective civilizations had ample characterstics on both these figures can very intelligently be analyzed. For example, first and foremost considering the quality of heroism, it is very clear that both of them performed extremely heroic acts in each of the situations they were confronted with.
Gilgamesh performed most of such acts with his divinely gifted companion Enkidu whereas in case of Odysseus, it can easily be observed that he acted as a lone wolf in most of such challenging and life-threatening situations.
Another prominent feature observed when assessing both these characters is their desire and their assiduous yearning for the people that are their loved ones. Moreover one can also observe that both, Gilgamesh and Odysseus invested relentless efforts in order to reach or reacquire the people that they had lost or those who they were separated from. In case of Gilgamesh it was his friend Enkidu whom he yearned for and wanted to acquire immortality whereas in the case of Odysseus it was his wife and children whom he earnestly wanted to see again.
The third characteristic on which both these superheroes can be evaluated is their determination. Gilgamesh and Odysseus both were extremely determined and focused upon their objectives that they wanted to achieve. Odysseus because of his extraordinary planning and strategy devising skills and potentials was highly focused on the objectives that he wanted to achieve from the Trojan War. (Homer and Pauline 2009 page 57)
Likewise he was also focused about the fact that despite of the serious nature of incidents he survived, he was still determined to reach his homeland and reunite with his family. Similarly, Gilgamesh manifested this spirit of determination and perseverance in the form of his quest conducted in gaining immortality and then transforming himself as a steadfast and aboveboard ruler for his people.
In the light of the characterstics analyzed above it is also important that the relation of these characters with their gods is also discussed. In case of Gilgamesh all three of these characterstics have been overwhelmingly influenced by divine influences. Gilgamesh was not a person of exceptional caliber; he could have been punished by the gods’ long time back for the atrocities and injustices that he inflicted upon his people.
But it was the divine guidance and influence of the gods upon him that provided him the sanctuary from aggravating the wrath of gods. It is worth mentioning here that in case of Gilgamesh, gods wanted to test him in every possible way through which Gilgamesh could bring and germinate a positive change within himself not only as an individual but also as a ruler of his people.
Similar is the relationship that one can find existing between Odysseus and his god as even in his case he was tested in every possible way from the people that he loved the most in his life, his family and his people. Another point that needs to be mentioned here is that both these characters because of the tedious nature of toils that they encountered actually contributed to the spirit of determination that constitutes an integral component of their personality. (Homer and Pauline, 2009 page 60)
Another similarity that can be found between both is that gods provided both of them various opportunities to accomplish the tasks that they wanted to fulfill whether it was the character transformation of Gilgamesh in order to improve his image in front of his people or the various number of times that Odysseus was rescued from tempests and shipwreck incidents. 
However along with all these similarities a difference that can also be pointed out between the relations of these characters with their respective gods can be in terms of the reasons for which all these difficulties were inflicted upon them.
In case of Gilgamesh, his gods enforced these difficulties in order to make him realize the pain and the suffering he has provided to his people by neglecting their needs and requirements whereas in case of Odysseus the reason was to put his skill devising and diplomatic excellence on test once again, in order to make him realize that in some circumstances and situations it is not solely the skill and intelligence that can make a difference unless a divine factor is also accompanied with it which is prominent in the case of Odysseus.

Conclusion
           
In the light of the events that have been discussed it would be appropriate to say that both characters had a helping hand from their gods in most of the complicated situations that they experienced in life. As a result of the special divine influences and assistance which helped them in each of these situations it was basically their belief, trust and conviction that strengthened in their gods after all such happenings  which was comprehensibly manifested in each of the later years of their life.    
       

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