Norton Anthropology of Western Literature: THE EPIC OF GILGAMESH


Epic of Gilgamesh is so popular because it has lasted for such a long time; this is because it provides insights into human concerns of people who existed four thousand years ago which some of them are still relevant today. Research reveals there has been a great concern on how people in Ancient Mesopotamia viewed death and life after death.

Gilgamesh has some different version of the flood story, which is found in the Bible as well. Each version has very different emphases and draws a different moral. Some differences are noted between these two stories; Gilgamesh story and the story from the Bible. In Gilgamesh’s story of the flood, there were many gods while the Genesis story there was only one God. Each story has a different way of administering messages to the main character. In Gilgamesh’s flood story, he was told about the story in a dream while the Genesis Noah was approached directly by God when he was told about the news on floods.  The protagonist had to prepare adequately for the floods, so they both made boats. However, the boats were different in shape; Gilgamesh’s boat was cubed shaped while Noah’s boat was rectangular in shape. All these differences about the Flood version are different hence unique from one another. The moral of the experience for Gilgamesh flood version story, which lasted for six days and six nights, was to find the truth within ourselves and be able to accept the truths that are revealed. In Genesis flood story version, the floods lasted for forty days and forty nights. The moral experience derived from the story was to restore the good while destroying the evil so that the future generations could be guaranteed of protection.

Homers the Iliad and the Aristotelian concept of citizenship. According to the Aristotelian concept of citizenship, Aristotle strongly believed that the middle-class people have a powerful role to play in the society. Aristotle believes that person who thinks is better off on his own does not need the help of others. The figure of Achilles is seen to be about the Aristotelian concept of citizenship in the manner how they serve as an illustration of heroism. Heroism is seen when Achilles joined the battle to fight the Trojan, he fought with a lot of rage and finally kills Trojan. He felt angry and withdrew himself before the fight since he felt like the only thing that he treasured was taken from him. Nonetheless, whatever Achilles said to the heralds is significant since it provides a very important understanding into the life of an apathetic. He refused to participate in public life because of the ethos upon which his apoliticism is laid. “An equal fate is to the one who stays behind as to the one who struggles well. In a single honor are held both the low and the high. Death comes alike to the idle man and to him who works much” (Green 8).

Homers the Odyssey and Job in the Hebrew Bible. Heroes and their stories have always gained popularity in almost all cultures that exist. A hero does not decide on his own to be a hero; rather he is chosen from the many by a greater force to become one. The story of Odysseus and Athena’s relationship and that of Job and God set a comparison. Odysseus joins the Greek during the siege of Troy Odysseus was intelligent enough to get the Greek into the Troy. That is how they won. Later in the story, Athena is seen to provide indirect assistance to Odysseus. She appears to him in forms of dreams to give him directions. Both the Hebrews and the Greeks have displayed the character that they have common religious attitudes; they worship their gods freely. In Hebrew Bible, God created human in his likeness. Moreover, in Odysseus story the lines, “No more of this, though. Two of a kind, we are contrivers, both. Of all men now alive, you are best in plots and storytelling. My fame is for wisdom among the gods-deceptions too,” are evident of that human beings are compared to higher beings (Lawall 368).


Socrates along with the sophists was accused by a significant number of people in the society for installing the younger generation with ideas, which were perceived by the elders as disrespectful and not morally upright. “Socrates is a criminal, who corrupts the young and does not believe in the gods whom the state believes in, but other new spiritual things, instead” (Stanford 436). Socrates policy, the Elenctic examination, was opposed by the leaders of his time whose reputation and character were compromised by the policy.

The political ideologies that Socrates and his friends were thought to believe in also led to resentment and accusations of collaboration or association with a Tyrant, Thirty. He was thought to be a sympathizer of the Thirty Tyrants as it was not clear why he did not leave Athens. Many concluded that he did participate in the Thirty is bloodthirsty schemes. He believed that the Homer gods were no guides to societal morality and instead followed what he thought was a goodness created by God; he believed that with the right knowledge and understanding, an individual would always do what is right. He claimed that people only needed to match that knowledge and goodness. His mission, therefore, was helping people to gain knowledge and improve their soul as per this belief. His technique therefore was asking individual’s questions as per their views to gauge if they had knowledge on the same and thereafter corrected them.

Virgil. The Aeneid

Both Aeneas and Odysseus visit the underworld is inspired by their urge to receive knowledge. Odysseus goes through cleansing to purify him for leadership after he goes through a bad experience at Troy, which is believed to have dehumanized him, on the other hand, Aeneas is cleansed of his original human qualities after the revelation, free him of human weaknesses to be a great servant of human fate.

Aeneas meets his former lover Dido while Odysseus meets his companion Elpenor. However, Odysseus is forced to honor the burial rites and the rituals he failed to obey on his companion’s death. Aeneas is faced with the reality that his romance with Dido remains outdated, he resists, as he is tempted to talk to Dido, who is reunited with her former husband Phoenician. This helps him free his conscience of guilt and, therefore, shed off the last bonds of humanity in him.

Gilgamesh’sVisitUtnapishtim.Gilgamesh was a man with knowledge and great wisdom; he built the city walls of Uruk and its temple for Eanna. He was an oppressive leader.  Because he fears death, Gilgamesh seeks to be immortal. In the search for immortality, he meets Utnapishtim, who became immortal after building a ship to escape from a great flood that destroyed humankind. Gilgamesh after that fails in his mission to be an immortal, however, Utnapishtim that would restore him to his youth instead gives him a magic plant, but he leaves the magic plant on the shore as he bathes in water. Unfortunately, the serpent comes and takes the plant. In the end, his efforts provefruitless, and he travels back home a disappointed man.

In both stories, Gilgamesh visit to Utnapishtim and Aeneas and Odysseus visit to the underworld, both men go on a journey to seek some truth that is beyond them, they leave them homes to find the truth, which in the end they are not able to get the results they wanted. Both men are faced with some tough challenges through their journey. They travel back from their journey disappointed.


Works Cited

Lawall, Thalmann, Patterson, James, Spacks. Norton Anthology of Western Literature.Vol 1. Eighth ed.

Green, Jeffrey E. “Philosophy and Social Criticism.” 06 DEC 2004. 19 FEB 2016.

Stanford. “Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.” 20 MARCH 2004. 19 FEB 2016 <>.

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