Epic Heroes: Gilgamesh And Achilles Essay

1138 words - 5 pages

From the days of ancient Greece and before, epic heroes have had their lives chronicled and their stories passed on from generation to generation all the way to present day. Two of the greatest heroes have been Gilgamesh from the epic named after him and Achilles from Homer's Iliad. While the two men's stories transpired in vastly different eras, their lives shared a surprising number of commonalities. Of course, with resemblances come several discrepancies in the way they lived and the ideals they believed in.

The first aspect that exemplifies both Gilgamesh's and Achilles' similarities and differences is divinity. Both Gilgamesh and Achilles are the sons of divine mothers. Gilgamesh, two-thirds divine and one-third mortal, is the son of Ninsun. His divine blood has lent him unmatched strength and skill as a warrior. However, instead of using his fortune in a noble manner, Gilgamesh acts as if he is a full god, ignorant to the consequences of his actions and how this portrayed his character to his people. "By day and by night his tyranny grows harsher... lets no daughter go free to her mother... lets no girl go free to her bridegroom." (George, 169-175). This ultimately caused the people of Uruk to pray to the gods to send a response to Gilgamesh's rule, which will be discussed later.

Achilles, son of Thetis, also had divine blood flowing through his veins. He, however, was well aware of his mortality, as he chose a shortened lifespan full of glory over a longer, non-glorious life. "Alas, that you should be at once short of life and long of sorrow above your peers," exclaims his mother. (Butler, I). Despite accepting his mortality, Achilles, like Gilgamesh, was blessed with unequaled strength and skill as the gods watched over him, making him a valuable asset to whomever he fought for as well as earning him the respect of both friend and foe, unlike Gilgamesh who was respected out of formality for his status but still despised by his subjects for the way he ruled.

Both Gilgamesh and Achilles made friends throughout their lifetimes that were like brothers and played a vital role in each hero's life. In response to the people of Uruk's prayers and complaints, the god Anu had his daughter Aruru create Enkidu, a man of the wild, to be Gilgamesh's equivalent. However, instead of becoming a worthy adversary, Gilgamesh and Enkidu become best friends after their first encounter. Having found a worthy companion, Gilgamesh also found an alternative to his cruel rule as the two friends joined each other to accomplish heroic feats on their path to glory.

Achilles also found a companion that had an immense impact on his life. Patroclus met Achilles after seeking refuge in the house of Peleus, which is strikingly different from how Enkidu was sent from heaven to be Gilgamesh's adversary. Regardless of how they met, it was this friendship that carried Achilles and Patroclus in the Trojan War just as the friendship between...

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