29 Haziran 2014 Pazar

The Epic Of Gilgamesh Vs. The Iliad

“He carved on a stone stela all of his toils,
and built the wall of Uruk-Haven,
the wall of the sacred Eanna Temple, the holy sanctuary.
Look at its wall which gleams like copper (?),
inspect its inner wall, the likes of which no one can equal!
Take hold the threshold stone --- it dates from ancient times!
(The Epic of Gilgamesh, 1.9 – 22)

The Epic of Gilgamesh is said to be the oldest known example of  literature. It is a cyle of short poems, dating from the third millenium Bc. The Epic of Gilgamesh was based partly on folklore and partly on reality. It tells the story of  King of “Uruk of the walls”. In addition to this, according to a contemporary list of kings, Gilgamesh reigned for 162 years. Gilgamesh is thought to have been a traveller who settled in Uruk in Babylonia, on the River Euphrates in modern Iraq, and took the throne by force.

“Rage—Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles, 
murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses,
hurling down to the House of Death so many sturdy souls,
great fighters’ souls, but made their bodies carrion,
feasts for the dogs and birds,
and the will of Zeus was moving toward its end.
Begin, Muse, when the two first broke and clashed,
Agamemnon lord of men and brilliant Achilles”.
(The first lines of the Iliad)
            The Iliad is an ancient Greek epic poem attributed to Homer. It tells the battles and events during the weeks of quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles set during the Trojan war. Although the story tells only a few weeks in the final year of the war, the Iliad mentions many of the Greek legends about the siege; the earlier events, such as the gathering of warriors for the siege, the cause of the war, and related concerns tend to appear near the beginning.
            Because these two epics are from different cultures and literatures, they have some differences. Additionally, although they are from different cultures and literatures, they have some similarities, such as; characters, characters’ quests and themes of the works.
            The Epic of Gilgamesh and The Iliad have some differences. For instance; The Iliad is completely intact, however, there are a lot of gaps in the Epic of Gilgamesh. In addition to this, there is not any problem in understanding in The Iliad, but The Epic of Gilgamesh requires the knowledge of oriental languages such as; Sumeric, Akkadian, Hettite, and Hurritic in order to fully understood. Moreover,  The Iliad set during the Trojan War, and arguably contains many heroes who could be considered to be epic. This is in the contrast to Gilgamesh, who is trying to find immortality and is forced to confront his own mortality on his journey. Another difference is that in the Iliad, the war is waged by humans, but the pantheon of gods and goddesses take sides and have a big impact on the outcome. This is different for Gilgamesh, who is not strictly human himself.
            On the other hand, we can find and see plenty of similarities between The Iliad and The Epic of Gilgamesh, although they are from different cultures. It is an example of interaction among cultures. These similarities focus on characters and themes.
            Firstly, both of them focus on epic heroes and their mighty deeds, but also their human weakness. Especially, we can see similarities between Gilgamesh and Achilles. Gilgamesh is a great warrior king who is from partly divine and partly human parentage, Achilles is a great warrior who is mixed divine and human, however, both of them are mortal.
"How, O how could I stay silent, how, O how could I keep quiet?
My friend whom I love has turned to clay:
Enkidu my friend whom I love has turned to clay.
Am I not like him? Must I lie down too, never to rise again?"
(Epic of Gilgamesh, Tablet X, column V.) 
For example; when he loses his friend, Enkidu, Gilgamesh remembers the mortality in this quotation and then he decides to search for immortality.
'"Give me your armor to put on your shoulders;
The Trojans might suppose I was you,
Hold back, and give the Acheans' sons a breather,
For breathing spells in war are very few.
Then, with a shout, fresh men might easily
Turn tired men from the ships toward the city."
So, like a fool he begged; for it would be
An evil death and doom for himself he asked.'
(Lines 40-47 Book 18)
In these lines, Patroclus asks Achilles for permission to join the fighting. Then, Patroclus dies and Achilles understands the importance of mortality, too. Later, the heroes, Gilgamesh and Achilles, undergo challenges and conflicts as part of their quest or struggle. We can say that it is a similarity for these two epic works. After death of Endiku, Gilgamesh begins to search for immortality and undergoes a lot of challenges and conflicts. There is a same situation in the Iliad, too. After death of Patroclus, Achilles wants to revenge of Patroclus and encounters conflicts and challanges, such as; battles and fightings. Another similarity about characters is that Achilles and Gilgamesh are the sons of goddesses and mortal men. Achilles’ mother is the sea nymph Themis, his father is the mortal king Peleus. Gilgamesh’s mother is the goddess Ninsun, and his father the mortal king Lugalbanda. Namely, the major characters have some similarities of their positions in life. In addition to the similarities about major characters, both of them are not concerned with family life and romantic relationship with women, because these kind of things have no place in the epic hero’s life.
            We can also say that the characters Enkidu and Patroclus are similar. Although they  die in different ways, their death for the fame of their leader. They are also in a sense uncivilized. Namely, Enkidu is literally uncivilized, and Patroclus is uncivilized and wild, because he has killed another human being for no reason and then fled that civilization’s jurisdiction to escape the consequences of his action.
            Secondly, we can find and see similarities about themes in these epic works, such as; friendship, mortality and death, pride, and religion. Actually, we can think that times of these epics are very close, and these themes might be important at that times. Therefore, there are similarities among themes. Eventually, we can easily find similarities in themes of the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Iliad.
            For instance; we have already mentioned about friendship between Gilgamesh and Enkidu and Achilles and Patroclus. When Endiku dies, Gılgamesh feels so bad and begins to search for immortality, because he wants to resurrect his dear friend. When Patroclus dies, Achilles feels so bad, too. He swears to take revenge of him. Therefore, we can see that how the major characters like their friends. Namely, the importance of friendship is similar in both of the works.
            Another mutual theme is the mortality. Gilgamesh and Achilles are semi-god, but they have a weakness which is mortality. Both of the works always mentions about mortality and remembers it. The works may want to give a moral message to reader or humankind, such as; “do not forget death.” We cannot know exactly. It may be just for plot. An example from the Iliad;
“Antilochos was first to kill a chief man of the Trojans,
valiant among the champions, Thalysias’ son, Echepolos.
Throwing first, he struck the horn of the horse-haired helmet,
and the bronze spearpoint fixed in his forehead and drove inward
through the bone; and a mist of darkness clouded both eyes
and he fell as a tower falls in the strong encounter.”
(4. 457-462)
Even though moments like this in the Iliad may seem repetitive and gross, they are important to the poem as a whole, because scenes like this remind us that death is not abstract; it strikes down real people, and it hurts. Moreover, Homer sometimes contrasts mortal people and immortal gods in the Iliad. If we want to give an example from The Epic of Gilgamesh;
“My friend, the swift mule , fleet wild ass of the mountain,
panther of the wilderness,
after we joined together and went up the mountain,
fought the Bull of Heaven and killed it,
and overwhelmed Humbaba, who lived in the Cedar Forest,
now what is this sleep which has seized you?
You have turned dark and do not hear me!
But his (Enkidu’s) eyes do not move,
He touched his hearth, but it beat no longer.”
(8. 38-46)
King Gilgamesh cannot believe death of Enkidu in this lines. He is still talking to a dead body, he wants to see a miracle, however, when he touches Enkidu’s hearth which does not beat, he discoveries reality of mortality. Namely, the epic heroes understant that it is not impossible to escape from death during their quests.
            The other similarity is pride. King Gilgamesh and Achilles’ prides are always mentioned in the works. For example from the Gilgamesh;
“He walks around in the enclosure of Uruk,
like a wild bull he makes himself mighty, head raised (over others).
There is no rival who can raise his weapon against him.
His fellows stand (at the alert), attentive to his (orders?),
and the men of Uruk become anxious in …
Gilgamesh does not leave a son to his father,
day and night he arrogantly(?) … “
The narrator praises Gilgamesh in these lines. Gilgamesh’s mighty power and handsomeness are always mentioned in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Moreover, he is shown as a powerfull and prideful king who acts bravely against to his enemies and difficulties. We can see same situation in the Iliad, too. The characters act proudly in the Iliad. For instance; Achilles wants equality and if there is no equality or if there is injustice, he fights for his right and he acts proudly against to his enemies.
            We can see similarity about religion theme in the works. There are gods or goddesses more than one in the both of them and also there are mighty semi-gods. We can contrast this theme with examples. An example from the Iliad;
“Now as he weighed in mind and spirit these two courses
and was drawing from its scabbard the great sword, Athene descended
from the sky. […]
The goddess standing behind Peleus' son caught him by the fair hair,
appearing to him only, for no man of the others saw her.
Achilleus in amazement turned about, and straightway
knew Pallas Athene and the terrible eyes shining. […]
Then […] the goddess grey-eyed Athene spoke to him:
'I have come down to stay your anger--but will you obey me?--
from the sky; and the goddess of the white arms Hera sent me,
who loves both of you equally in her heart and cares for you.
Come then, do not take your sword in your hand, keep clear of fighting,
though indeed with words you may abuse him, and it will be that way.”
(1.193-195, 197-200, 206-211)
As we see from these lines, we can see homeric gods and goddesses very much in the Iliad. They are mighty and talks with humans. In addition to this, they sometimes fight with humans and the other gods. There is same situation in the Epic of Gilgamesh. For example;
“Gilgamesh climbed up a mountain peak,
made a libation of flour, and said:
"Mountain, bring me a dream, a favorable message from Shamash."
Enkidu prepared a sleeping place for him for the night;
a violent wind passed through so he attached a covering.
He made him lie down, and … in a circle.
They … like grain from the mountain …”
We can see mighty gods in the Gilgamesh, too. There are gods and goddeses as homeric gods, and they fight with humans and the other gods as in the Iliad.

            Consequently, there are differences between The Iliad and The Epic of Gilgamesh. It is normal, because they are from different cultures and languages. It is interesting that there are similarities. For instance; characters have similar features, they are mighty semi-gods whoese mothers are goddesses. Additionaly, the themes are similar in these two works. It is not certain, but Homer might be influenced by The Epic of Gilgamesh. It shows that there might be interaction between cultures at that times. Moreover, we may say that epic characters have same feautures all over the world. Shortly, we can easily find similarities and differences between The Iliad and The Epic of Gilgamesh. 

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