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Hero in “The Odysseus” and “The Epic of Gilgamesh” Essay

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Updated: Aug 31st, 2022

Heroes and heroism are some of the oldest subjects depicted in literature. Te can be found in art and literature of all time. Epics about the greatest heroes used to serve as the sources of inspiration for the young people of ancient societies. Today, heroes are equally popular, but as the epochs changed to have the images and main features of the heroes changed or are they still the same? This paper explores the differences and similarities between the heroes of the ancient epics such as “The Odyssey” by Homer and “The Epic of Gilgamesh” the product of the culture of ancient Mesopotamia.

In “The Epic of Gilgamesh” the first description of the main protagonist the reader encounters praises his outstanding wisdom based on his diverse experiences and adventures, the epic says that Gilgamesh “learnt of everything the sum of wisdom. He saw what was secret, discovered what was hidden” (I, 5), and also, “He came to a far road, was weary, found peace” (I, 10). Yet, it is important to mention that the praise of all the Gilgamesh’s talents is immediately followed by the enumeration of his negative qualities and the description of his horrible rule and tyranny towards his people.

At the same time, reading Homer’s “The Odyssey,” one would hardly see any references to Odyssey’s wisdom. Instead, this hero is admired for his attractive appearance, outstanding strength, perseverance, and endurance. Just like in the case of Gilgamesh, Odysseus’ actions characterize him in a rather controversial way.

He is admired for his bravery, yet when it comes to the conflict with Cyclops, Odysseus chooses a very sneaky and cunning way to deal with his enemy by blinding him in his sleep and then escaping from his cave hiding under a sheep and also stealing the sheep from their master. Besides, after mutilating Cyclops, Odysseus also cannot hold back and feels the need to announce his escape. He says, “Cyclops if any mortal man ever asks about the disgraceful blinding of your eye, you can say that Odysseus, sacker of the cities did it, he son of Laertes, whose home is in Ithaca” (485). This is a clear sign of pride and vanity.

More about The Odyssey

This way, the beloved heroes of the ancient epics seem to have a set of qualities unusual for the contemporary image of a hero. Among such traits, there are vanity and pride, short temper, rage, cunning revenge, cheating and lies. None of these features are acceptable for the heroes of the modern days who are expected to be perfectly honest, altruistic, humble and patient regardless of the situations. At the same time, the basic set of positive qualities remained the same. It includes bravery, endurance, wisdom, attractive appearance, and strength. The main difference between the two ancient heroes is that Gilgamesh obtains his wisdom after finishing his adventures, and Odysseus shows the capacity to apply analytical thinking during his journeys (Dozier par. 7).

To conclude, both of the main protagonists of the ancient epics are admired heroes of their nations, powerful rulers and incredibly strong men. These heroes are evaluated based on their accomplishments such as the defeat of monsters and participation in battles. The contemporary heroes are required to demonstrate some outstanding achievements as well. Yet, the qualities and behaviors of the ancient heroes are very different compared those of the modern ones.

Works Cited

Dozier, Barbara. . 2011. Web.

Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. Barry B. Powell. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press, 2014. Print.

The Epic of Gilgamesh. London, United Kingdom: Penguin Books, 2000. Print.

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IvyPanda. "Hero in "The Odysseus" and "The Epic of Gilgamesh"." August 31, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/hero-in-the-odysseus-and-the-epic-of-gilgamesh/.

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IvyPanda. 2022. "Hero in "The Odysseus" and "The Epic of Gilgamesh"." August 31, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/hero-in-the-odysseus-and-the-epic-of-gilgamesh/.

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IvyPanda. (2022) 'Hero in "The Odysseus" and "The Epic of Gilgamesh"'. 31 August.

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