The Epic of Gilgamesh and the culture of the ancient Egypt have their own similarities and differences based on the historical events that took place in this cultures and the religious beliefs of the two nations. The Epic of Gilgamesh is based on the life of a probable real Sumerian great king named Gilgamesh who ruled about 2600 B.C. Gilgamesh was a supernatural being born of a goddess and a human father. Gilgamesh had great power which he used not only for the benefit of Sumerians but also to mistreat them in several ways. For instance, on several occasions Gilgamesh slept with wives’ of his people which led to them seeking the help of gods. After this incident, a wild man named Enkidu was created by god of creation named Aruru. Later Gilgamesh and Enkidu became friends after fate brought them together as none of them could associate with other people of Uruk. Based on the images of Gilgamesh and Enkidu, we are able to distinguish some of the beliefs and culture of the people of Uruk.
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The ancient Egypt was ruled by a king called Pharaoh, and all people believed that he possessed divine and political power to preserve order and justice in the fight with forces of chaos and evil. The king’s position was hereditary unlike in Uruk where Gilgamesh came from a relationship between a goddess and a human being. Gilgamesh himself was divine due to this act of association (Pearson publishing staff, 2004). In the ancient Egypt, people believed in many gods. Each of them had his or her own role and governed a certain aspect of their existence. The gods represented the whole range of natural phenomena and abstractions such as justice, monarchy, protection, truth, etc. The will of Gods ruled and directed the life of the whole Egyptian nation. The Egyptians carried respective rituals and made sacrifices to gods and spirits so that to gain their support and ensure survival and prosperity of each particular family and the whole state. In the same way, Sumerians believed in many gods. They were all conceived as possessing cosmic powers, embodying natural phenomena and being immortal. In the ancient Egypt, the pictures of officials and priests with their, families, and servants were placed on the walls of tombs and statues and sculptural groups were created to commemorate them. These embodiments of human souls reflect the love for life displayed by Egyptians and beliefs in life after death. After the death of Enkidu, Gilgamesh walked a long distance so that he could become immortal but he could not and later he came to appreciate life after death when he was able to communicate with his Friend Enkidu.
Another belief that was witnessed across the Egyptian culture and the epic of Gilgamesh was that life was hedonistic and that, in spite of dreadful perspective of death, little pleasures provided by the family, friendship, love and society made life worth living. The Egyptians did not pursue happy lives in paradise but were eager to prolong their lives on Earth, among the living. They wanted to enjoy life with none of its pain or difficulties (Palmira J. Brummett , 2006).
Even though there are many similarities between the epic of Gilgamesh and the ancient Egyptian culture, some differences can be noticed. For example Egyptians had gods with cross cutting duties and several gods could actually perform one and the same duty. However, this is not witnessed in the epic of Gilgamesh. Another difference is that whereas Sumerians associated with their gods directly and could seek their intervention from gods, the Egyptians could not since only the king was allowed to make sacrifices to the gods. The epic of Gilgamesh and the ancient Egyptian culture are similar in many ways and one cannot be wrong to infer that the only difference is in the timing and places in which they existed.
Pearson publishing staff. Documents in world history. NY: Prentice Hall Inc, 2004.
Palmira J. Brummett, George F. Jewsbury, Civilizations past and present. Tennessee: prentice Hall Inc, 2006.