Title: The Iliad and the Epic of Gilgamesh

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The Iliad and the Epic of Gilgamesh:

The Epic of Gilgamesh is one of the oldest epic poems and was originally written on 12 clay tablets and talks about the adventures of King of Uruk, Gilgamesh. It gives the relationship between Gilgamesh’s distraction and disheartening by his rule, and his friend Enkidu who assumes risky quests with Gilgamesh but later dies, (Parkins, 2003). The Iliad is an epic poem telling about the battles and incidences during the era of quarrel between the warrior Achilles and King Agamemmon. This essay discusses the two heroes in the two poems.

Achilles is the main character in the Iliad. This hero is a powerful warrior and he engages in several conflicts starting with the King Agamemnon, then with Hector for killing his cousin and later with the Trojan King Priam. Achilles is strong commander as he commands soldiers from Phthia in Greece, his homeland. He is a proud hero, offensive and reactive whenever his honor is underrated. He has high tempers.

The Iliad and the Epic of Gilgamesh

Achilles has superhuman strength and a close relationship with the gods. However he is not in a position to act with nobility and integrity and fails to control his pride when angered. He has a high quest for glory and is ready give anything for fame. His rage makes him lack value in living and wishes the Trojans would kill him. He is less-reflective and less deliberative and though he reconciles with Agamemnon, he turns the rage to Hector. Achilles is merciless, ignoble and does not relent in his brutality. However he grieves and mourns intensely as seen when Patroclus dies.

Gilgamesh is the hero in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Just like Achilles, he has superhuman powers and relates to the gods. He is very fierce and brutal but most ambitious of the builders. Like Achilles, Gilgamesh is involved in many conflicts and battles having forced labor and illogical exercises of power. He is selfish and immoral and rapes any woman in his way. Similar to Achilles, he has intense grieve and mourns deeply when his friend Enkidu dies. He is however different from Achilles in that he is ready to abandon his glory, power and wealth and desires to live a better life. He resumes his mortal being and becomes a better king. Achilles though reconciled severally would not abandon his pride and glory, (Parkins, 2003).

The natural world is depicted in the context of the Iliad in that though Achilles the main character is said to possess superhuman strength and a relationship with the gods, the activities he does are of the natural world. This includes his involvement in human battles and his search for glory among the natural human beings. He commands soldiers and takes revenge whenever his glory is not acknowledged in the natural realm. Achilles is moved by emotions like any other humans and he grieves over the death of his friend Patroclus.

Gilgamesh, also a superhuman warrior does relate with the natural world by getting involved with the things happening around him and he suffers from lack of control. He is an ambitious builder meaning he relates to the environment around him. Just like the people in the natural world, he has feelings and want for glory and he feels pain when his friend Enkidu dies, (Parkins, 2003).

The Iliad and the Epic of Gilgamesh

Gilgamesh as the hero in the Epic of Gilgamesh does not align with the monomyth postulated by Joseph Campbell. In most heroic characters with superhuman nature and relations with the gods, the heroes do not get manipulated by the normal human beings. They normally appear to dictate all the incidences around them. This is not the case with Gilgamesh since his friend Enkidu, a normal human, manages to calm his restless energies. Enkidu is able to cool him down and focus him. Enkidu’s dominion over Gilgamesh’s life is seen in the way Gilgamesh grieves over the death of Enkidu. This contradicts the nature of the mythical supernatural humans and depicted by Joseph Campbell, (Parkins, 2003).

The nature of Achilles of having superhuman powers and a close relationships with the gods used in his involvement in battles with his enemies including the King Agamemnon, Hector and Trojan King Priam is symbolic to religions that existed in the ancient Greece. The religion of the ancient Greece was polytheistic and comprised of worshiping of various numerous gods who controlled different features of the physical world and human experience. Achilles perhaps was more associated with Ares, the god of war for the ancient Greeks. The Greek gods were not spiritual creatures and they resembled human beings and acted in human ways depicting all human vices, virtues and emotions, (Heiden, 2008).

There several differences and similarities in the translation of the Iliad by Richmond Lattimore and Robert Fagles. Robert’s translation begins with the words “Rage- Sing, goddess, the rage” while begins with the words “Sing, goddess, the anger of Peleus’ son Achilleus. Biggining the poem with the word “sing” expresses the genre of the poem and attracts the attention of the reader. Beginning the poem with the word rage expresses the theme of the poem to the reader. Richmond’s translation uses the word “anger” while Robert’s translation uses the word “rage”. The two words though almost similar have different weights where “rage” expresses intense fury and wrath while “anger” indicates annoyance or irritation which may be mild as compared to “rage”.

Robert uses the word “many” to show the number of Achaeans killed by Achilles while Richmond uses the word “multitudes”. The difference is that “multitudes” indicate quite a huge number of people as compared to “many”. Robert states that “the will of Zeus was moving towards its end” while Richmond says “the will of Zeus was accomplished”. These two

The Iliad and the Epic of Gilgamesh

statements referring to the same context give differing meanings in that the fast give the impression that the will of Zeus was not successful while the latter has the impression that the will of Zeus was successful.

The term “heroes” used by Richmond is equivalent to the phrase “great fighters” used by Robert as they both express the might of the characters being discussed. The statements “House of Death” by Robert and “house of Hades” by Richmond have the same meaning since they both explain the massacre of the massive killings of the warriors, (Heiden, 2008).

The lines “Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns” by Robert and “Tell me, Muse, of the man of many ways, who was driven” by Richmond are different in the way they begin. The words “sing to me” are persuasive while the words “tell me” are demanding thus giving different meanings. However, the rest of the lines are similar since they explain the nature of the Muse man.


Heiden (2008). Homer’s Cosmic Fabrication: Choice and Design in the Iliad: Oxford University Press US, 2008

Parkins (2003). The Epic of Gilgamesh: Eerdmans Young Readers, 2003