Back in the days of ancient Greece and before this time, epic heros have had their lives chronicled and the stories of them passed on from generation to generation, all the way to our present day in our lives. Two of the greatest heros that have been expressed in past epic stories were Gilgamesh from the epic named after him, and Achilles from Homer’s Iliad. The two of their stories however, transpired in two different eras, their lives both had a surprising number of common points.
Of course with things in common, there always comes differences, in the way they lived and the ideals they believed in. The first aspect that expresses both Gilgamesh’s and Achilles similarities and differences is divinity. Both Gilgamesh and Achilles are the sons of divine mothers. Gilgamesh a strong warrior in his own right, is two-thirds divine and one-third mortal, he is the son of Ninsun. By Gilgamesh having divine blood it has lent him to have unmatched strength and skill as a warrior.
But Gilgamesh instead of accepting the way he was, he saw himself as a full god. He was blinded by his actions and how this view portrayed to his people of Uruk. This caused the people to view Gilgamesh as a god and capable of doing anything; we find out later he was unable to conquer all like he would have hoped to accomplish. Achilles another strong warrior in his own right, was the son of Thetis, he also had divine blood flowing through his body. Achilles however, was well aware of his mortality.
As a result of this he choose a shortened life full of glory, over a longer not as glorious life. Well with Achilles realizing his mortality, like Gilgamesh he was given unequal strength and skill as the gods lingered and watched over him, making him a valuable asset to who ever he fought, as well as earning him the respect of both friend and foe. Unlike Gilgamesh who was looked upon for his accomplishments, but still despised for the way he ruled. Gilgamesh and Achilles made many friends throughout their life times in their epics.
Their friends were like brothers and played a vital role in each of their lives. For Gilgamesh, the god Anu had his daughter Aruru create Enkidu. Enkidu was a man of the wild, to be Gilgamesh’s equal. He was part human and part animal. Instead of being Gilgamesh’s enemy they became the best of friends and ended up battling foes together. With Gilgamesh having found a companion that is worthy, they were basically unbeatable together. Achilles also had a companion that had a very big impact on his life.
Achilles met his companion at the house of Peleus, his name was Patroclus, which is by far different from how Enkidu was sent from heaven to be Gilgamesh’s foe. With not thinking of how they met this friendship between Achilles and Patroclus was carried into the Trojan War, just as the friendship between Gilgamesh and Enkidu was carried through their epic journey’s to defeat Humbaba, and the Bull of Heaven. As I said before Gilgamesh and Achilles each found their trust worthy companions through their life times.
With both of their companions they accomplished a lot, but their deaths impacted both of them more. It was basically some what similar with the response from both of them as of losing their companion. But their actions were different with Gilgamesh honoring Enkidu’s death by having everyone in the kingdom express sorrow for the passing. Gilgamesh with his companions death had a monument created in his honor. On the other hand, Achilles felt the only way for him to honor his companions death was to avenge it.
With the passing of Enkidu, which he was a creature created by the gods, showed Gilgamesh that he was too mortal. Instead of Gilgamesh accepting the way he was and honoring Enkidu’s death he set out to find immortality. As searching for this he found Utanapishti, he was the possessor of the secrets to immortality, Gilgamesh failed the test to stay awake for seven days and seven nights, and also he lost the plant that would make him young again, the sad thing was that he wanted to bring this plant back to Uruk and make all the old young again.
After losing at both these tasks he set for, it caused him to realize that immortality was unachievable. However, Enkidu’s death did provide Gilgamesh with one of the best outcomes. It helped him over come his arrogance as a king and made him realize the reality of his world. On the other hand, Achilles had a different idea then Gilgamesh. Achilles believed in a shorter life full of glory and honor, and chose to avenge Patroclus by killing Hector. Even though Hector took the armor that Patroclus had on, which it was Achilles armor anyway.
Achilles had the mindset that it was better to do something about the death of his companion then to grieve about it for the rest of his life, by sacrificing his own life. Achilles did not possess the dream of immortality and accepted it as being only for the gods. He believed in a very different manner then Gilgamesh, glory in his eyes was to be found in death, not life like Gilgamesh thought. Gilgamesh and Achilles shared several similarities in their lives, but with similarities always comes many differences.
The most vulgar one was their view on death, one of them dreamt of immortality, while the other looked at death as glory and honor. However, both of their companions had great influence on each of their lives. I can not wonder what their lives would have been like if they did not have the influence of their companions. Overall Gilgamesh, and Achilles were big heros and will be epic heros that will be remembered and looked upon for years to come.