The Epic of Gilgamesh


The great heroes of the ancient world have been passed on in many ways, stories, plays, biographies and many other forms of literature. Here I will explore The Epic o f Gilgamesh, two plays by Sophocles, and two writings by Plutarch.

The Epic of Gilgamesh is one of the earliest pieces of literature to be discovered. Dating back to the third millennium BC, it was a series of poems carved into clay tablets. It told of the hero, Gilgamesh, who was created by the gods, was two-thirds god and one-third man. This makeup of god and man gave him a perfect body; to go along with this the gods gave him a know-all intellect. In the epic he is described as, "...the man to whom all things were known...he saw mysteries and knew secret things..." To this there was no equal, so the men of Uruk cried to the gods in complaint. The gods then created him an equal, Enkindu.
Born to the wilderness, Enkindu lived surrounded by wild beasts until a woman teaches him the "woman's art." After this the animals he grew up with reject him, and he starts to live with humans. Eventually Enkindu meets Gilgamesh and they become best friends, and set out on a journey so that Gilgamesh can make a name for himself in a land where no man has been before. On this journey, Enkindu dies and Gilgamesh is heart broken without his companion. After this, Gilgamesh sets out on a journey for everlasting life in which he realizes too soon that it is an unattainable goal.
An adventure story, such as this one that was verbally passed on until it was recorded, instilled values, gave comfort, and provided entertainment. It showed that true friendship was something to value and also showed how to be a friend. The epic also demonstrated struggles that people go through every day such as losing someone, attaining fame, and fearing death. There is a great value put on life in the story. The listeners or readers of the story would learn that life is something to be lived, not a search for something unattainable like eternal life or impossible to control such as death. The overall message given by the story is, that you shouldn't let life pass you by without having lived it.
Sophocles was a Greek tragedian in fifth century Athens. His works were entered in to contests, where many won awards. His plays Antigone and Oedipus the King deal with two heroes whose lives end in death.
Oedipus the King tells of the unlucky fate Oedipus is dealt. Through out the play it is revealed that Oedipus was destined to kill his father and marry his mother. The discovery of his past and future causes his mother/wife Iocasta to commit suicide and Oedipus to tear his eyes out as he sits at the feet of her dead body. All of this unfolds because Oedipus' real father, Laius, was the former king of Thebes. And since Oedipus reigns over Thebes, the city was hit with a plague until the killer of Laius was banished. So the result is Oedipus leaving the city blind and poor.
The play, Antigone, takes place after Oedipus the King. Since then, Antigone is engaged to Haemon, Creon's son, Oedipus has passed on and Antigone's brothers, Eteocles and Polyneices have killed each other in a battle over the throne. In the play, Antigone defies the king by burying Polyneices who, after his death was left to rot in the streets of Thebes while Eteocles was given a proper burial. When her actions are discovered, Antigone is sentenced to be sealed alive in a cave with little food. A profit tells Creon that a terrible fate is set for him if he goes along with the punishment. The chorus convinces Creon that his judgment is too harsh and he goes to free Antigone but it is too late. When Creon gets to the cave Antigone has already hung herself. Haemon finds this out and tries to kill Creon and fails. He then turns his sword onto himself and dies. Eurydice, Creon's wife and Haemon's mother hears the news of her son's death and stabs herself in the heart. The horrible fate told by