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Search for Immortality Depicted in The Epic of Gilgamesh and The Odyssey

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Through the many of mankind’s tales of adventure the search for immortality is a very common theme. Many heroes have made it the objective of their travels and adventures. This is no different in The Epic of Gilgamesh and The Odyssey. The heroes in both are tempted by the offer of immortality, however each of them turns it down for their own reasons.

In The Odyssey, Odysseus rejects the offer of immortality from the goddess Calypso long after he discovers the true nature of the afterlife after travelling to Hades. In Hades he meets Achilles who tells him “I’d rather slave on earth for another man. than rule down here over all the breathless dead’ (“Odyssey”, 265). Given such strong words from someone who has experienced the afterlife first hand, all of horrifying sights of the underworld, and the fact that Odysseus himself flees the underworld; one would be lead to believe that Odysseus would take up any offer that would him to dodge a fate in the underworld. Along with these reasons, Odysseus has endured many trials and tribulations over the course of his travels that might convince him to accept the offer of immortality.

Despite all of these perfectly sensible reasons for accepting the offer of immortality, Odysseus sticks to his guns and turns the offer down. One of his reasons is that he realizes that an immortal life would be a long and boring one, and Odysseus lives for excitement and glory. This, however, is not his most important reason that Odysseus turns down this offer of immortality. This is presented beginning on line 236 of Book V where Odysseus openly admits that Penelope cannot compare in beauty or stature, but he still pines for her. Also going along with this concept, is Odysseus’ sheer determination to mak...


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...nd the theme of immortality. However, each presents it in different ways. The Epic of Gilgamesh presents true immortality as deeds and actions that will keep your names in the memory of the people forever. In The Odyssey immortality is presented as something that is less important than your family and the people you love. This is reflected in each of the heroes decisions to turn down immortality; Gilgamesh turns it down because he knows the suffering would never make it worth it and Odysseus knows that he would never get to see his family again if he accepted the offer. The moral really is consider all the consequences before accepting something that seems all well and good.




Works Cited

Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. Fagles, Robert. New York: Penguin Books, 1996. Print.

The Epic of Gilgamesh. Trans. Foster, Benjamin R. New York: W W Norton & Co Inc, 2001. Print.


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