Life and Death: A comparison of the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Homeric Hymn to Demeter

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Studies have shown that throughout the world, different cultures have similar and dissimilar views concerning a variety of topics. Of the most widely discussed topics, life and death are by far two of the most important and influential for any culture. The ancient Greek Homeric Hymn to Demeter and the Babylonian epic of Gilgamesh are perfect examples of cultures views on life and the afterlife. In this paper, I will attempt to demonstrate the views of both cultures on life and death, as well prove how these views influenced the daily lives and beliefs of the people who followed these ideas. The afterlife has always intrigued and terrified human beings and as a result, has influenced even the earliest of texts.

Life has always been an important theme of literature. As mortals, we are preoccupied with the short amount of time we have available to us. While there are many aspects of life that are important to all living beings, certain themes presented in the texts are the bonds between loved ones and the importance of agriculture. The Homeric Hymn to Demeter presents life as something to be enjoyed and cherished, as it may soon be taken away from us. In the case of hymn, even as a goddess, Persephone was still taken from her mother, the goddess Demeter, to the underworld. As life is short, the text demonstrates that the bond between a mother and her child, as well as a woman and her friends, should be strong. Relationships between the mother and the child are highly emphasized in this text, as Demeter mourns Persephone's descent into the underworld to the point that she is willing to end the lives of humankind by keeping the harvest from growing and causing all vegetation to die. "For mortals she ordained...

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...very being on Earth. They are unavoidable truths which make up existence and the lack thereof. Surrounded by fear and speculation, every culture has their own theories as to how each occur and what affect it has on the individual. In the Homeric Hymn to Demeter and the epic of Gilgamesh, life, death and the ways these affected the cultures in question are described in great detail. These texts, while describing the experiences of gods and heros, also provide a sense of order for the mortal individual who is also seeking the answers to life's greatest questions.


-The Homeric Hymn to Demeter, Helene P Foley, trans. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994.

-Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others, Stephanie Dalley trans. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.

NOTE: Endnotes didn't copy and paste... sorry.

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