The Odyssey And The Epic Of Gilgamesh Essay

The Odyssey And The Epic Of Gilgamesh Essay

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Mortal and immortal women inspire many of the events that take place in The Odyssey and The Epic of Gilgamesh. For example, without the harlot, who “tames” Enkidu, the story of Gilgamesh would not be, as we know it. A chapter entitled, “Women in Ancient Epic” from A Companion to Ancient Epic by Helene Foley compares Ishtar in Gilgamesh to Calypso and Circe in The Odyssey. By comparing the role of immortal and mortal women in both The Odyssey and The Epic of Gilgamesh, one will be able to discern how the feminine figures have played a pivotal role in shaping the destiny of the epic heroes, as well as, understanding the interrelation amongst the female figures of both ancient epics.
The harlot in Gilgamesh and Helen in The Odyssey both highlight the concept of destiny. In other words, they set the poems “ . . . on a certain course, towards a certain finality” (Cojocaru 10). The harlot humanizes Enkidu by transforming him from his beast – like characteristics into a civilized man and brings him to the city of Uruk. Similarly, without the abduction of Helen, there would never be a Trojan War and Odysseus would not have left Ithaca (if he did it would be for other reasons).
In the Odyssey, Goddess Athena is a guiding light that shields Odysseus from any harm. It is her presence throughout his journey that ensures Odysseus’s survival. Before the harlot tames Enkidu, Aruru, goddess of creation fashioned Enkidu from clay in order for Gilgamesh to have an equal counterpart. Also, “Ninsun, goddess and mother of Gilgamesh, casts divine legitimacy over his journey. The mother offers her son education . . . and passes over to the king the knowledge of the universal law, the will of the gods” (Cojocaru 9). Athena, Aruru, and Ninsun are divin...


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...dysseus’s survival” (Foley ). Finally, Odysseus reveals his identity and Penelope is bewildered, but quickly embraces her husband after he tells her the secret of their immovable bed. It is the faithfulness of Penelope and nurse Eurycleia that insures Odysseus’s survival to the very end.
Both, The Epic of Gilgamesh and The Odyssey are a balance of the male and feminine principles. It is the prostitute that brings humanity to Enkidu and it is Athena that shields Odysseus from all harm and brings him safely back to Ithaca. The Epic of Gilgamesh and The Odyssey take place in a rigid patriarchal society, but both epics reveal the hidden workings of the feminine figure throughout journey. Perfectly said: “ . . . the initiatory journey of the hero, his transformation into a wise king couldn’t have been imagined without the shadow of this feminine principle” (Cojocaru 13).

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