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The Search for Destiny in The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Odyssey, and The Aeneid

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The Search for Destiny in The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Odyssey, and The Aeneid


The search for destiny is reflected in the literary works such as "The Epic of Gilgamesh", Homer's "The Odyssey", and Virgil's "The Aeneid". The hero of each story travels to the land of the dead in order to satisfy their individual needs. And even though each one has a different motive for the journey, they share two things in common. First, each hero seeks to know something about his future or destiny. And second, their finds are not exactly what they were looking for. The nature of the quests into the underworld by the heroes Gilgamesh, Odysseus, and Aeneas range from immortality, happiness, and the need to know he is doing the right things in life but respectfully discover emptiness, sadness, and judgement.
After his friend Enkidu dies, Gilgamesh realizes that death is also imminent for him since he is part human. Thus, terrified of his future, Gilgamesh journeys into the underworld in search of immortality but instead finds

emptiness. Gilgamesh believes Utnapishtim, who resides in the underworld, holds the secret to avoiding death, since he himself was given immortality by the gods after the "Great Flood".
However, Gilgamesh finds the underworld to be empty. This emptiness is foreseen in his journey through the league of caves. Shamash flat out tells Gilgamesh that he won't find what he is looking for. But Gilgamesh is also given more subtle warnings. For instance, Siduri asks Gilgamesh why he is "in search of the wind" (38). Furthermore, the caves have "no light"; foreseeing that Utnapishtim will have no knowledge or secret about immortality (37). And the author repeatedly writes "nothing ahead and nothing behind" (37). This implies tha...


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Homer. "The Odyssey". Trans. Robert Fitzgerald. The Norton
Anthology: World Masterpieces. 7th ed. Vol.1. Ed. Sara Lawall. New York: Norton, 1999. 209-514

Norman, Dorothy. The Hero: Myth/Image/Symbol. New York:
World Publishing Company, 1969.

The Odyssey. Dir. Andrei Konchalovsky. Perf. Armand
Assante, Greta Scacchi, Isabella Rossellini, Vanessa Williams. Videocassette. Hallmark, 1997

Sanders, Nancy K., Trans. "Gilgamesh". The Norton
Anthology: World Masterpieces. 7th ed. Vol.1. Ed.Sara Lawall. New York: Norton, 1999. 16-46.

Thompson, Diane. Gilgamesh Study Guide. 07 July 1999.
Online. Internet. 10 Feb. 2000. Available: novaonline.nv.cc.va.us/eli/eng251/gilgameshstudy.htm

Virgil. "The Aeneid". Trans. Robert Fitzgerald. The Norton
Anthology: World Masterpieces. 7th ed. Vol.1. Ed. Sara Lawall. New York: Norton, 1999. 814-895





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