Gilgamesh and Odysseus: a Comparison Essay
Introduction: Mythical Characters and Their Heroic Qualities
Mythical characters in literature have significantly projected personal qualities and ways of living in the communities. They also reflect different attributes of humans, such as heroism, revenge, apathy, etc.
The most commonly renowned mythological texts that project heroic attributes are Homer’s Odyssey and the Epic of Gilgamesh. Comparing different mythical heroes from literature can help understand their different qualities and heroic ideals. This paper makes a comparison of Odysseus and Gilgamesh in order to find out what their similarities and differences are.
Gilgamesh and Odysseus: Compare and Contrast
The text about Odyssey is written by Homer, while Gilgamesh is written by Shin-Eqi-Unninni. On comparison, Odysseus and Gilgamesh possess traits such as friendliness, courage, and heroism. Odysseus had a hereditary right to the throne and ruled Ithaca that was complemented by his impartiality, ruthlessness and diplomatic skills.
On the other hand, Gilgamesh was the king of Uruk in Babylonia, who is physically sturdy and strong, having supernatural powers and the will to protect his people (George). As Gilgamesh was an oppressor, he was given the title of the goring wild bull.
By taking a look at Homer’s Odyssey, one can observe that he was a hero based on his pure spirituality and strength to take challenges. At the beginning of the tale of Odysseus, he sailed far, reached north, put the ships on Hangar, where Eurylochus, who was second in command of Odysseus, prepared a male and female sheep for sacrifice.
After offering prayers to the dead, the people of the river offered the sheep to them and put the remaining parts in a pit that had been dug with shadows of the dead gathering around. It was a ritual to establish communion with the dead who bore messages for the living and was respected and offered sacrifices. Odysseus has been observed to take the challenge despite the fact he was aware of all the hardships (Louden).
Odysseus was greatly opposed by her wife, mother, and other people who really cared about him. But he continues to achieve his objective, and show is a heroic attribute. There were many memorable quotes mentioned in the Odyssey that show his high morals and astounding insights.
The fact that he had different heroic ideals can be understood by the following quotation from the text. It states that “‘Stand clear, put up your sword; let me but taste of blood. I shall speak true. ‘” Book 11, lines 106-7 (Louden). The above-noted dialogue was delivered by Odysseus’s mother on the event of slaughter of animals by Odysseus.
Similarly, in the Epic Of Gilgamesh, we can note that the protagonist is two-thirds god and one-third human. The character of Gilgamesh is an example of a supernatural force in the story. He is not only brave and sturdy like Odysseus, but also miraculously trusted by the people. Gilgamesh used his power for the sustenance of his people.
For instance, he dug wells and made barren land cultivable for his people, providing them with space for agriculture and paving the way through mountains and making passes for access. He also constructed fortified walls for his people in and around Uruk. Gilgamesh had defiance in him as far as doctrines are concerned about having a thirst for glory (George).
On one fateful event, Gilgamesh, accompanied by Enkidu, entered the forest that was forbidden to mortals. They cut the trees and slay fiendish Humbaba with the help of Shamash’s divine intervention. The most interesting part of Gilgamesh’s tale is that he initially was not liked by the masses but later on succeeded in living a dazzling joyous life. Gilgamesh’s intrepidity said the words to follow to his followers:
“Until the end comes, enjoy your life, spend it in happiness, and not despair. Savor your food, make each of your days a delight, bathe and anoint yourself, wear bright clothes that are sparkling clean, let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand, and give your wife pleasure in your embrace. That is the best way for a man to live”. These words were said by Gilgamesh to highlight the true nature of life, showing his fortitude and command due to his personal experience (George 83).
In both historical mythologies, the two prime characters of Gilgamesh vs Odysseus have conflicting characteristics, throwing light on the varying role a hero plays. To normal understanding, both the heroes have the bravery and divine intervention in common (Launderville).
Gilgamesh, for instance, is involved in manipulating recent married brides who did not see their husbands face putting a big question mark on his character. Odysseus, on the other hand, is exactly Gilgamesh’s opposite. He also has his ups and downs, but characteristically cares for his people and has a good relationship with his son and virtuous wife (George). In this aspect, Odysseus differs from Gilgamesh in a complete way.
The comparison of Odysseus and Gilgamesh makes sense when a goal is materialized in both the stories. Both of them have a sense of urgency and stand for a cause. Odysseus is considered cunning but loyal to his wife and child, and Gilgamesh tries to be immortal, making “heroism” a cultural value in both the Sagas (Louden).
Gilgamesh becomes righteous king from a bully and tyrant by love or friendliness of Enkidu. The death of Gilgamesh’s friend’s death is another event that makes the way Gilgamesh thinks about living different. The similarity of Enkidu and Gilgamesh is that they both realize that the gods, when angered, become devastatingly brutal. Ea is the god of wisdom and crafts rescues Utnapishtim and other species and the whole of humankind (Callen King).
Gilgamesh is portrayed as an oppressive hero and a fearless, noble warrior. And the weakness displayed for the plant of youth and his friend’s death makes him only human, and as we know, there are no black or white areas in a human’s reaction; there are only grey areas in Gilgamesh’s attitude. Was Gilgamesh free to act on his will, or did the gods control him? Which makes a justified question? (Callen King)
Gilgamesh starts with a journey while Odysseus is already on one right from the beginning of the text. Both men holding prominent positions in the respective tales have physical powers given to them by gods. Both the epic tales were initially poems praising their respective heroes. While Gilgamesh is an example of a supernatural force, Odysseus stands out as a better strategist. His entering the enemy’s fortified area was indeed a clear display of valor. And fighting his way through the difficult times confidently emerging as victorious (Launderville).
Gilgamesh and Odysseus: Common Themes
The common theme present is of heroism in both the Epic tales. They are men with extraordinary strength and supremacy. The heroes give us sheer strength in mind and on the other hand, understanding of heroic physical strength in particular. Both heroes face death and travel through their paths bravely and honorably with Odysseus’s family facing hardships due to his faraway journey in pursuit of knowledge and wealth. Both the characters break themselves to hero and tyrants.
Gilgamesh succeeds with his lesson about the reality of man being mortal soon. He also understood that no matter what one’s achievements are, even if they are godlike as far as Gilgamesh is concerned, one has to cherish the smaller things. It took Gilgamesh a single day while Odysseus’s journey expanded to twenty years to understand that everyone has to discover the meanings of life.
Gilgamesh and Odysseus were designed to confront the outer limits of human existence and then to bring back knowledge extracted from this extreme perspective (Launderville).
Gilgamesh shows no mercy to the beast and slays it taking apt advice from Enkidu, who says: “Kill the beast now Gilgamesh. Show no weak or silly mercy towards so sly a foe.” Taking the advice, Gilgamesh cuts the beast.
Odysseus, on the other hand, though Athena’s divine assistance, along with Telemachus, and a couple of herdsmen, manages to kill all of the suitors. The katabasis generally referred to amongst many others as a trip to the supernatural underworld. Katabasis is also adverted to a journey through this world to another plane in this incident the trip to the underworld (Launderville).
This essay looked at the similarities and differences of Gilgamesh and Odysseus, two famous characters of epics. In summary, it becomes visible that Odysseus vs Gilgamesh are two heroic characters from mythological texts. Both the mythical heroes have shown that everyone has the attribute to take up challenges and learning from experiences. Thus, the common theme of both the mythical texts presents that attributes of heroism can be attained by anyone provided they are ready to face challenges. Still, there are some aspects in which Odysseus differs from Gilgamesh very much. The latter, for instance, is involved in manipulations, while the former characteristically cares for those who surround him.
Callen King, Katherine. Ancient epic. Chichester,West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.
George, A. R. The Babylonian Gilgamesh epic. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
Launderville, Dale. Spirit and reason: the embodied character of Ezekiel’s symbolic thinking. Texas: Baylor University Press, 2007.
Louden, Bruce. Homer’s Odyssey and the Near East. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011.
Odysseus Heroism Essay
Wily Odysseus emerged as a hero in the poem, “Odysseus Strings His Bow”. He fought in many battles that cost him separation from his family. He did not give up until he was re-united with his family. At first, he was the king of Ithaca, an implication that he possessed excellent leadership skills.
In the course of his life at one time Odysseus fell in love with Helen’s cousin Penelope. Penelope bore him a son whom they named Telemachus. He was afraid that this would be known and to cover for the same he pretended to be insane. His scheme was discovered by Palamedes who placed his child (Palamedes’) to find out if really Odysseus was insane. It was expected that he (Odysseus), being insane, could harm the child but he did not. This led to a conclusion by the others that he was not insane (Historylink 1).
Odysseus was also a brave and clever warrior. He formulated the trick of the great wooden horse to give victory to the Greeks. This idea brought an end to the war of Trojans and Greeks which had taken a period of ten years (Historylink 1).
Odysseus had left his wife Penelope who had faithfully waited for him till he came back. She had made promises to him that she would wait for him. Penelope had made all efforts to avoid marrying another man. At the time of his return, many people believed that Odysseus was dead (McIlvain 1). He was a hero because he had for himself a very faithful wife.
More about This Topic What prevents Odysseus from killing the sleeping Cyclops? Which events are part of the road of trials in Odysseus’s heroic quest? What motivated Odysseus to reveal his name and put his men in more danger? What does Odysseus do on the island of Cicones that best shows the trait of leadership?
The long away stay of Odysseus made people think that he was dead. A group of men took over his palace and had even tried to date his wife. One of the suitors, Antinous wanted to kill Odysseus’s son who was meant to be the next prince. Telemachus had made efforts to get these people out of the palace but they overpowered him (Notes 1).
On his way home, Odysseus encountered many gods on the way. Some of the gods such as Poseidon had issues with Odysseus. Athena was the one who pleaded with Poseidon to let him go to his home Ithaca. Odysseus was famous even to the gods who had heard of his victories: “When he identifies himself as Odysseus, his hosts, who have heard of his exploits at Troy are stunned” (Notes 1).
Odysseus finally made it to his home. Surprisingly, not even his wife could recognize him, apart from his nurse, Eurycleia. Odysseus was angered by the condition of his palace. Maids went to sleep with suitors at night. Athena a god asked him to stop his anger and appreciate what he had: wife Penelope, son Telemachus and the palace (McIlvain 20).
Odysseus made a long conversation with his wife Penelope who could not recognize him. She told him of how much she missed her husband. This was where the nurse recognized him as he cleaned his feet. The nurse recognized a scar that was on his feet but Odysseus’ look stopped her from telling Penelope (McIlvain 19). He was a hero because he made it to have a long conversation with his wife ensuring that she did not recognize him.
Penelope then decided to put up a contest. She said that the man who would be able to string Odysseus’ great bow and fire it through a row of twelve axes would become his husband. She chose this contest because only his husband Odysseus had been able to do it. Odysseus had not revealed his identity. He looked like a beggar all this time. The beggar, Odysseus asked for the bow to try. Antinous mocked him. Surprisingly, he effortlessly stringed the bow and sent it through the axes (McIlvain 21). This skill was a character of a hero as well as outdoing all other men.
More about Odysseus Heroism Why Does the Cyclops Invite Odysseus Back to the Island? Who is Tiresias in the Odyssey? What are the major conflicts in the Odyssey? How many suitors in the Odyssey have taken over the house?
Odysseus in anger turned against Antinous and the maids and killed them. Finally, Penelope was reunited with her husband after revealing to her that he was Odysseus. He was a hero because he could do anything to achieve his goal (McIlvain 22). He was re-united with his wife because of one special skill of using a bow. He convinced his wife Penelope that he was Odysseus by telling her about the bed he had made from a still rooted olive tree which was only known to him (McIlvain 24).
Faith and Religion in “The Wife of Bath”
This poem was based on Christian values in marriage. The poem was derived from the Bible; 1Corinthaians 7:1-9. Behaviour of women was described and outlined by Christian traditions. Christianity guided morals in the society. The speaker told of how marriage was for her. Since she was 12 years of age she had been married five times in church. All the men she married were well up and had inherited wealth (McIlvain 1).
Marriage in this context was based on Christian values. One was only supposed to wed once: “That since Christ went never but once, to a wedding, in the Cana of Galilee, that by that same example he taught me, that I should be wedded but once” (Benson 1).
The tale teller also used the Bible to justify her multiple marriages. She used some examples like that of Jacob, and Abraham and claimed that they were saints but never had more than one wife. She said this in a tone of persuasion. The tale teller narrated her experiences using Biblical quotes:
Lo, here the wise king, dan Solomon, I believe he had wives more than one, As would God it were lawful unto me, To be refreshed half so often as he! What a gift of God had he because of all his wives! (Benson 1)
Christianity was the basis of morality. Those who were able to uphold the moral standards were very few. There were two characters that played different roles in the church, the pardoner and the Summoner. They were corrupt. The pardoner was the one received those who had sinned while the summoner was responsible bringing the sinner to the church. The summoner had committed a crime that he accused others for.
The poem was made of instances of preaching so it could teach on faith. The preaching was made of rules and texts from the Bible. The preacher could explain the Biblical principles to the audience who had little knowledge about the scriptures. These teachings could thus explain the moral theories of this society.
Further Research What’s the Role of Phemius in the Odyssey? Which excerpt from part 2 of the Odyssey best supports the conclusion that Odysseus is clever? Who is Calypso? Why Telemachus murdered the maids and Melanthius?
In this story, the pilgrims were knowledgeable in that they knew the basic rules that are laid by the Bible from the sermons they heard in church. The pardoner used many supporting scriptures to justify immoral behaviours of the drunks. He quoted people from the Bible such as Herod, Lot and the sins they committed in their drunkenness. The pardoner was very corrupt in that he used scriptures to justify his immoral actions.
The tale described faith in Christianity. It said that those who lived in chastity were following Christian teachings. Those people would always sing a new hymn. This was a call to perseverance in whatever one went through. The most important thing was to obey God’s commands so as to make it to heaven.
The Prince: Machiavellian Philosophy
“The Prince” story was written by Niccolo Machiavelli. He dedicated his writings to his grandson on how to maintain power as a leader. His advice was his philosophy. He had previously been a leader of Florence in Italy. His experiences with Politician Cesare Borgia were ruthless.
He drew his writings from his leadership skills. This was because the tactics he used in to rule people at that time worked out for them. His message was on how his grandson could protect himself as a Prince. Maintenance of power was his main interest. Machiavelli had been accused of conspiracy which led to his imprisonment. This was when he wrote this story, “The Prince” (Amazon 1).
Firstly, Machiavellian offered his philosophies on how to retain power as a prince. In the first chapter, he recommended imitation of the style and techniques of rulers who had previously made it to rule over their territories (Amazon 1). He described two types of states, Republics or Principalities.
Principalities included new and hereditary principalities. His perspective was that it was easier to govern hereditary states because those who were ruled by the state family were familiar with the ruling of the prince family and the subjects would always love the ruling family unless they misbehaved (Notes 1).
Secondly, as a Prince one was supposed to limit the freedom of citizens (Amazon 1). Princes were supposed to have dominion over weak surrounding states. The prince was also supposed to weaken the strong states. He believed that the weaker states would always naturally support the stronger side and thus the prince power would not be at threat (Notes 1).
The prince was supposed to have a strong military force that was made of local people and not foreigners. He thought that foreigners could not be trusted. Skills in leading the troops were very essential for the prince (Amazon 1). This would secure the Prince’s power.
He also believed that a prince was supposed to use violence, trickery and insincerity to gain his political interests. On this, he recommended that a prince was not supposed to use these tactics unnecessarily (Amazon 1): “It makes him (ruler) hated above all things, as I have said, to be rapacious, and to be a violator of the property and women of his subjects, from both of which he must abstain” (Amazon 1).
He said that a prince was supposed to increase the wealth of the state by whichever means whether good or bad. The reason for this was so as to ease the burden of paying taxes to his citizens (Amazon 1). Plundering of enemy’s money or treasury was one of the tactics if an opportunity presented itself to him. However, his advice to the prince was to increase taxes if need arose to maintain his state.
The prince was also supposed to strike a balance of generosity to the citizens. Doing according to the will of citizens was an important tactic of maintaining ruler ship; but the prince was not supposed to always follow their wish (Amazon 1). To guard against crime in his state, the prince was supposed to have punishments which could suit the criminals fairly.
More on the Topic What Excerpt from Part 2 of the Odyssey Best Establishes Odysseus’s Weakness? Which Greek values are found in The Odyssey? Why The Odyssey is an epic poem? In the Odyssey – Amphimedon, what motivates Odysseus to dress as a beggar?
Very harsh punishments were not recommended because they could trigger hatred of citizens to the prince. On the other hand, if little punishment was given to great criminals, people would complain and probably overthrow his kingdom. He put it that it was better for people to hate the prince other than to love him, but his actions was supposed to avoid people’s hatred (Amazon 1).
The Prince was supposed to appoint court officials who were trustworthy and able to tell the truth without fear of offending the ruler. However, they were supposed to serve for the ruler’s interest (Amazon 1).
Similarities between Quran and Analects
The Quran and The Analects are used to guide moral principles in societies. Quran is used as a holy book for the Muslims and Analects of Confucius are used by the Chinese. The two books guide the believers on how to live a good fulfilling life.
The two books uphold good morals. Everyone who follows the rules and guidelines set by them gets a reward. The Qur’an recommends moral values including “genuineness, sincerity, modesty, peacefulness, compassion, justness, tolerance and forgiveness” (Yahya 1). Analects of Confucius have moral teachings. The Analects encourage people to love each other. People are not supposed to mistreat each other. Leaders are not allowed to show selfishness to other people (Ross 1).
The two books encourage people to treat each other in a fair manner. People are supposed to treat others as they would like to be treated. The Analects advocates for the following:
If what you don’t want for yourself, you shouldn’t do to others, and then you would like others to do for you what you would indeed like for yourself…If you desire to establish yourself, then establish others. (Ross 1)
In Qur’an, righteousness demands one to spend for the sake of love of other people. The Qur’an encourages that people should treat each other with respect irrespective of their social standing (Ipaki 1).
Good things follow those who obey the rules and laws set by the two books. In Analects, a good leader was easily obeyed even without having to use force on the people. The bad leader without good morals could not be obeyed even if he gave orders to the people (Ross 1).
Both books honour human life. Violence is discouraged in both the Quran and Analects. Killing of the innocent is prohibited in the Quran.
If someone kills another person, unless it is in retaliation for someone else or for causing corruption in the earth- it is as if he had murdered all mankind. And if anyone gives life to another person, it is as if he had given life to all mankind. (Ipaki 1)
More about This Topic What does Mentor do for Odysseus in the Odyssey? Which excerpt from The Odyssey best shows that the ancient Greeks greatly valued the idea of home? Which excerpt from the Odyssey best demonstrates the importance of perseverance in Greek society? What are some of the apparent values in the Iliad and the Odyssey?
Confucius said that a good government does not need to kill. Having good example in leadership would help people to obey the rules (Ross 1).
The two books uphold morality above all other things. The conditions and situations in which one is subjected to should never corrupt his moral values. In Analects, “The Gentleman doesn’t worry about pay, profit, or poverty in comparison to Morality” (Ross 1). In Quran the emphasis is on avoiding the wrong, “A good action and a bad action are not the same. Repel the bad with something better” (Ipaki 1).
Goodness is connected to ritual in Analects (Ross 1). In Quran, if any deed is not for Gods pleasure, the deed becomes unrighteous. All good things done for other people should have their intensions in pleasing God (Ipaki 1).
The two books condemn stealing and support acquisition of wealth in the right way. Analects say, “Everyone wants wealth and rank, but can only get them in the right way” (Ross 1). Violence was never supposed to be the means of wealth acquisition. The Quran condemns mischief and the corrupt people are subject to a curse (Ipaki 1).
Amazon. The Prince. Cumming study Guides. Web.
Benson, Larry. The wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale.Harvard, 2008. Web.
Historylink. Odysseus. History, 2004. Web.
Ipaki. Righteous Deeds. Ipak. Web.
McIlvain, John. The Odyssey. Leasttern, 2004. Web.
Notes, Spark. The Prince. Spark Notes, 2011. Web.
Ross, Kelley. Confucius. Friesian, 2011. Web.
Yahya, Harun. True wisdom described in the Qur’an. Harunyahya, 2011. Web.
Comparison of the men of the 21st century to Dushyanta and Odysseus Essay
Dushyanta was a great Indian king depicted in classical Indian mythology as a handsome man, a great warrior, and the founder of the Puarav dynasty. His son, Emperor Bharat, went on to father the Indian nation. In Dushyanta’s culture, males were expected to be brave warriors. They expressed their sexuality explicitly and, at times, appeared untruthful (Puchner 116).
Dushyanta’s male culture
In the myth, we come across Dushyanta who is described as a hunter accompanied by his powerful army, while pursuing deer in the great forest. The king and companions pass through dense forests, rocky hillocks, and expansive deserts. Meanwhile, the son of Dushyanta is taught how to use weapons by his grandfather to grow up as a formidable hunter and warrior. Before the family re-unites, father and son, unknown to each other, engage in a fierce battle as a result of an argument over who has killed a boar they both have been hunting for.
Considering that fact of Dushyanta’s untruthfulness, it reveals as he forgets about his wife, Shakuntala, when he returns to his kingdom. This is attributable to a curse passed upon him. He promises his wife to come back to her. However, he leaves her in the forest. As time goes by, Shakuntala seeks for and finally finds Dushyanta.
But he denies his promises and rejects her as an imposter. As the curse wears off, and he is presented with the signet ring that he gave his wife upon their secret marriage, he sets out to find her. The myth ends with Dushyanta explaining his falsehood and claiming that he just wanted to test his wife’s fidelity.
In this story, males explicitly express their sexual desires (Doniger 58). Dushyanta instantly falls in love with Shakuntala upon seeing her. He has a great passion for her and manages to persuade the girl to marry him immediately because he cannot wait any further.
Without the presence or blessings of guardians, they perform a private marriage ceremony on their own and spend pleasant moments together. Soon after the king left his bride and returned to his kingdom, Shakuntala finds out that she is pregnant though she also turns out to be forgotten by her husband.
Odyssey’s male culture
In Greek mythology, Odysseus was the king of the island kingdom of Ithaca, described as a hero, a warrior, known for his treachery and resourcefulness due to his wit. Just the same as in Indian culture, in Greek culture, males are portrayed as warriors, and society leaders, witty and unfaithful (Puchner 210).
Odysseus fought heroically in the Trojan Warand, which Greece won due to his strategic idea to build the Trojan horse. He fought Hector, killed Rhesus, and wrestled Ajax. On his way back to Ithaca from Troy, he encounters calamities that last for ten years.
During his dangerous adventures, his bravery often comes to the forefront. For instance, he single-handedly blinds the Cyclops, overcomes Scylla (the six-headed monster), Charybdis (the whirlpool), and the Sirens. On his return home, he slaughters those who have threatened his wife.
As a leader, Odysseus leads the Greek warriors to victory during the Trojan War. He always volunteers to champion the course for his country. He is known as a diplomat always entrusted with the tasks that call for persuasion, e.g., to convince Achilles to join the Trojan War as well as encourage Agamemnon not to give up when he is discouraged by the fact that their great Greek army has suffered too much losses.
His wit is described in many occasions throughout the poem. He feigns lunacy so as not to fight in the battle of Troy. He alone gains victory for Greece in the Trojan War by devising the Trojan horse. He tricks Achilles out of revealing his disguise as a woman, thereby compelling him to join Greek army in the Trojan War. In all the calamities that he has suffered during the ten years following the Trojan victory, he emerges victorious due to his wit, e.g., by telling Cyclops that his name is ‘nobody’ in order to escape from him.
Greek culture pardoned male unfaithfulness (Doniger 116). While being captured by the nymph, Calypso, Odysseus agrees to be her lover. Moreover, the males who came to his house assumed Odysseus to be dead, following his ten year absence, so that they attempted to woo Penelope though they found it normal to sleep with the servant women of Odysseus’ house, meanwhile.
Purpose of Dushyanta’s journeys
In both the Indian and Greek mythologies, the two characters go through a journey in their lives. Dushyanta travels through thick forests, rocky landscapes and expansive deserts before he meets Shakuntala in the hermitage. This can be seen as a test imparted to males by the society and culture. Dushyanta has to demonstrate perseverance, bravery and his skills as a warrior in going through the difficult terrain (Doniger 89). His journey is one big test culminated in reward of finding a wife.
The king’s journey back to his kingdom results in his wife’s love-sickness. Her troubled heart and absent-mindedness appear to be the cause of the curse that makes Dushyanta forget her. Dushyanta travels back to the forest for the last time in order to seek for his wife. Thus he meets his son and is reunited with his wife. However, the price paid by Shakuntala and their son, Bharat, is not worth Dushyanta’s second journey because he left his wife heartbroken and forgot about Shakuntala.
As a result, she bears Bharat and raises him on her own. Being strangers to each other, father and son fight against each other before realizing their relationship. All these could have been avoided if Dushyanta did not abandon his wife and went back together to his kingdom.
Purpose of Odysseus’ journey
Odysseus’ ten years’ journey from Troy to Ithaca is the hallmark of Greek mythology. During that time, he encounters the wrath of his antagonists (mainly presented in the god Poseidon), defeats mythical creatures and suffers shipwrecks. Even though he is a great warrior, he realizes that he cannot single-handedly overcome these calamities.
Often, he has to rely on his crewmen, as seen in the accident when they team up to blind Cyclops. In some cases, goddess Athena offers him divine help in order to escape the wrath of Poseidon by seeking Zeus’ favor to protect Odysseus. In some circumstances, there seems to be no escape, like when he encounters Circe and the nymph Calypso and is taken in capture.
However, Odysseus’ determination to emerge victorious from these trials is derived from the urge to return to his native home, Ithaca, and be reunited with his wife, Penelope and his son (Puchner 122). The price his family pays for this journey is not worth it either as they also suffer a lot living for twenty years thinking Odysseus is dead. They have to go through the abuse of the suitors, who even threaten to kill his son, in order to inherit his wealth.
Comparison of the men of the 21st century to Dushyanta and Odysseus
Comparing the 21st century’s men to the characters of Dushyanta and Odysseus, there is much resemblance in their determination to succeed. Dushyanta was determined to have Shankutala as his wife and had to use persuasion and promises to secure her hand in marriage.
He was determined to achieve his goals, regardless risk tarnishing his reputation as a king and a venerable warrior and leader in society. Today, men are still driven in their pursuit of their goals by determination, to avoid failure and to uphold their reputation in the society.
Odysseus was the king of Ithaca and, therefore, a leader. He did not want to take part in the Trojan War, but he was compelled to do it in order not to break his oath, and secondly as a service to his people. Men in leadership positions today – either at the family level or in social or political setting – strive to keep their word as they are expected by those for whom they play as role models.
Male culture in the mythologies under the study was not purely honorable. Unfaithfulness, treachery and falsehood were evident in these characters. Men of the 21st century are not different as there are cases of infidelity which considered as second nature. In order to get out of tricky situations, Odysseus often resorted to treachery. Dushyanta’s falsehood became apparent when he forgot about his wife upon his return to his kingdom and denied the promises he had made to her, thereby rejecting and humiliating her in public.
In seeking wealth and fame, one should learn from these mythologies. Strength, bravery, wit and perseverance are described as virtues in this path. Wealth and fame present one with prestige. The most important lesson to learn from this is that we should not be so blinded in the pursuit of wealth and fame in order not to forget about our families. After all, these heroes eventually returned home and reunited with their families as these were the things that really mattered .
Doniger, Wendy. Splitting the Difference:Gender and Myth in Ancient Greece and India. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999. Print.
Puchner, Martin. The Norton Anthology of World Literature:Beginnings to 1650. New York: W.W Norton, 2012. Print.
The Comparison of Gilgamesh and Odysseus Essay
By comparing such literary works as the Epic of Gilgamesh and Odyssey, one can gain valuable insights into the cultures and societies described by the authors.
This paper is aimed at discussing the journeys undertaken by the main characters; in particular one should focus on their motives of the protagonists and the way in which both Gilgamesh and Odysseus were transformed in the course of their adventures. This discussion can throw light on the values and beliefs of people who could live many centuries ago.
At first, it is important to speak about the motives that prompted the epic heroes to leave their homeland. For instance, one can mention that Odysseus was forced to go to the Trojan War. At the very beginning he wanted to remain at Ithaca, but he was compelled to join the army of Agamemnon and Menalaus. In contrast, Gilgamesh was willing to undertake this journey. Moreover, he is driven by several motives.
For instance, he is willing to leave a semi-god called Humbaba because this victory can gain him fame and recognition of other people. On the whole, this example can throw light on the differences between the culture of Ancient Greece and Sumer. The behavior of Odysseus indicates that Greeks emphasized the devotion to home country or family. In turn, the culture of Sumer attached importance to power and glory.
Additionally, it is vital to discuss how the journey affected both Odysseus and Gilgamesh. In the course of his travels, Odysseus encountered many difficulties and in some cases, he had to use cunning, brutal force, and sometimes even cruelty in order to survive and return to Ithaca. Furthermore, he could remain with Calypso. Nevertheless, he remains loyal to his wife Penelope and his homeland.
In turn, Gilgamesh becomes transformed in the course of his adventures. It is difficult for him to accept the idea that he is mortal. In turn, Odysseus does not even try to acquire the status of a deity. Again, the experiences of the main characters can reflect very important differences between the cultures of Greece and Sumer. Greeks recognized the limitations of a human being. Yet, one can say the same thing about Sumerian culture in which individuals could claim the status of a deity.
Special attention should be paid to the role played by female protagonists. Their behavior can also tell the readers about the values and beliefs of different cultures. For instance, Penelope remains faithful to her husband even though he has been absent from Ithaca for many years. More importantly, she rejects the offering of her suitors. This character shows that Greek women were responsible for maintaining families and households.
One can even argue that Penelope’s difficulties are much greater than the challenges faced by Odysseus. The Epic of Gilgamesh gives a different portrayal of women. For instance, Ishtar falls in love with Gilgamesh. However, the protagonist is afraid of her. Moreover, the readers should take into account that unlike Gilgamesh, Ishtar is a deity. So, it is possible to say that the culture of Sumer culture could give a very high social status to women.
Overall, the comparison of these literary works can increase readers’ understanding of Sumer or ancient Greek culture. Homer’s epic indicates at such values as marital fidelity, devotion to homeland, and acceptance of human limitations, especially mortality. In turn, the Epic of Gilgamesh stresses power, fame, and recognition of others.
More about Odysseus Why Does Odysseus Go to The Underworld? What does the sun symbolize for Odysseus and his men? Which events are part of the road of trials in Odysseus’s heroic quest? What motivated Odysseus to reveal his name and put his men in more danger? Who is Melantho? Why Telemachus murdered the maids and Melanthius?
World Literature: the Tales of Odysseus Essay
The tales of Odysseus have remained popular for several centuries. According to Griffin (2004), these tales demonstrate the social structure of ancient Greece and even part of the European countries. The humility of this great leader, his strength, and above all, his courage is demonstrated as the main factors that made him popular.
He would dare to do what others could not imagine of and strangely come out successful in such ventures. These tales reflect the spirit of the ancient Greek society, which largely influenced civilization. That is why these tales have remained relevant even in modern society. In this essay, the focus will be to determine how themes in these stories reflect the spirit of ancient Greece and its relevance to the modern world.
The tales of Odysseus have widely been told, and they help in giving insight to the social norms that were common in ancient Greece. The tales presented in by Gochberg (1988) and Homer (2007) brings the travels of this great warrior and helps in shedding light into the society in ancient Greece.
The book by Gochberg (1988) is about the Great War between the Trojans and the Achaeans (Greeks). The cause and course of the war tell a lot about the beliefs, social forms, and material traits of the ancient Greeks. In this tale, Helen- a wife to Achaean King Menelaus- elopes with the charming Trojan prince Paris. This act of ‘stealing’ the wife of the great king, coupled with the tension between the two kingdoms results into a war.
King Menelaus sends his soldiers to go and capture his wife and bring him back away from the Trojans. However, the prince of the Trojans is so passionate about the newfound love that he is willing to do everything in his powers to ensure that Helen remains with him. One unique factor that comes out of this story is the determination of the soldiers to achieve success even in the face of challenging factors facing them.
Victory in battles is seen as the only way of demonstrating the strength of a nation, and King Menelaus knows this so well that he is determined to do all within his powers to defeat the Trojans. The battle changes from a fight for passion to a fight for self-esteem and image. A loss in such decisive battles is seen as a weakness not only to the soldiers who went to the war but also the entire society.
The tale by Homer (2007) also recounts of the heroic homecoming of Odysseus after a victorious battle that took over 20 years. Odysseus left his home and went to Ithaca to fight on behalf of his country. The battle was plagued by many challenges, from the superiority of the enemy’s weapon and a number of soldiers to natural calamities that threatened their lives.
In such a challenging environment where many soldiers fell, Odysseus was determined to press on with the war. In this tale, the Greek soldiers are portrayed as daring soldiers who would stare in the face of death and still feel courageous enough to fight on. Achilles, a warrior as great as Odysseus, fought to his death- preferring to die than to lose a battle. The military skills and courage of Odysseus saw him through to victory, and he traveled home to deliver the news that the kingdom had won.
These two stories clearly show that the ancient Greeks had some standard practices that defined everything they did. Failure was something that was not tolerated in this society. In the two tales, a soldier would prefer to die than to come out alive as a failure. The society could not withstand a failure at war because it would be a sign of weakness for the society.
This closely relates to modern society. Currently, Russia is flexing its military muscle in Eastern Europe, and it is very keen on achieving success even in the face of criticism from other world powers. It is openly stating that it has enough nuclear weapons that it can use against any country that tries to invade it in any way.
In the two tales, courage is a very precious virtue. It demonstrates how the ancient Greeks valued people who were courageous such as Odysseus. Courage remains an important virtue even in modern society (Griffin, 2004). Finally, the tales bring in passion as something that can create serious conflict, especially in cases of a love triangle. In world history- and even in the current society- passion is one of the greatest factors that create conflict within society.
The tales of Odysseus brings out the socio-political structure of the ancient Greeks and the people that lived around them. During this period, peace within a given kingdom was largely defined by its ability to win battles. Although this has changed considerably in the current society, superiority at war remains one of the factors that define the position of a country in the world map in terms of the influence it commands.
Gochberg, D. (1988). Classics of Western Thought: The Ancient World. London: Wadsworth Publishing.
Griffin, J. (2004). Homer: The Odyssey: student guide. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Homer, S. (2007). The Essential Odyssey. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company.
Hero in “The Odysseus” and “The Epic of Gilgamesh” Essay
Heroes and heroism are some of the oldest subjects depicted in literature. Te can be found in art and literature of all time. Epics about the greatest heroes used to serve as the sources of inspiration for the young people of ancient societies. Today, heroes are equally popular, but as the epochs changed to have the images and main features of the heroes changed or are they still the same? This paper explores the differences and similarities between the heroes of the ancient epics such as “The Odyssey” by Homer and “The Epic of Gilgamesh” the product of the culture of ancient Mesopotamia.
In “The Epic of Gilgamesh” the first description of the main protagonist the reader encounters praises his outstanding wisdom based on his diverse experiences and adventures, the epic says that Gilgamesh “learnt of everything the sum of wisdom. He saw what was secret, discovered what was hidden” (I, 5), and also, “He came to a far road, was weary, found peace” (I, 10). Yet, it is important to mention that the praise of all the Gilgamesh’s talents is immediately followed by the enumeration of his negative qualities and the description of his horrible rule and tyranny towards his people.
At the same time, reading Homer’s “The Odyssey,” one would hardly see any references to Odyssey’s wisdom. Instead, this hero is admired for his attractive appearance, outstanding strength, perseverance, and endurance. Just like in the case of Gilgamesh, Odysseus’ actions characterize him in a rather controversial way.
He is admired for his bravery, yet when it comes to the conflict with Cyclops, Odysseus chooses a very sneaky and cunning way to deal with his enemy by blinding him in his sleep and then escaping from his cave hiding under a sheep and also stealing the sheep from their master. Besides, after mutilating Cyclops, Odysseus also cannot hold back and feels the need to announce his escape. He says, “Cyclops if any mortal man ever asks about the disgraceful blinding of your eye, you can say that Odysseus, sacker of the cities did it, he son of Laertes, whose home is in Ithaca” (485). This is a clear sign of pride and vanity.
This way, the beloved heroes of the ancient epics seem to have a set of qualities unusual for the contemporary image of a hero. Among such traits, there are vanity and pride, short temper, rage, cunning revenge, cheating and lies. None of these features are acceptable for the heroes of the modern days who are expected to be perfectly honest, altruistic, humble and patient regardless of the situations. At the same time, the basic set of positive qualities remained the same. It includes bravery, endurance, wisdom, attractive appearance, and strength. The main difference between the two ancient heroes is that Gilgamesh obtains his wisdom after finishing his adventures, and Odysseus shows the capacity to apply analytical thinking during his journeys (Dozier par. 7).
To conclude, both of the main protagonists of the ancient epics are admired heroes of their nations, powerful rulers and incredibly strong men. These heroes are evaluated based on their accomplishments such as the defeat of monsters and participation in battles. The contemporary heroes are required to demonstrate some outstanding achievements as well. Yet, the qualities and behaviors of the ancient heroes are very different compared those of the modern ones.
Dozier, Barbara. Epic Characters: Three Heroes, A Similar Journey. 2011. Web.
Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. Barry B. Powell. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press, 2014. Print.
The Epic of Gilgamesh. London, United Kingdom: Penguin Books, 2000. Print.
Odysseus and Creon Comparison Literature Analysis Essay
The beginnings of human history are saturated with war and fight for power and fame: skillful, witty men, fit both physically and mentally were the ones to get social recognition. Naturally, ancient literature could not ignore that fact and therefore reflected the importance of such people in every possible way. The typical characters of Ancient Greek epos and drama are main heroes which differ in their personal qualities and are alike in their leadership potential.
Among the most renowned leaders of Ancient Greece was Odysseus, immortalized in Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey describing the hero’s long and arduous journey back to his native Ithaca from the Trojan War. Another example of a leader can be seen in the figure of Creon, the tyrannical ruler of Thebes in Sophocles’ drama Antigone.
Both those characters are at the head of risky and challenging situations: Odysseus leads his crew home through the hazards of the sea, and Creon manages a state heavily misbalanced after a civil war. One of the heroes succeeds in his undertaking, the other bitterly fails, and the outcome is shaped not so much by the unchangeable predestined fate as by the personal qualities of Odysseus and Creon.
The common circumstance that allows for equaling Odysseus and Creon as leaders are the confrontation each of the faces. Odysseus finds himself on a long journey back home, where he has not only to overcome the rage of insulted Poseidon but also to make use of all the people he meets on his way in order to bring closer the day of his homecoming. In addition, Odysseus has to vanquish the suitors who invade his house and threaten his family happiness.
Creon’s task is the maintenance of order in the state destabilized by war, and Creon sees the solution in establishing a rigid dictate of law. And although the Greek gods are one of the significant driving powers for the situation, the key difference between the two heroes is their reaction which defined further development of events.
Despite the fact that Odysseus’ escape from Calypso’s embrace would have been hardly possible without the intervention of his tutelary goddess Athena, there is a special trait of character that allowed Odysseus make use of all the favorable circumstances provided to him by gods.
Already from the first lines of the epic poem, Odysseus is characterized as a very flexible personality, “the man of twists and turns” (Homer 77). Throughout all the difficulties, he always knows the final purpose he is striving for, “his heart set on his wife and his return” (Homer 78). Following his objective, Odysseus uses his wit to work out the best solution in any situation, however dubious this solution might seem in the short-term perspective.
Having learned from his mistaken disobedience towards the gods, Odysseus gains a kind of “practical wisdom” that includes three crucial components: “the clear perception of the end sought; identification of the best means to that end; and control of conflicting passions” (Prior 20). A clear example of all the three aforementioned qualities can be found in the situation when Odysseus disguises himself as a beggar at his own house.
Despite his initial impulse to kill the ridiculing servants, he restrains himself, “… he struck his chest and curbed his fighting heart” (Homer 411). Odysseus realizes that if he gives way to a momentary passion, the whole plan will be ruined and he would never defeat the suitors. Such quality for reasonable and objective assessment of the situation is characterized by Madrid and Ton as “judgment-in-action” and is peculiar to successful leaders who use rather their intelligence than pure bravado in order to reach well-balanced decisions (11).
In contrast to Odysseus’ flexibility and adaptability, Creon in Antigone demonstrates an opposite quality of thinking, which leads him to failure. Single-mindedly pursuing the objective of keeping his state in order, Creon locks up in the delusion that only his understanding of the law is the most correct and applicable. Concentrated on executing law the way he imagines it, Creon remains oblivious to the unwritten laws of gods and thus, in fact, places himself higher than gods.
On the one hand, Creon seems to be guided by a just and fair idea of neglecting the traitors and not honoring them in order to teach his citizens a lesson of patriotism. On the other hand, the ruler forgets about the venerable traditions and duties towards the dead, and the gods’ wrath does not take long to appear.
Mislead by his own ideas about justice, Creon is mistaken in his assessment of the situation: “… it is truly terrible when the one who does the judging judges things all wrong” (Sophocles 75). Following one standard of behavior, he lacks “the ability to discern the right thing to do in a concrete situation” (Prior 30). Therefore, he fails to use his wisdom for resolving the conflict between the claims of the state and those of the gods.
“Conventional and conservative”, Creon persists in his one-sided view of the confrontation and causes a tragedy to happen that teaches him the lesson of wisdom (Madrid and Ton 14). Not accidentally the final chorus proclaims “reverence towards the gods” as a part of wisdom which, if failed to understand, is punished severely by the “mighty blows of fate” (Sophocles 128).
Although fate and divine providence occupy a significant place in the lives of Greek heroes, in the case with Creon his destiny is defined rather by his behavior. Creon has a choice between respecting his duties towards the gods or neglecting them, and by choosing the latter he provokes all the fearful events that turn him into a wreck. By choosing the wrong side in the moral conflict, Creon commits a mistake that in Aristotelian terms is described as hamartia, or a “tragic flaw” (Aristotle 26).
Creon’s stubborn obsession with his own ideas on justice prevents him from realizing the truly significant aspects of the situation, and this erroneous delusion has disastrous effects. Not only do Creon’s arrogance and pride prevent him from admitting the true condition of things, but they bring about his downfall and lead to the death of innocent people.
The comparison of Odysseus and Creon as leaders who should decide in critical situations reveals a crucial difference between the two characters. Odysseus possesses the necessary flexibility of thinking that allows him to judge each situation reasonably and take corresponding decisions.
On the contrary, Creon locks up in his one-sided view of events and does not demonstrate enough wisdom to resolve the conflict. The practical wit of the one and the obsessive narrow-mindedness of the other are the main factors defining their success or failure in the hardships they undergo.
Aristotle. Aristotle’s Poetic. Trans. George Whalley. Eds. John Baxter, Patrick Atherton. Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 1997. Print.
Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. Robert Fagles. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1996. Print.
Madrid, Richard, and Tammy Ton. “Political Leadership in Ancient Greece.” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Western Political Science Association, Hyatt Regency Albuquerque, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 2006. Web.
Prior, William J. Virtue and Knowledge: An Introduction to Ancient Greek Ethics. New York, NY: Routledge, 1991. Print.
Sophocles. The Three Theban Plays: Antigone, Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus. Trans. Robert Fagles. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1984. Print.
Gilgamesh and Odysseus Comparison as a Heroes Essay
Odysseus and Gilgamesh are the characters of ancient myths. Gilgamesh is a hero from early Mesopotamia. This myth is priceless for the researchers of Mesopotamian culture since it mirrors the religious traditions of that period, the treatment of gods, the perception of a hero, and attitudes to friendship and death. The plot of Odyssey is set in ancient Greece. Mythology was an integral part of daily life there. It was used to interpret the events which could not be explained scientifically. Gilgamesh and Odysseus are the heroes of different periods, however, they are similar in their seeking to find the essence of life.
Gilgamesh and Odysseus: Heroic Qualities
Although living in different epochs, Gilgamesh and Odysseus were similar in their searches of the meaning of life. They both are strong legendary personalities popular in the societies of their time. The epic of Gilgamesh is described as “a heroic quest for fame and immortality, pursued by a man who has an enormous capacity for friendship, endurance, and adventure, joy, and sorrow, a man of strength and weakness who loses a unique opportunity through a moment’s carelessness” (Dalley, 2009, p.39). The Odyssey is the story that brought the familiar characters from the previous epics to please the audience (Homer, 2014).
The two characters of famous epic stories share many similar features. For example, they both demonstrate self-confidence, which is a necessary trait for a hero. They are leaders of their time. Gilgamesh is an ancient king of Babylonian Uruk, and Odysseus leads Greek Ithaca. People believed in Gilgamesh’s power to protect them from invaders.
Odysseus, although not do physically strong, also revealed the qualities of a good leader and a brave ruler during the Trojan War. Gilgamesh is aware of his strength and is ready to face the danger. He says to Ninsun, “I am extraordinarily strong (!)… I must now travel a long way to where Humbaba is, I must face fighting such as I have not known, and I must travel on a road that I do not know!” (“The Epic of Gilgamesh”). Odysseus demonstrates his wit when talking to Cyclops. He conceals his real mane, “Noman is my name,” and thus manages to escape (Homer, 2014).
One more feature found in both Gilgamesh and Odysseus is divine giftedness. Gilgamesh as a son of goddess Ninsun, possessed greater spiritual and physical power than any of the people under his rule. Odysseus was not as physically strong as Gilgamesh. However, he had more mental power if compared to the other Greek people. There are some similarities, not only in the positive characteristics of the heroes. They also make analogous mistakes. Despite the divine endowment they possess, the heroes go wrong. Fortunately, they learn those lessons and become stronger leaders.
Nevertheless, the two heroes demonstrated different behavior. Thus, Gilgamesh was focused on his power and introduction of his traditions. He did not always behave as a fair leader. Although assumed to protect the people, he was killing them and raping their daughters. Unlike Gilgamesh, Odysseus was a fair leader and did his best for the people of Ithaca. Their inclinations also differ. Gilgamesh was more concerned of his personal fame during the war while Odysseus struggled to win and unite with his family.
Mesopotamian and Greek Cultures in Ideals and Expectations of the Heroes
Both epic stories demonstrate the ideas of Mesopotamian and Greek people on the images of heroes. Thus, confidence of leaders was considered an important quality in the Mesopotamian and Greek cultures. Another similarity observed between the heroes is their divine endowment. The heroes are usually gifted by the will of gods and possess the qualities not characteristic of common people. These particular powers make them leaders and provide the trust of people. Another important concept of heroes in the Mesopotamian and Greek cultures is trust. However, Gilgamesh lost the trust of people and had to work hard to win it back. Odysseus, on the contrary, preserved his honor and reputation throughout the story.
Another similarity typical of both ancient cultures includes the traditions of guest and host relationships. Moreover, both characters have to travel far away which is related to the concept of overcoming difficulties on their ways to victory. Also, Gilgamesh and Odysseus travel to the land of the dead which was a popular location in ancient heroic stories. A typical feature of epics is mysterious help for heroes to reach the destination. Thus, Odysseus is guided by Circe, daughter of the sun-god, while Gilgamesh follows the instructions of the goddess Siduri, who is also associated with the sun.
The Impact of Cultural Ideals and Expectations on the Role Models and Heroes
Cultural concepts and traditions set the ideals and demands for the role of heroes. Thus, present-day heroes similarly to the ancient ones have to pass a quest on the way to their purpose. As a rule, they face serious obstacles and overcome the difficulties with dignity. A modern concept of a hero includes the traits of a super-person. Often a self-sacrifice is present as well. On the whole, a modern hero is a fighter for greater good of the humanity.
The image of a hero is a necessary component of any culture. It is necessary to make people feel safe and believe that in case of emergency there is a person with super-power able to protect them. The features of a hero differ in various cultures. However, the major concepts of particular abilities and leadership skills are characteristic of the majority of heroic figures.
Dalley, S. (2009). Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh, and others. Oxford, UK: Oxford World Classics.
Homer (2014). The Odyssey. (M. Hammond, Trans.). London, UK: Bloomsburry Publishing.
The Epic of Gilgamesh. (n.d.)
Rama and Odysseus as Eastern and Western Heroes Term Paper
The views of life and character traits one should possess to be a role model are not identical in different cultures. Eastern and Western cultures vary in terms of understanding heroism, and Rama and Odysseus illustrate some of these differences. Although the characters have some traits in common, Odysseus is an intelligent hero and “a man of masterful cunning,” whereas Rama is “an ideal man” and embodies virtuous heroism (Homer 21; Rajagopalachari 23).
The things that make Rama a hero and a famous character include his origin and unusual physical characteristics. As one of Dasaratha’s four sons, he is considered “half-Vishnu” since his mother has been given the largest share of sacred food after the Putrakameshti ritual (Rajagopalachari 4). Rama presents one of the key deities of Hinduism and is commonly known as the seventh material appearance of Vishnu on earth, which leaves traces on his appearance and physical abilities. As proof of his divine origin, he is blue-skinned, extremely tall, and has “strong shoulders” and unlimited physical power (Rajagopalachari 10).
For instance, when competing with other men, including famous princes, Ramachandra proves that he is the only person to “lift, bend, and string the bow of Siva” and be able to marry Sita (Rajagopalachari 14). Rama’s enormous power makes him extremely dangerous for any living creature, but he always applies it to achieve good purposes.
Contrary to Odysseus, Rama can be regarded as the embodiment of virtue, saintliness, and righteousness. It is because his decisions are driven by compassion, love, and the purity of the soul, which is not the case of Odysseus. Even though his power enables him to defeat enemies and reach his goals effortlessly, Rama, as a moral leader, has no sordid and malign desires, as well as flaws in terms of dharma or the proper way of living.
Rama’s righteousness finds reflection in his willingness to create harmony and care for animals and people to protect them from evil powers. In the wayang cult, Rama is usually depicted as a “polite, gentle, fair, wise, and protective figure of the universe” (Widijanto et al. 556). Apart from his great deeds, specific positive features that make Rama an ideal man include being “strong, virtuous, brave and lovable and with all other princely qualities” (Rajagopalachari 4). Therefore, Rama’s character is basically a set of positive traits, and it enables him to stay sane and good in any situation.
As the well-known characters in their cultures, both Rama and Odysseus possess the qualities of talented warriors and respect family values. Similarly to Rama, Odysseus belongs to the descendants of Zeus, the king of all gods, and uses a special bow as his favorite weapon (Homer 6). Concerning other similarities, both heroes demonstrate brilliant talents during wars to defeat the scariest enemies and care for their wives.
To some extent, the willingness to reunite with their partners or families encourages both of them to do something remarkable and overcome difficulties. For instance, on his way home, Odysseus is destined to stand multiple trials, such as escaping Polyphemus, the Sirens that lure sailors and bring death, and Scylla and Charybdis (Homer 7). Rama’s great actions include rescuing his beloved Sita from captivity, rejecting Shurpanakha, and defeating Ravana and the rakshasas (Rajagopalachari 84). Thus, he redresses an injustice, destroys the evil empire, and manages to save his family.
Concerning the basic differences that shed light on the peculiar characteristics of India and Europe, Odysseus and Rama use intelligence in dissimilar ways. Odysseus is known as “a man of masterful cunning,” and this hero manages to transform deception into one of the leading martial skills and strategies (Homer 21). Apart from using his natural talents to invent the Trojan horse strategy earlier, “the cunning Odysseus” pretends to be a different person to get himself “a clock and tunic to wear” (Homer 150). In his turn, Rama does not value agility and is more direct and honest in expressing his intentions.
Prior to the battle with Ravana, instead of resorting to a stratagem similar to Odysseus’s horse, Rama supports the decision to build a bridge to get to Ravana’s possessions. Lord Rama does not try to conduct a sudden and unexpected offensive. Instead, he sends him a message saying, “Great sinner, your end is approaching, Rama waits at your fortress gate, ready for battle” (Rajagopalachari 178). Therefore, unlike Odysseus, Rama does not use his intellectual abilities to achieve goals at whatever cost.
Another difference between Odysseus and Rama is their attitudes to family life and the problem of infidelity. Despite being married, Odysseus engages in relationships with other women, including Circe, and lives with her for a year (Homer 116). In contrast, Rama is fully devoted to his wife even when they are separated. He openly rejects other women willing to be with him by saying, “I do not care to live the life of a man with two wives” (Rajagopalachari 84). Therefore, although both heroes love their wives, their attitudes to promiscuity vary greatly.
The mentioned differences shed light on the ideal heroes in Eastern and Western cultures and further the understanding of dissimilarities between India and Europe. Odysseus is not faithful and perfectly honest, whereas Lycaon, another Western hero, cooks his own son to test Zeus’s pansophy. Such examples show that an ideal hero in Western mythology is not obliged to be perfect in terms of commonly accepted moral values. For instance, even though telling lies to achieve particular goals does not belong to appreciated behaviors, the cunning nature of Odysseus does not belittle his accomplishments and success in martial arts.
Odysseus is “excused for overstepping boundaries” since he is still extremely strong and intelligent and outperforms anyone in terms of inventiveness (Planinc 412). Using his example, it is possible to say that an ideal European hero possesses outstanding abilities and is sometimes allowed to deviate from moral norms if the ends sanctify the means. At the same time, judging from Rama’s characteristics and behaviors, a perfect Indian hero presents an unattainable ideal in terms of commitment to principles and moral and spiritual values.
The characteristics of Odysseus and Rama can be used to make suggestions concerning the differences between Europe and India. For instance, Rama’s devotion to his principles, including his and his wife’s purity and loyalty to one another, can characterize India as the country of idealists. At the same time, Western people are stereotypically believed to be giving them pride of place in the utility of actions, their effectiveness, and profitability. Following this logic, the cunningness of Odysseus is not the case of amoralism or a barrier to being glorious and respected, and this person’s disputable actions allow him to succeed and escape traps.
To sum it up, despite similarities between them, Rama and Odysseus represent heroism in quite different ways. Rama, the idealized version of a hero, fights and defeats enemies with his visor raised and does not tend to be flexible and versatile to avoid danger. The heroism of Odysseus is manifested in the way that he applies his unrivaled intellectual abilities and pliantness to achieve great goals and stay unharmed in any circumstances.
Homer. The Odyssey. Translated by Emile Victor Rieu. The Penguin Group, 2003.
Planinc, Zdravko. “Expel the Barbarian from Your Heart: Intimations of the Cyclops in Euripides’s Hecuba.” Philosophy and Literature, vol. 42, no. 2, 2018, pp. 403-415.
Rajagopalachari, Chakravarti. Ramayana Retold by C. Rajagopalachari. Edited by Jay Mazo, American Gita Society, n.d. Web.
Widijanto, Tjahjono, et al. “Wayang Deconstruction in Recent Indonesian Novels.” Proceedings of the International Seminar on Recent Language, Literature, and Local Cultural Studies (BASA 2018), Atlantis Press, 2018, pp. 553-561.
A Predominant Theme in The Odyssey
Warnings: The Importance and Consequences in The Odyssey
Throughout The Odyssey, there are many different themes. While they range in importance, one stands above all. From Thrinacia, to Ithaca and even the Scylla, warnings and consequences are the most predominate theme, dictating events and teaching the readers of the epic to listen to and respect their superiors.
Thrinacia was the biggest example of warnings and consequences in The Odyssey. In it, Circe warns, “But if you harm them, I foretell / Disaster for your ship and crew” (Odyssey 12.145-6). This quote shows the blatant warning that Thrinacia’s cattle must go unharmed, and the entirety of the island should be avoided. This warning goes unheeded, as the men do eat the cattle. Upon eating the cattle, Helios addressed the immortal gods, saying “Father Zeus, and you other gods eternal, / Punish Odysseus’ companions, who have insolently / Killed the cattle…” (Odyssey 12.388-90). This excerpt shows the sheer anger of the Gods, specifically Helios, for the failure to listen. The men’s own disobedience led to their downfall. In general, disobedience to commands from a superior leads to consequences and possibly harm. For example, ignoring the instructions of a coach can lead to an athlete being benched. This would stand to show all the athletes that one should listen to the coach, or even broader, all should listen to their superiors. Not only were superiors ignored in Thrinacia, but also in the battle of the suitors’ parents, located in Ithaca.
Prior to the battle of the suitors’ parents, Phemios, Medon, and Halitherses warn the parents not to battle Odysseus and his men, noting that it won’t end well for them. The warning is quite clear, with Medon saying, “You have only yourselves to blame, my friends” (Odyssey 24.472) and, “Now listen to me and keep your peace. Some of you / Are looking for trouble–and you might just find it” (Odyssey 24.279-80). In this quote, Medon essentially warns the men of Thrinacia that Odysseus will kill them all if they skirmish with him, hence the last part of his message. In a greater sense, this warns of the consequences of being overcome with anger, and disobeying warnings. Some men, overcome with anger and grief for the loss of their sons, show complete and utter disregard for the warning, and decide to fight. In this fight, several die, including the father of Antinous, Eupeithes. The carnage only ends at the order of Athena, but, had she not interceded, more would have died for their disregard of the warning. As a result, it’s best to listen to the warnings you’re given, and the rewards for doing so are obvious in the fight with the Scylla.
The battle of the Scylla shows the reward for listening to the warnings given. While on Aeaea, the island of Circe, Odysseus is warned not to arm himself and fight back against the Scylla. When he listens, and doesn’t prepare for battle, the result is that, “Scylla seized six of my men from our ship, / The six strongest hands aboard” (Odyssey 12.252-3). This quote from The Odyssey shows the positives of heeding the warnings, the loss of only 6 men rather than all of them. Typically, listening to warnings will benefit you, as was the case in this epic. For instance, heeding the warnings about cigarettes will prevent smoking related illnesses and deaths, similar to how deaths were prevented by not fighting back. As a result, one will, once again, learn to respect warnings.
Throughout The Odyssey, unfortunate occurrences happen to many characters. This is predominate in Thrinacia and the skirmish with the suitors’ parents, but for the battle with the Scylla, things went as best they could. Almost all of this tragedy could have been easily avoided, had the characters listened to the obvious warnings given to them, both by gods and mortals. Instead of heeding, many allowed animalistic instinct, such as anger or hunger, to overcome their sense, and suffered the consequences for it. Warnings and consequences are the most predominate theme, dictating events and teaching the readers of the epic to listen to and respect their superiors.