The Inevitability Of Fate: ”The Aeneid” And “The Epic Of Gilgamesh”
The topic about death, fate, and destiny troubles the human heart and mind, and every human tend to ignore this discussion. While many people believe in life after death, most people choose to keep away from the talking about it because of fear of the mysterious afterlife. However, when people decided to discuss what they think about the fact that life is not permanent and it has to come to an end one day, people begin to wonder whether there is eternal life and whether or not there are any escapes. The thoughts of fate are not new, and they are here until eternity. Death, fate, and destiny have been a disturbing topic for many years. The two stories that have remarkably highlighted the theme of fate are the Aeneid and The Epic of Gilgamesh. In these literary works, the main characters Aeneas and Gilgamesh are both fascinated with their fate to an instance that these epic tales specifically mimic the ancient culture and societies during their times. From these stories of fate, it is easy to examine that the authors and people who lived during these times were also worried about death and fate. The two stories demonstrate that both men and women in the entire human life have been very aware of their death and they want to live on eternity, in the afterlife.
Human beings can be described as the rulers of their own life since the nature of a human is a temple of implements through which each person can shape their own life although some people may not agree with these beliefs. They believe that the human’s life is as a result of destiny, unchangeable and ultimate will of the higher powers. Fate is unavoidable, resulting in no choice, which is followed by the end of everything, and that is death. Over the years, epic and folk tales that deal with destiny and fate have reflected on human beliefs. It is apparent that in almost every human age, man has always wondered over fate and the power it uses. It is a general belief that no one can escape fate. Even though it was widely known that fate is inevitable, there were several stories and cultures that told otherwise including the Aeneid. These characters are told to have altered their fate during their times. Overall, fate and destiny is a situation that cannot be avoided except through relations and interactions with the gods, who may have the powers to extend fate. For example, in the Aeneid Aeneas fate is determined by the Roman gods. The Roman people had the belief that an individual’s fate cannot be changed. Even if one tries to change it, it will still come back to the originally destined fate this which determined by the Roman gods.
The role of fate is very elaborate in Virgil’s Aeneid. Virgil truly believed that the Romans were destined to be the world rulers. Fate lies in the hands of the gods, and it is the gods alone who determines a person’s humanity. Jupiter, the god, is portrayed to the highest powers over the other gods. While the other gods may be interested in hindering Jupiter’s powers, they fail to succeed. The most the other gods can do is to alter Jupiter’s fate and bring chaos temporarily. The story starts and ends with divine intervention. There are two types of fate in Aeneid, universal fate and individuals’ fate. The individual fate is utilized by the gods who have the feeling that they can intervene while the universal fate cannot be hindered, changed because it is predestined. Aeneas is represented as a person who is blessed because he is directly connected to humanity universal fate. However, he is destined to experience lots of trials and tribulations during his lifetime because other gods are trying to interfere with his affairs and making efforts to rewrite fate from its course.
Fate is the primary theme is Aeneid. The main character Aeneas’s fate is to become the hero who will find a city in Italy and begin civilization that will eventually become Rome. Aeneas’ role in assisting rebuilding the Roman state cannot be underestimated as he embodies the character traits of a true, noble Roman. Virgil had a strong belief that the world affairs are controlled by the gods or fate, and not by the people. In this range of thinking, it is clear that fate within Rome will attain its greatness and nothing would change that destiny. Virgil uses prophesy to emphasize on the role of the gods in determining fate and destiny. In Book 2, Aeneas adventure starts after the phantom of Creusa prophesies to Aeneas that he will come to Hesperia and the Lydian Tiber where he will find a kingdom and a royal wife. Although he has received instructions, Aeneas is unaware about the obstacles he will have to face. Another perfect example of fate is seen in the conversation between Venus and Jupiter where a prophecy is declared. Jupiter prophesies to Venus that and ‘young Romulus will take the leadership, build walls of Mars, and call by his own name his people Romans’. In these lines, Jupiter seems to accept the Roman Empire, by allowing it to spread.
According to the narrative Council in Heaven in Book X fate and free will is stated as “the effort each man makes will bring him luck or trouble. To them, all King Jupiter is the same king. And the Fates will find their way”. Aeneas becomes the epic’s hero because he learns how to stick to his fate which eventually forsakes himself. Aeneas is unsure of his survival and the accomplishment of his tasks. It is this prophesy that establishes what needs to be given in the conclusion of the epic. Vigil reveals the failures and successes of the divine intervention through Aeneas journey to greatness.
Aeneas can be described as a devoted servant of fate and of the gods. He never loses sight of his destiny. In Book 1 of the Aeneid, Aeneas states “am duty-bound, and known above high air of heaven by my fame”. This quote identifies Aeneas destiny and how eager he is to achieve his mission and responsibilities. The word “duty-bound” outlines his motivation to fulfill his duty. His motivation is shown in his duty to create a new culture in Italy. He faces many obstacles without ever losing confidence in the determination of fate. Aeneas is a man with a mission who will not let anything stand in his way or stop him.
The author begins to develop Aeneas’s character in Book III, preparing him for his final and true destiny. Fate starts to reveal itself as Aeneas recounts his adventures to Dido Aeneas is made aware of his destiny, and he begins to pursue it. Aeneas has many connections due to the people he is connected with. Venus, Aeneas mother introduces him to Dido who is strongly in love with him. Dido is the Queen of Carthage and is now a widow. Venus who is the goddess of love has Juno to fill Dido with love so that they can ensure that Aeneas is treated well and is safe in this new land. Dido love for Aeneas has become carried away, which causes many emotional changes. When she comes to the realization that she and Aeneas are longer together, her own emotions will be the cause of her life to end. After hearing that Aeneas is leaving, she plans to kill herself. She ends her life by stabbing herself with a sword while laying on a funeral pyre.
The author begins portraying Aeneas as the symbol of the Roman people. In Book IV, Mercury is seen intervening on the relationship between Dido and Aeneas, asking him if he is ‘forgetful’ of his own fate. Mercury takes it upon himself and reminds Aeneas by saying that ‘from bright Olympus he that rules the gods and turns the earth and heaven by his power”. Aeneas is ‘struck dumb’ and ‘stunned’ by the vision and is suddenly aware of the fate after his fight with Dido ends. The importance of this course was to remind Aeneas of his fate forcefully, and this could have been the using of the gods to remind him. It is after this fight with Jupiter that Aeneas becomes more focused on his fate to accomplish his objective. Once he leaves Dido, the universal Carthage is achieved. The role of fate begins to manifest as he becomes victorious in his quest. Aeneas is concerned about all the people which makes him a great leader of this time. His devotion leads to unhappiness within himself and he suffers many great tragedies all determined by fate.
In The Epic of Gilgamesh, in the beginning, Gilgamesh is the ancient ruling king of Uruk ,and he has a gift of knowledge. He is described as a man with great powers. Gilgamesh has several dreams regarding his fate, and he has completely accepted the fate placed upon him by the gods. Enkidu helps the King interpret his dream, and he says that the father of the gods, “Enlil has given Gilgamesh the kingship, and that is his destiny”. However, Enkidu tells the king that the gift of eternal life is however not his destiny.
Instead of being upset by the god’s decision that he will not live forever, Gilgamesh decides to put his name equal with the memorable names in history. He sets the standards to accomplish many missions that no one has ever accomplished. He decides to raise a remembrance to the gods and by joining in many fights. Gilgamesh makes his mission a reality, as he goes ahead to defeat the forest guardian, Humbaba and next the Bull of Heaven. In the battles, he declares that he has nothing to fear because when he finally surrenders, he will leave behind a name that will always be remembered and honored through many generations. Gilgamesh has now adjusted to being by himself and has rested knowing that the gods determined his fate and he will die, but he begins to desire to live an eternal life. After Gilgamesh kills the two beasts, the gods declare that his friend Enkidu must die. He grieves over the loss of Enkidu and cries wondering how could he be at peace.
He also mourns with fear for the involvement of death for himself. A mixture of grief and fear results in the decisions and journeys, he takes. At this moment, he roams the wilderness fearing the unavoidable perspectives of death. Gilgamesh prayed, “when I arrived at mountains passes at nightfall, I saw lions, and I was terrified! I raised my head in prayer to Sin, to the Great Lady of the gods my supplications poured fourth, ‘Save me from them!’”. He is obviously disturbed by this fate. I believe this is because he described that death has never been seen so, therefore, no one has the ability to give him an overview of what death or the afterlife is like. In the end, his relief is in knowing he will be remembered for the great city he built and the understanding he obtained. He finally comes to the reality that death is inevitable, and not some epic that has no significance. He begins to think he can defeat fate because of his bold spirit, but ultimately, he died and losses his battle to death. The stories symbolize epic struggles that one may face when trying to reach or change their destiny.
Fate describes the happening in the life of a person, which could be positive historical situation, or it could mean poverty or unfavorable death. Fate can also define by the determination of one’s destiny. In the Aeneid and The Epic of Gilgamesh, fate is a strong force that forms both of these great stories. Aeneas and Gilgamesh are both determined to reach their destiny regardless of the obstacles they may face. In the ancient world once fate was prophesied, nothing could change it, maybe the gods could prolong the period but, in the end, it must happen as originally planned. Virgil has successfully used fate as a theme in Aeneid to demonstrate how once fate is determined, it must be fulfilled and even attempts to distract or redirect it cannot succeed. Virgil’s thoughts and ideas of fate have been very respected in his times and the current day and age. For both of these stories, fate outlines the story plot and its importance. Neither character faced an impossible task and they were determined to reach their destiny. They both had to face the gods and overcome adversity.
In my opinion and in relation to today’s society, one’s destiny can be changed because people form their own future by the decisions they make. When they commit good or bad choices, they have to face the outcome whether it is good or bad, and that also determines their destiny. Being human beings, we are all given free will. Being that people are given free will, one fate can be changed through the changes in decision making. Although the past cannot be changed people have been given free will and freedom to set the outcome for their future destiny. Destiny is created continuously as one desire to strive and live. Every action and reaction of someone is creating a future destiny. Achieving one’s destiny just simply means going with the ways of life and letting everything fall into place at the right time. This includes activating your vision and considering your goals. It is important to consider the obstacles and overcoming them in order for your destiny to be fulfilled. It is important to remain focused and determined and not letting anyone hinder your destiny. One determination should be to build a path which outlines the destiny and dreams around them.
- Dickson, Keith. “Looking at the Other in Gilgamesh.” Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. 127, no. 2, Apr. 2007, pp. 171–182.
- FRANKE, WILLIAM. “War and Tragedy and the Fate of the Spoken: Virgil’s Secularization of Prophecy.” College Literature, vol. 41, no. 4, Fall 2014, pp. 25–40. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=fth&AN=99023763&site=eds-live&scope=site.
- Sanders , N. K. The Epic Of Gilgamesh, Assyrian International News Agency. Web. 30 April 2019 www.aina.org/books/eog/eog.htm.
- Unninni Shin-Leqi. The Epic of Gilgamesh. The Longman Anthology of World Literature. Vol. A: The Ancient World. Eds. David Damrosch and David L. Pike. New York: Pearson Education, 2009. 56-98.
- Virgil. Aeneid. The Longman Anthology of World Literature. Vol. A: The Ancient World. Eds. David Damrosch and David L. Pike. New York: Pearson Education, 2009. 1105-1201.
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