The Themes of Destiny in The Epic of Gilgamesh and The Aeneid

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

Every human is scared of death, fate, and destiny, and every human tends not to bring up this topic. While many people believe in life after death, most people choose to keep away from the topic 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 death can be escaped. The thoughts of fate are not new and they are here to stay (Campbell). Death, fate and destiny has been a disturbing topic for many years. The two ancient stories that have significantly featured the theme of fate are the Aeneid and The Epic of Gilgamesh. In these literary works, the main characters Aeneas and Gilgamesh are both infatuated with their fate to an instance that these epic tales accurately reflect the ancient culture and societies during their times. From the stories of fate, it is easy to observe that the 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 own mortality and they so much want to live on eternity, life after death.

Human beings can be described 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 life is as a result of destiny, unchangeable and final will of the higher powers. Fate is unavoidable, and there is no choice, and it is simply the human destiny, and followed by the end of everything, and that is death. Over the years, epic and folk tales that deals 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 wields. 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 scenario 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 was true for 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 have supreme 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 temporarily alter Jupiter’s fate and bring chaos. 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 portrayed as a person who is blessed because he is directly connected to mankind 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 ultimately champion the glorification of Rome. Aeneas’ role in assisting restore 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 school of thought, it is clear that fate had it that 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 (1143). 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’ (I. 360-363). In these line 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” (Franke 2). 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 that, “am duty-bound, and known above high air of heaven by my fame” (1121). 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. Aeneas is made aware of his destiny and he begins to pursue it. Fate starts to reveal itself as Aeneas recounts his adventures to Dido. 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” (IV. 347-9). 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 fight was to forcefully remind Dido of his fate, and this could have been gods using Mercury to remind him. It is after this fight with Jupiter that Aeneas becomes more focused on his fate hungrier to accomplish his objective. Once he leaves Dildo, the universal Carthage is achieved. The role of fate begins to manifest as he becomes victorious in his quest.

In The Epic of Gilgamesh, at the beginning Gilgamesh is the ruling ancient king of Uruk and he has a gift of foresight (Dickson). Gilgamesh has several dreams regarding his fate and he has unconditionally 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” (Sanders). However, Enkidu tells the king that eternal life is however not his destiny.

Instead of being upset by the god’s position that he will not live forever, Gilgamesh decides to put his name alongside the famous names in history. He sets the standards to write accomplish mission that no one has ever accomplished. He decides to raise a monument to the gods and by engaging in historical 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, the kind declares that he has nothing to fear because when he finally falls, he shall have left behind a name that will remain in history forever. Gilgamesh has now reconciled 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 is obviously disturbed by this fate. He finally comes to the reality that death is inevitable, and not some myth that has no bearing. He begins to think he can defeat fate because of his bold spirit, but ultimately, he died and losses the battle to death.

Fate defines when something happens in the life of a person, it could be positive historical situation, or it could mean poverty or worst death. Fate can also defined 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, may be the gods could extend the period but in the end, it must be happen as originally planned. Virgil has successfully used fate as a theme in Aeneid to demonstrate how once a fate is sealed, it must be fulfilled, and even attempts to divert it cannot succeed. For both of these stories, fate outlines the story plot and its importance.

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