The Epic of Gilgamesh and the Iliad are both ancient works of literature centered around one major character that simultaneously plays the role of hero and anti-hero. Despite being written during different times, by different people and during different civilizations, they share a strikingly similar theme centered on the Gods and their relationship with man. This paper will review, illustrate and expatiate on some of the similarities and differences found in both books. It will also touch on various meeting points and parallels between both characters and how such complex characters are simplified by the authors of both stories.
The Epic of Gilgamesh begins by describing Gilgamesh as a man who travelled the world but found no man to be his match, as a man so blessed by the Gods he lorded over all men he led, their property and their wives (Epic of Gilgamesh Chapter 1). The author of the epic tries to establish the kind of relationship that existed between man and the Gods by using Gilgamesh as the point of reference. The first pointer to the existence of such a relationship for the reader is the existence of the man Gilgamesh himself. Gilgamesh is two thirds God and one thirds man (Epic of Gilgamesh Chapter 6), a product of intercourse and relationship between and God. Another example of cordial interaction between gods and man is seen when Gilgamesh explains his dream regarding the creation of Enkidu to his mother who is a goddess and she gives advice on how to interpret the dream (Epic of Gilgamesh Chapter 1). In another example we witness a more personal and direct interaction between a god and a mortal man. Before the Flooding of the earth the god Ea in which he warns Utnapishtim about an impending flood thereby saving him, his family and the animals of the earth from the flooding (Chapter 6). During both conversations the reader gets an understanding as to the role god's play and how it relates to man.