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Ancient Greek Literature - Epic Heroes, Loss, and Mortalty

            Recent studies have begun to see the Homeric epics in the light of other epic traditions, notably epics from Mesopotamia, and have begun to look at striking similarities. There is a supposed lineage that can be seen connecting the Homeric epics most directly with the world of Akkadian epics (Gresseth 2). The connections run from similarities in methods of transmission, namely the oral traditions, to themes, characters and formal structural components. The epic of Gilgamesh, the king of Uruk, and the Iliad, with its focus on the menis of Achilles, provide a look at heroic life and its relationship with death and immortality. The hero Gilgamesh is occupied with fear of death throughout the epic (George XIII). Achilles likewise is concerned with his metaphoric immortality, which can only exist after the death of his mortal heroic self. Both of the main heroes share many similar characteristics, including a dynamic outlook on life and death centered on the death of their heroic comrades, Patroclus and Enkidu, respectively. The two semi-divine heroes have many corresponding life-events and characteristics, and are also both very concerned with their own mortalities, but not quite in the same way. Their comrades, Enkidu and Patroclus are outwardly similar, but the critical differences between Achilles' and Gilgamesh's view of mortality may ultimately lie in the finer details distinguishing the two sidemen. .
             Comparisons between various characters abound in near-eastern Mesopotamian epic and Homeric epics. Many scholars see Gilgamesh as similar to both Odysseus and Achilles (Gresseth 5). He is a character who in some of the earliest epics is involved in martial settings as well as wanderings throughout the mythological worlds and to semi-divine mortals. The events in the character's life do indeed cover a broad range of heroic epic encounters; however it is the character and psychological or emotional development of Gilgamesh that can lend light most on ancient heroic perspectives of death and mortality, especially when compared with Achilles.

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