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A Weaker God:The Iliad,Odyssey&Gilgamesh

            The Oxford English Dictionary defines god as "1. A being conceived as the perfect, omnipotent, omniscient ruler and originator of the universe, the principal object of faith and worship in monotheist religions. 2. A being of supernatural powers, believed in and worshipped by a people."" The first definition reflects Modern America's connotation of the word god. The latter recalls the Ancient Greco-Sumerian ideal of a being greater than man. While both definitions are equally valid in literature, many perceive the word only in the first view. However, the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Epic of Gilgamesh portray gods with limits and weaknesses. The contemporary Christian god is able to demand things of his followers, readily expecting wholehearted and unquestioning obedience. This was not the case with his ancient counterparts. Rather than exacting demands upon their followers, occasionally the ancient gods were limited to requests. Often they were refused. In the Odyssey, the goddesses Circe and Calypso both expected lifelong commitments from the mighty Odysseus. Both promised great things to the hero, including godhood. Odysseus was able to refuse both goddesses. Human obstinacy beat out the whims of goddesses. If the Protestant god were to make sexual demands upon his followers, more than likely, he would not be refused. One could argue, though, that Odysseus did give in to the goddesses by bedding them. Always though, his focus eventually shifted to returning home and reuniting with his mortal wife. Homer portrayed a man who refused immortal beauty for true love: "She is mortal after all, and you are immortal and ageless. But even so, what I want and all my days I pine for is to go back to my house and see my day of homecoming. And if some god batters me far out on the wide blue water, I will endure it, keeping a stubborn spirit within me, for I have already suffered much (93-94)."" Thus, the mortal Odysseus was able to deny the temptations of the goddesses multiple times.

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