Was Gilgamesh a Hero or Not?

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According to Susie Zappia, “ Gilgamesh was a historical king of Uruk in Sumer in the Middle East around 2700 B.C. His legend is chronicled in the myth today known as the ‘Epic of Gilgamesh.’ The term ‘epic’ refers to a long poem about a hero’s saga. Gilgamesh’s circumstances are consistent with those of most epic heroes: He is himself part divine, he interacts with gods and goddesses, and his story involves a series of adventures and superhuman victories. During his adventures, Gilgamesh is on a quest to find the secrets of immortality.”

After reading The Epic of Gilgamesh, I have come to realize that Gilgamesh is not a hero, but a failure. His journey does not follow the traditional circular hero’s journey and he does not possess the traits that an admirable hero should have. The first part of the hero’s journey is the call to adventure. This is the voyage that the hero is asked to go on in order to accomplish the greater good for humankind. This is the hero’s chance to help his or her community, family or friends by embarking on a long journey and challenging his, or herself.

Gilgamesh does not go on a journey to help others, he goes to make himself look better. Gerald R. Lucas says, “The epic takes as its primary concern Gilgamesh’s wisdom that he acquires during his journeys and the monuments that he constructs upon his return. Like the Homeric epics, Gilgamesh begins in medias res during the rule of a wild king, two-thirds god, and one-third man. While Gilgamesh is strong and an obvious stud, at least in his own mind, he is cruel and naive and needs to discover what it means to be human if he is to become a good ruler and father.” Gilgamesh just kills Humbaba to look stronger even though Humbaba is not doing any harm to anyone. Gilgamesh also kills the bull that belonged to Ishtar.

When he kills the bull, he disrespecting the Gods by destroying their property. Another reason why these trials to not make Gilgamesh a hero is because they are not difficult for him. He is hardly struggling to complete them and being constantly challenged is part of beings a hero. Gilgamesh’s mentor is Enkidu. The hero is supposed to respect the mentor while Gilgamesh indirectly kills his. When Enkidu and Gilgamesh kill Humbaba the Gods kill Enkidu as a punishment. Not only did Gilgamesh hurt the Gods, but he also let his mentor die for his mistakes. After undergoing the trails, the hero moves on to the abyss. The abyss is the darkest point for a hero in the hero’s journey.

For Gilgamesh, the abyss is when Enkidu dies. Gilgamesh is completely at fault for his own abyss. He is upset when he is actually the one who caused the problem. After the abyss, the hero is raised back up again and moves on to the return. In the return, the hero is praised for the good that he, or she, has brought to the people. Gilgamesh is only praised because he is a king and the people have to respect the king. They can’t respect him for his journey because he doesn’t bring anything back for the people, he only brings something back for himself.

When one thinks of heroes, names such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Mother Teresa often come to mind. These people had done a lot of favors, courage, help, and more of things for the people who needed them. The true definition of a hero is a man of distinguished valor. Bravery, courage, intrepidity, boldness, daring, and prowess in war are a hero’s characteristics. However, a hero is understood to be different for everyone. Upon closer examination, many different qualities than these become apparent. The definition of heroism changes with the context and time.

Heroes of the past are not necessarily heroes of the present time and vise versa. A person can be a hero for saving the life of one or of millions. Now that you have been informed on what a hero is, many people believe Gilgamesh is a hero. They say he is a hero because of his loyalty, perseverance, and heroism. I’ve heard previously from one of my peers that Gilgamesh was a great hero so it makes it hard for them to see his flaws. Many believe Gilgamesh was almost like a human version of God which is kind of silly to me.

I looked up some opinions others have made on Gilgamesh and a woman name Freja said “the similar description of the characteristics of different heroes may show the people at that time tended to think that people are not perfect and always have some weakness, nevertheless, if people work harder and be braver, this kind of weakness could be conquered.” In conclusion, many believe Gilgamesh failed at being a hero and others believe he was one of the greatest heroes.


Cite this paper

Was Gilgamesh a Hero or Not?. (2021, Mar 20). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/was-gilgamesh-a-hero-or-not/

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