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The Story of the Gods in Our Lives

Uploaded: 2 weeks ago
Contributor: Tiffanie Decker
Category: English Writing
Type: Report
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Filename:   world lit paper one.docx (23.16 kB)
Page Count: 6
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An essay about how the role of the gods can impact our lives.
Transcript
Tiffanie Decker Robert West EN 2273 October 17, 2022 The Story of the Gods in Our Lives Stories have been passed down from generation to generation, retold, rewritten, and even revised. Many come to us from ancient history, giving us insight into how the people lived in early Mesopotamia and Greece. Much of what historians do know about these pre-historic societies comes from the literature that has been passed down, such as the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Iliad, and Oedipus the King. In those days, the people of these ancient societies were heavily influenced by their gods. They would live their lives according to the rules that the gods have set in place. Any misfortune was thought to be the vengeance of the god that they angered. The Epic of Gilgamesh, Oedipus Rex, and The Iliad explore topics like fate, war, and love in order to examine how the gods intervene in the most important aspects of the lives of the people in these ancient societies. The concept of fate is not a modern struggle. Many people have tried to define it, with some stating that it is the universe at work while others believe that the gods or God has a plan for us all. In fact, the celebrated Athenian tragedian playwright, Sophocles, pondered on this idea in his famous play Oedipus the King. In the play, King Oedipus must come to terms with the fact that no matter how hard he tries, he is unable to escape the fate of the foretold oracle from the god Apollo. According to Greek mythology, Apollo is the god of prophesy. The oracle states that the child of King Lauis and Queen Jocasta will kill his father and marry his mother. Because of this, they try to get rid of the child. But of course, fate is predestined by the gods and the child lives to be Oedipus. The truth comes to light when, once again, Apollo meddles with the affairs of humans. He created a plague throughout the city and the only way to stop it is to find King Lauis’ murderer. In order to find the murderer, King Oedipus sends for the prophet Teiresias, who tries in vain to tell him the truth. “This day will show your birth and will destroy you” (pp. 411). This sets off a chain of events that leads to Queen Jocasta taking her own life and King Oedipus to gauge out his eyes and to be exiled from the kingdom he once ruled. Long before Sophocles wrested with the belief that life is predestined by the gods, the Sumerians of Mesopotamia were contemplating the fate of mortality. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, the citizens of Uruk complain to the gods about the behavior of their tyrannical ruler, King Gilgamesh. The goddess of birth, Aruru, then creates a man to rival and befriend Gilgamesh named Enkidu. Upon meeting, the two become very close companions and have many adventures together. Ishtar, the goddess of love and warfare, tries to seduce Gilgamesh. He curses her and denies her advances, which she then pleads to her father, the god Anu, to give her the Bull of Heaven. This leads to the death of Enkidu. Gilgamesh is so distraught over the death of his friend, that he begins a journey to the underworld in order to seek out immortality. “Shall I too not lie down like him, / and never get up, forever and ever?” (pp. 65). Instead, he learns that death is inevitable for all humans. War was a constant threat to the lives of the people in early societies. Nations were constantly invading one another, fighting for power and control. The Trojan war was caused directly by Aphrodite giving Helen, the wife of the king of Sparta, Menelaos, to the prince of Troy, Paris. Homer’s epic poem, the Iliad, focuses on the great Greek warrior, Achilles, who is fighting against the Trojans. It begins with Apollo, who sides with the Trojans, starting a plague in the Greek camp because Agamemnon captures a female war prisoner who is the daughter of a priest of Apollo. “First, he [Apollo] went after the mules and sleek dogs, / but then, letting fly a sharp arrow, he struck at the men themselves, / and the crowded pyres of the dead burned without ceasing.” (pp. 139). This triggers Agamemnon to then steal the female war prisoner of Achilles. With his pride hurt, Achilles then decides to abstain from the war, until the death of his friend, Patroclus, by Trojan prince, Hector. Reeling from this loss, Achilles chooses to fight Hector one on one. Hector is a prince of Troy and the brother to Paris, who helped to start this war. He is also the best fighter on the Trojan side. With Hector on the battlefield, the Greeks were losing the war. The goddess Athena steps in to help turn the tide against the Trojans and to give favor to the Greeks. During the fight between Hector and Achilles, Athena disguises herself as Hector’s slain brother, Deiphobus, to give him a false sense of confidence in the battle. “Standing close, she [Athena disguised as Deiphobus] spoke winged words: / ‘My brother, swift Achilles presses you hard, / pursuing you around the city of Priam in the swiftness of his feet. / Come; let us take our stand and standing firm defend ourselves.’”. (pp. 171). Due to this, Hector becomes overconfident and ends up losing the battle to Achilles. The death of Hector is when the city of Troy begins to crumble. The Greeks come up with the clever plan of the Trojan horse to get a special team inside the city gates. Believing that the Greeks left, the city celebrates. While they sleep, the men inside the monstrous horse end up sacking the city to ultimately win the war. Most people in ancient societies believed that their leaders were part divine. This translated into their literature as well. Deities from the differing pantheons would have affairs with humans, producing part divine offspring. King Gilgamesh is claimed to be two-thirds divine. He is said to be the son of the previous king of Uruk, King Lugalbanda, and the cow goddess, Ninsun. “Two-thirds of him was divine, one-third of him human! The Lady of Birth drew his body’s image, The God of Wisdom brought his stature to perfection. He was perfection in height, / Ideally handsome”. (pp. 24) His great strength, courage, and physical beauty are credited to his divine roots. These are all attributes that the people of Mesopotamia not only looked for in their warriors, heroes, and kings but they also associated them with that of their gods. Glory was something that most Greeks strived for. It is no surprise that most of the gods in the Greek pantheon were described as glorious in one way or another, either on the battlefield or in their physical description. This may be one of the reasons why Homer wrote the hero Achilles the way he did. Throughout the epic poem, the Iliad, Achilles is described as godlike. “Wrath-sing goddess of the ruinous wrath of Peleus’ son Achilles that inflicted woes without number upon the Achaeans, hurled forth to Hades many strong souls of warriors and rendered their bodies prey for the dogs, for all birds, and the will of Zeus was accomplished; sing from when they two first stood in conflict- Atreus’ son, lord of men, and godlike Achilles.” (pp. 138) Achilles was said to be the child of the goddess Thetis and the human man Peleus. He was the best soldier in Greece, king of the Myrmidons and has a super-human like strength. These are all qualities that the Greeks look for in their heroes, whether real or fictional, as well as their gods. No matter what religion or form of spirituality a person believes in, most everyone understands that there are some things in life that are outside of our control. Some of these things may be related to fate, war, or love. We offer up a form of prayer to whatever deity we subscribe to intercede on our behalf. We ask for protection, and ultimately interference, in these aspects of our lives. We allow our chosen god to have a role in our life. Therefore, there will always be a relationship between human life and the role of the gods or the universe, whichever you choose to believe in. Works Cited The Epic of Gilgamesh. Translated by Benjamin R. Foster, Puchner, pp. 22-74. Homer, Iliad. Translated by Caroline Alexander, Puchner, pp. 138-94. Puchner, Martin, general editor. The Norton Anthology of World Literature, shorter 4th ed., vol. 1, W.W. Norton, 2019. Sophocles. Oedipus the King. Translated by David Grene, Puchner, pp. 400-37.

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