Iliad Questions and Answers
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What are the similarities and differences between Iliad and The Epic of Gilgamesh?  

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The Iliad and The Epic of Gilgamesh both belong to a conversation on ancient literature and, to varying degrees, to a conversation on myth narratives. Yet one is more fully "mythological" than the other. 

On our way to discussing these tales in the light of mythology, we can connect and contrast these works in a variety of ways. First, one of the most notable connections is the similar social function that these works may have played for their respective audiences.

In some ways, these are both works about national origins. The Iliad tells the tale of how a host of disparate armies came together to fight under one banner (more or less), the banner of the king, Agamemnon. A league of armies was formed and, from there, history tells the tale of the rise of Greece. This is the story of what it means to be Greek. It is also a story that defines what it means to be heroic as the narrative offers numerous examples of heroic figures from Achilles and Hector, to Odysseus and Patroclus.

The Epic of...

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sarahbat1993 | Student

Both The Epic of Gilgamesh and The Iliad are historical epics, or fictionalized accounts of real world historical events. This is their most significant similarity.

They also both take place in ancient, polytheistic societies where the actions of gods and the actions of men are intertwined. To some extent, both mull on the idea of the mixing of the human and the divine, as Gilgamesh is not truly human, and the arguable protagonist of The Iliad, Achilles, is a demi-god with abilities beyond those of a normal man.

They both also examine the effects of women and relationships on war and men of power, through not only Helen but the women won in war in The Iliad and the temptation of Enkidu in The Epic of Gilgamesh. 

Looking outside of the text, they are similar in that their true authorship is unknown. Gilgamesh is anonymously authored, likely as a result of early society's heavy oral traditions. And while The Iliad is credited to 'Homer', the stories contained within go back to, like Gilgamesh, oral history, and we have no solid proof a person named 'Homer' ever truly existed.

As for differences, The Epic of Gilgamesh is more classically literary, reading more like a novel, whereas The Iliad is originally an epic poem, and it's verse structure lingers in its use of repeated descriptive phrases, or epithets. 

The Epic of Gilgamesh has a more typical character/protagonist structure, where much of the work is viewed through one single perspective. This is in definite contrast to The Iliad, which has no true narrator and maps the experiences of many different characters, chiefly Achilles, Hector, the gods, and Zeus in particular. 

Of course, they also take place in different times and places, with Gilgamesh taking place in Mesopotamia roughly 1500 years before the Trojan War, and thus the Iliad, take place in Greece.