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Fate and the Gods

Ancient literature is replete with struggles between fate and the gods.  Often, the conflict arises when men set themselves up to the level of the gods; at other junctures men attempt to escape their fate, predetermined by the gods.  Fate and the GodsIn three ancient stories—the Epic of Gilgamesh, Oedipus the King by Sophocles, and Homer’s Odyssey—we are presented with three kings, each overruled by the whim of the gods.  Gilgamesh, Odysseus, and Oedipus are all presented as mighty kings, wise and just, but their pride puts them into conflict with the gods, and struggle as they may, fate has other destinies in store for them.

According to the beginning of the epic, Gilgamesh was “the lord of wisdom, he who knew everything”.  He is a mighty warrior and godlike figure, building up the great city of Uruk, “overpowering kings” opening mountain passes, and crossing the oceans.  He is “the pattern of strength…dazzling, sublime”.  However, his oppressive rule of Uruk has caused his people to lament to the gods, and Anu tells Aruru to create an equal to Gilgamesh: Enkidu the wild man.  Ultimately, they fight and then become the closest of companions.  Throughout their adventures, Enkidu is killed.  As he lies on his deathbed, he tells Gilgamesh that some god is angry with him.  The remainder of the tale is Gilgamesh’s assault on the netherworld in an attempt to gain immortality.  The Scorpion-man tells Gilgamesh: “Never has a mortal man done that”.  Siduri warns him that he will not find what he thinks should he cross over.

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