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SV: [ANE-2] Gilgamesh

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  • Niels Peter Lemche
    Could it be that the reviewer is under Greek influence, the tragic end of the heroes? Think of the Homeric tradition, the greatest hero is killed by the most
    Message 1 of 5 , Mar 2, 2006
      Could it be that the reviewer is under Greek influence, the tragic end of the heroes? Think of the Homeric tradition, the greatest hero is killed by the most outspoken anti-hero. Does it has to do with contemporary sentiments, or is it an imbedded part of heroism?

      I have planned together with Tom Thompson to do a volume about this, noting the different kinds of heroes around. The tragic hero is the bow-wow hero like Samson. The anti-hero is the trickster, like Jakob.

      We intend when we get the time necessary to trace the theme through ANE literature.

      So Gilgamesh has a kind of tragic conclusion: the hero will die in spite of his heroism. Same to Samson, same to Achilles.

      NPLemche

      -----Oprindelig meddelelse-----
      Fra: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com [mailto:ANE-2@yahoogroups.com] På vegne af Marc Cooper
      Sendt: 2. marts 2006 05:12
      Til: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com
      Emne: [ANE-2] Gilgamesh



      Jasper Griffin's review of Gilgamesh: A New English Version (by Stephen Mitchell, Free Press, 290 pp., $24.00) appeared in the New York Times on Sunday. At the end of the review, Griffin (quoted below) suggests that Gilgamesh is true to the reviewer's dark vision of the epic: "The end of heroism is death." Is this true of Gilgamesh? Does it fit other ancient Near Eastern literature?

      Marc Cooper

      Missouri State University


      ------------------------------------------------------------------------\
      ------------------------------------

      From the New York Times at http://www.nybooks.com/articles/article-preview?article_id=18770
      <http://www.nybooks.com/articles/article-preview?article_id=18770>

      Fresh from his triumph, the hero confronts the fact of death. He must mourn for his friend, and he must face his own mortality. A superhuman exploit brings him at last the secret of eternal life; he has it in his grasp; but (of course) he must lose it. The end of triumph is mourning. The end of heroism is death. Gilgamesh laments,

      Was it for this that my hands have labored,
      was it for this that I gave my heart's blood?
      I have gained no benefit for myself
      but have lost the marvelous plant to a reptile.

      There is no happy ending, even for mighty heroes who are close to the gods. We may be reminded of another great epic, the Iliad of Homer. That, too, is a tragic tale, which ends with Hector, brave and attractive, lying dead, his body abused, his city and his family doomed; and with his slayer, the victorious hero Achilles, blaming himself for the death of his best friend and knowing that he, too, is about to die.

      In other heroic traditions, the Nibelungenlied ends with a general slaughter of the great warriors who have engaged our attention and sympathy; the lay of Tristan ends with the lovers Tristan and Ysolde dying pathetic deaths; in the Song of Roland the great paladin is betrayed and killed at Roncevaux; King Arthur's knights are at last betrayed by Ganelon, defeated, and slain, and their kingdom passes away.

      This is the true epic vision. The Odyssey flinches from its austerity and tries to evade it, bringing the hero and his wife together happily at the end, and saying only that sometime, in the future, the hero will have to journey again, before at last he is released by a gentle death. A modern epic like The Lord of the Rings can deny the dark epic vision altogether and finish with victory and triumph for the good, and poetic justice dished out all around. An older wisdom, and a truer poetry, sees that the highest nobility and the deepest truth are inseparable, in the end, from failure-however heroic-from defeat, and from death.




      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]




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    • Robert Whiting
      ... Very briefly: yes, he is. In more detail: Jasper Griffin is Emeritus Professor of Classical Literature and Public Orator at Oxford and a Fellow of
      Message 2 of 5 , Mar 2, 2006
        On Thu, 2 Mar 2006, Niels Peter Lemche wrote:

        > Could it be that the reviewer is under Greek influence, the tragic end
        > of the heroes? Think of the Homeric tradition, the greatest hero is
        > killed by the most outspoken anti-hero. Does it has to do with
        > contemporary sentiments, or is it an imbedded part of heroism?
        <snip>

        Very briefly: yes, he is. In more detail:

        Jasper Griffin is Emeritus Professor of Classical Literature and
        Public Orator at Oxford and a Fellow of Balliol College. His books
        include Homer on Life and Death and Latin Poets and Roman Life.
        (March 2006)

        So unquestionably Griffin sees Gilgamesh through a Homeric lens.
        Personally, I don't consider this a bad thing, as it reflects a
        an understanding that "Greek" ideas were part of written literature
        long before there was a Greece to make them popular. But soon this
        devolves into folkloristics and Jungian archetypes.


        Bob Whiting
        whiting@...
      • janegc@comcast.net
        Ulysses survives as long as he does because he has so much of the trickster in him, I think. He s not really like the traditional epic hero. That he will
        Message 3 of 5 , Mar 2, 2006
          Ulysses survives as long as he does because he has so much of the trickster in him, I think. He's not really like the traditional epic hero. That he will someday die is not particular to his being a hero, anyway.

          A one line synopsis of Gilgamesh could be, IMHO, "Everyone dies, so grow up why don't you." Is his death connected with being a hero or just being human?

          Gilgamesh and Ulysses don't really fit the traditional hero mold.

          Jane Cates

          -------------- Original message ----------------------
          From: "Niels Peter Lemche" <npl@...>





          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • Marc Cooper
          Yes, Gilgamesh dies, but all people do. Griffin seems to think that Gilgamesh s failure to win immortality leads to his death. Another way to look at it is
          Message 4 of 5 , Mar 2, 2006
            Yes, Gilgamesh dies, but all people do. Griffin seems to think that
            Gilgamesh's failure to win immortality leads to his death. Another
            way to look at it is that Gilgamesh's failure leads to wisdom. In
            that sense Gilgamesh is not a tragedy but a triumph.

            PS

            I didn't think about it when we were talking about cross cultural
            marriages, but in one of the Sumerian compositions, Gilgamesh gives
            his sisters in marriage to Huwawa. It didn't work out though. It
            wasn't the cultural differences, it was Enkidu's knife.

            Marc Cooper
            Missouri State University

            --- In ANE-2@yahoogroups.com, "Niels Peter Lemche" <npl@...> wrote:
            >
            > Could it be that the reviewer is under Greek influence, the tragic
            end of the heroes? Think of the Homeric tradition, the greatest hero
            is killed by the most outspoken anti-hero. Does it has to do with
            contemporary sentiments, or is it an imbedded part of heroism?
            >
            > I have planned together with Tom Thompson to do a volume about
            this, noting the different kinds of heroes around. The tragic hero
            is the bow-wow hero like Samson. The anti-hero is the trickster,
            like Jakob.
            >
            > We intend when we get the time necessary to trace the theme
            through ANE literature.
            >
            > So Gilgamesh has a kind of tragic conclusion: the hero will die in
            spite of his heroism. Same to Samson, same to Achilles.
            >
            > NPLemche
          • Graham Hagens
            ... the heroes? Think of ... anti-hero. Does it ... the different kinds ... anti-hero is the ... ... the hero will have to journey again, before at last he is
            Message 5 of 5 , Mar 2, 2006
              Niels Peter Lemche wrote March 02:

              >Could it be that the reviewer is under Greek influence, the tragic end of
              the heroes? Think of
              >the Homeric tradition, the greatest hero is killed by the most outspoken
              anti-hero. Does it
              >s to do with contemporary sentiments, or is it an imbedded part of heroism?

              > have planned together with Tom Thompson to do a volume about this, noting
              the different kinds
              >f heroes around. The tragic hero is the bow-wow hero like Samson. The
              anti-hero is the
              >trickster, like Jakob.

              ...>the hero will have to journey again, before at last he is released by a
              gentle death.

              And don't forget Solon. 'Let no man be called happy who has not died well.'

              Graham Hagens
              Hamilton, ON
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