Life and Death: A comparison of the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Homeric Hymn to Demeter

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Studies have shown that throughout the world, different cultures have similar and dissimilar views concerning a variety of topics. Of the most widely discussed topics, life and death are by far two of the most important and influential for any culture. The ancient Greek Homeric Hymn to Demeter and the Babylonian epic of Gilgamesh are perfect examples of cultures views on life and the afterlife. In this paper, I will attempt to demonstrate the views of both cultures on life and death, as well prove how these views influenced the daily lives and beliefs of the people who followed these ideas. The afterlife has always intrigued and terrified human beings and as a result, has influenced even the earliest of texts.

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Gilgamesh is very much dependant on his companion Enkidu. His mother, the cow goddess Ninsun, explained to Gilgamesh before he met Enkidu exactly how close the two would become, "You will love him as a wife, you will dote upon him...The dreams mean that you will love one another". The two are inseparable as the epic outlines their adventures together and separately as a result of their friendship and the eventual loss Enkidu. The relationship between an individual and the natural world and agriculture is a prevalent theme of both texts. Agriculture is demonstrated as essential for life and as a very important aspect of what it means to be living on Earth. Demeter is a goddess of agriculture and fertility. As a result, her punishment on the earth for the loss of her daughter is one of failed agriculture. The entire hymn itself also explains the reason there are four seasons. As Persephone returns to the underworld, fall and winter reign on earth. During her stay on Earth, spring and summer are dominant.  Also, Persephone was lured by Hades through the use of nature and agriculture. To capture her, he uses the allure of beautiful flowers, "...roses, crocuses, and lovely violets, irises and hyacinths and the narcissus, which Earth grew as a snare for the flower-faced maiden".  To ensure her return from her mother, Hades forces her to eat a pomegranate seed which binds her to the Underworld. The epic of Gilgamesh also

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