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Gilgameš and Heracles (1)

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04 Religious and philosophical literature and poetry

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A series of comparisons can be drawn between Gilgameš and Heracles. Both have a divine parent, both kill lions and wear a lion-skin to roam the world. Both make a journey to kill a monstrous opponent who occupies a certain forest. Gilgameš is assisted in this by a comrade, as Heracles is assisted in some of his Labours by Iolaus. Both go to the world’s end, where there is a wonderful garden presided over by a divine female, and they cross the waters that only the Sun normally crosses. Neither do attain immortality, but both have divine status, and can be appealed to for deliverance from evil. To account for these series of parallels we may suppose that on more than one occasion a complex of stories about a legendary strong man came to Greece from the Near East and was attached to the obvious Greek candidate, Heracles.


West 1997, 466-467West, Martin L. The East Face of Helicon. West Asiatic Elements in Greek Poetry and Myth. Oxford: Clarendon Press 1997.

Amar Annus

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