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Comparing the Epic of Gilgamesh, Hesiod’s Theogony, and Ovid’s Metamorphoses

Comparing the Epic of Gilgamesh, Hesiod’s Theogony, and Ovid’s Metamorphoses

There are many parallels between the Epic of Gilgamesh, Hesiod’s Theogony, and Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The first similarity is immediately apparent: structure. We can view the structure of the Gilgamesh story as three concentric circles: a story within a story within a story. In the outer circle, a narrator prepares the audience for the primary narrative, contained within the second circle: the tale of Gilgamesh’s adventures. Within this second circle a third narrative, the flood story, is told to Gilgamesh by Utanapishtim. Ovid’s Metamorphoses is told in a similar way: Ovid starts out by telling of his intention and invoking the gods’ help to tell the story. He then tells many tales as the primary narrative, and within the primary narrative exists other narratives, such as “Venus tells Adonis the story of Atalanta” in Book 10. Even Hesiod’s Theogony is similar to some extent. He has a bit of a prologue in which he explains how the Muses have inspired him to write of the creation, and then he enters the primary creation narrative.

This method of storytelling does a variety of things. First, it prepares the reader to accept the story. In Gilgamesh, the narrator tells us that Gilgamesh has set down his adventures in his own hand. This leads the reader to accept the story as an authoritative one, especially considering it has come from a mortal, like us, who is part god. Because Gilgamesh is part god, we realize that if he can accept his lot in life, his mortality, then we mere mortals should be able to do the same. In Theogony, Hesiod prepares his audience to accept the story by telling (ad nauseum) that the Muses have worked through him to create…

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…M.E.L. Early Mesopotamia and Iran. McGraw-Hill: New York, 1965.

Ovid. Metamorphoses. Trans. Rolfe Humphries. Bloomington, IN: Indiana UP, 1983.

Rosenberg, Donna. “Gilgamesh.” World Mythology: An Anthology of the Great Myths and Epics. 3rd ed. Lincolnwood, IL: NTC Publishing Group, 1999. 26-57.

Swisher, Clarice. The Ancient Near East. Lucent Books: San Diego, 1995.

Works Consulted

The “Epic of Gilgamesh”: An Outline. Online. 15 Feb. 2000.

Sumerian Mythology FAQ. Online. 15 Feb. 2000.

Gardner, John and John Maier. Gilgamesh: Translated from the Sin-leqi-unninni version. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1984.

Harris, Stephen L. “Gilgamesh.” The Humanist Tradition in World Literature. Ed. Stephen Harris. Columbus, OH: Charles E. Merrill Publishing Co., 1970.

A Jungian Analysis of the Epic of Gilgamesh

A Jungian Analysis of the Epic of Gilgamesh

This paper will provide a unique, psychological perspective on a timeless story that is alive with mythological and religious splendor. I must state clearly that this is not the first time that Gilgamesh has been viewed in the light of the philosophy of Jung. One of two Jung essays I happened upon while preparing my research was the Psychology of Religion. Although I initially felt that this source would provide little help with my paper, I was very mistaken. On the seventeenth page, I have discovered Jung directly referencing Gilgamesh himself.

While researching, I consulted the many translations of Gilgamesh found on the web. It seemed that the more sources I sought, the greater the amount of differing opinions and convoluted versions I uncovered. In an effort to remain true to the epic, I will mainly be referring to the book, World Mythology, written by Donna Rosenberg with a few inclusions from Kovacs’ translations. Although Rosenberg’s version lacks the flair of the latter, it provides a simple doorway opening to a complicated, yet profound, tale of the first great epic that brings time, mortality, and the anguish of humanity into a world of personal destiny basically related to our own (Campbell, OM, p. 87-90). The essay is written with the understanding that the reader has prior knowledge of the main subject matter, Dr. Carl Jung’s theories of the unconscious, and Joseph Campbell’s idea that myths are synchronistically reproduced across time.

Archaeologists and historians feel confident that Gilgamesh was originally written by the Sumerians and later adapted by the Babylonians who kept the identities of Sumer’s original gods and goddesses. According to Mauree…

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…. (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1989)

Jackson, Danny P.,ed. The Epic of Gilgamesh. Wauconda, IL: Bolchazy-Carducci, 1992.

Maier, John ed. Gilgamesh. A Reader. Wauconda, IL: Bolchazy-Carducci, 1997.

Mason, Herbert. Gilgamesh. A Verse Narrative. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1970.

Sandars, Nancy K. The Epic of Gilgamesh. Harmmondsworth, UK: Penguin Books, 1968, 1971.

Temple, Robert, He Who Saw Everything: A Verse Version of the Epic of Gilgamesh. London: Rider, 1991

Thompson, R. Campbell. Gilgamesh: Text, Translation, and Notes. Oxford: Clarendon, 1930.

Campbell, Joseph. The Masks of God: Creative Mythology. New York: Penguin Books, 1968, pp. 4-14, 78-79.

Campbell, Joseph. The Masks of God: Occidental Mythology. New York: Penguin Books, 1964, pp. 9-10, 87-92.

Woolley, C. Leonard. THE SUMERIANS. New York: AMS PRESS, INC., 1970, p. 22.

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