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Autor: anton 10 November 2010
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Gilgamesh and Roland's Heroism
Mesopotamia was about 300 miles long and 150 miles wide. It was located between two rivers, the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers. The word Mesopotamia itself means "The land between two rivers". With this, Mesopotamia depended on the cultivation of the land for survival. As Mesopotamia began to develop there were city-states that were established. These city-states were surrounded by a mud brick wall and farmland. Sumerians would take great pride in their city-state, and that created chaos. At times wars would break out to prove which city-state was the strongest. Each city-state had a priest-king to rule over their people. However, their beliefs were polytheistic and centered their beliefs in four Gods that represented power. These Gods provided for mankind and every year the Sumerians believed that the Gods would decide their faith. During the time between 2700 ca. and 2600ca. there was a ruler who ran the city-state of Uruk, Gilgamesh the famously known king who was two-thirds God and one third-man. On the other hand, during the time of Roland their civilization was ran by one king known as Charlemagne, who believed in monotheism and that Christianity was the one true religion. During this reign Charlemagne was anointed as the head of the Roman Empire. Their goal as a society was based on conquering cities to convert them to Christianity. Both our epic heroes are from different eras in time that may have contributed to their actions; however, as contradictory as their civilizations were they share distinctions and parallels in their character.
Gilgamesh was a king the believed in many deities and was disliked by his people. He was portrayed as a very beautiful man physically and very wise. Nonetheless, Gilgamesh established his city-state as a tyrannical ruler. Gilgamesh felt power and control and took possession of anything and anyone, "Gilgamesh leaves not the son to his father; Day and night is unbridled his arrogance. Yet this is Gilgamesh, the shepherd of Uruk. He should be our shepherd; strong, stately, and wise! Gilgamesh leaves not the maid to her mother, the warrior's daughter, the noble's spouse!"(unknown 1). On the other hand, Roland is part of Charlemagne's twelve peers, and is not considered a king or a God, but is willing to sacrifice himself for his king, " Ð’â€¦my lords, whom shall we send of you To Saragossa, the Sarsen king unto" "Myself", quoth Roland, "may well this errand do" (Sayers 18). Our epic heroes are after greatness; for example, Gilgamesh is seeking immorality, and Roland is seeking to become a martyr. Both heroes are prideful and will not stand to be seen any less. Nonetheless, Gilgamesh is willing to sacrifice himself to get the answer to immorality, and show the Gods that he can be just as powerful. Whereas, Roland is willing to sacrifice himself, as well as others to show the king that he is a true sacrificial hero. One can say that Gilgamesh has nothing to lose as he enter this quest, but much to gain from it. Gilgamesh is a man that can't comprehend the feeling of love and loss. Gilgamesh is sent a foe that becomes his friend, and he is the reason that makes Gilgamesh set on his journey to find immorality. Enkidu is sent by the Gods to be Gilgamesh equal and put an end to his tyranny. However, these two characters form a camaraderie that binds them until death. The love that Gilgamesh felt for Enkidu made him a better person; however, it is all taken away when Enkidu dies, "He who with me underwent all hardship-Enkidu, whom I loved dearly, Who with me underwent all hardships- Has now gone to the fate of mankind!"(unknown 3). This makes Gilgamesh set quest to find immorality, and comes to grip with it when it is taken away from him by the serpent. Gilgamesh lesson was to see that immorality is unattainable, but that humankind itself continues. And the goal of the Gods was accomplished just not in the manner that they set forth. On the contrary, in the Song of Roland, Roland sacrifices all for the sake of spreading Christianity and protecting Charlemagne's kingdom. His mind was engulfed with the idea becoming a martyr, that he sub-consciously keeps himself from seeing reality. Roland also has a comrade named Oliver, and he is his best friend. Oliver sees their destruction ahead and pleas with Roland to blow the Olifant. This friendship began with love, but ended with the despair. Roland's pride keeps him from blowing the olifant, and signaling Charlemagne for help, "May never God allow That I should cast dishonour on my house Or on fair France bring any ill renown! Rather will I with Durendal strike outÐ’â€¦" (Sayers 84). Hence, Roland sets to fight the pagans and this leads to both his death and his comrades death. Roland is a tragic hero because his death gave the king meaning to fight and avenge the deaths of his men and spread the Christianity, but Roland failed his comrades by leading them into an ambush. However, Roland as oppose to Gilgamesh did please God and gained entrance into paradise where he has eternal life.
Here you have two societies that reflect the complete opposite of one another. Each hero represents their society differently. Gilgamesh is from Mesopotamia, and is reigning during and era where the belief is in many Gods. In The Song of Roland, Roland is in an era where Christianity is the strongest religion filtrating Medieval Europe. Both societies offer strong disciplines and values, and these qualities affect the role of our heroes. Gilgamesh is a strong, ruthless leader that has no respect for his people, yet they are ruled by Gods that have no respect for the people they rule. This leads to Gilgamesh having no sympathy for the people that he is governing. As for Roland, in the "Song of Roland" it is in a time of religious crusades and conquest of cities that did not believe in monotheism. This society believed in sacrifice, and Roland believed that he was sacrificing his pride if he blew the horn. Roland chose to fight with his men until the end; however, it was the sacrifice he made for God that made him an epic hero.
Both these heroes were following the structure and values of their societies. Although both of these epics are from different eras they have the same symbolism. In the "Epic of Gilgamesh" religion is hidden within the poem itself, whereas in the "The Song of Roland" it is clearly stated. A commonality that Gilgamesh and Roland both share that can be accepted by the 21st century is human morality. Both our heroes find their paradise even though they both believe in different Gods. Today's society has many religions; nevertheless, all humans regardless of religion will end up in what we have come to know as heaven or hell. Furthermore, all of our societies fight a continues battle between good and evil, and ultimately it all becomes an encounter with man vs. nature and man vs. man.
Anonymous. "The Epic of Gilgamesh."
Anonymous. "The Song of Roland". Translated by Dorothy Sayers
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