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The Role of Deities
In the discussion that will follow, the focus will be on the role of deities, both polytheistic and monotheistic, in two literary texts, ‘The Odyssey’, and ‘Gilgamesh’. In order to support the argument, the discussion will employ quotes from the two texts. In their contexts, deities refer to supernatural beings, which are perceived as sacred, divine, or holy. In societies where deities are recognized, they are held high, besides being accorded utmost respect. In that respect, the deities as explored in the two texts are no exception, as they are associated with absolute powers over such issues as death among other things. Indeed, in the texts ‘The Odyssey’, and ‘Gilgamesh’, the authors have accorded deities certain roles, which are beyond the understanding of ordinary mortals.
For instance, in ‘The Odyssey’, the gods are accorded power to decide on matters beyond the understanding of human beings. In order to ensure they continue rendering their services, human beings make sacrifices to the deities. On the other hand, any action that offends the deities brings complex problems to the societies. This is evident when Poisedon offers to revenge against Odysseus, after he is associated with blinding Polyphemos, the only child of Poisedon. Although there are several deities, Athena dominates most actions that take place in the poem. It is clear in the poem that the gods have special favors for characters with desirable traits. For instance, the god Athena seems to favor Odysseus owing to his nobility and sacrifices. The deity Athena has powers of changing the lives of characters, as Telemakhos is told, "you are a child no longer" (Johnston & Johnson 344). In Odysseus, the polytheist deities seem to resolve internal disputes as opposed to the mortal behaviors. This evident when the poem when Zeus stops the fire between the suitors, and Odysseus. In short, the deities have a responsibility of deciding what will happen in the world of ordinary beings. Owing to the present of deities in the poem, the thematic concern of characters lacking free will is evident in the Odysseus.
However, it appears in Gilgamesh that the deities are dangerous for human beings. It is apparent that the gods have their own rules governing their life, and they sometimes behave irrationally, and emotionally as children. However, the deities expect human beings to respect them without questioning. Although they have a responsibility of helping mortals, any incidence of angering them can lead to regrets and the gods cannot offer any protection. For that reason, Gilgamesh world appears different with the ordinary world, where God loves mortals and cares for them irrespective of angering Him. The worldly people are guaranteed of a heavenly or earthly inheritance if they live according to God’s expectations. In Gilgamesh, it appears that the deities have a role of punishing people whenever they do something unpleasant (Harris 34). Nonetheless, the readers are left wondering why the deities brought floods to the land of Gilgamesh. All the same, it appears that different deities are charged with certain roles as seen in the story. For instance, Ea is credited with attributes of human beings such as creativity, and cleverness among others.
In short, in the texts ‘The Odyssey’, and ‘Gilgamesh’, the authors have accorded deities certain roles, which are beyond the understanding of ordinary mortals. For instance, some deities are associated with desirable traits, while others are purely meant to punish human beings. In Gilgamesh, not even the readers are aware what led to heavy floods. On the other hands, if people are fond offering sacrifices to the deities, they become happy and they guarantee them care and other good things. Finally, if a mortal is associated with desirable traits, the deities are pleased.