Achilles and Gilgamesh

Achilles and Gilgamesh are very similar characters, despite the fact the epics that they appear in were written by different cultures hundreds of years apart. The characters share many common traits and their stories have very similar pieces, starting as far back as their births.
Achilles and Gilgamesh were both born of goddesses, making them part divine themselves, and endowing them with superhuman strength and fighting abilities. Both heroes like to demonstrate their power, but both also use their power selfishly. However, they misuse their power in different ways, and this is one of the stark contrasts that exists between the two characters. Gilgamesh is a king and uses his power to practice prima nocta   Achilles’ misuse of power is more subtle, because his selfish behavior leads him to inaction instead of indecent action. Achilles refuses to fight against the Trojans even though he knows that many of his countrymen will die in his absence.
Both heroes are also very interested in their own glory, as was normal for the cultures they were born into. However, this pursuit of glory led them both to do selfish things, not things that benefitted the people around them. Both characters also had a close friend who was almost their equal in fighting ability, and in both epics these friends’ deaths trigger a positive change in the hero. When Gilgamesh’s friend Enkidu dies, Gilgamesh begins a quest that teaches him to be a good king. When Achilles’ cousin Patroclus dies, Achilles realizes his error in abandoning the war and rejoins the effort to help the Greeks win and prevent further deaths.
The Iliad and the Epic of Gilgamesh are quite similar too, with many parallels appearing throughout the plots. The Iliad features a group of heroes traveling far to conquer a worthy opponent, the Trojans, while the Epic of Gilgamesh follows two heroes who travel to fight a single worthy opponent, Humbaba. In both stories, some gods support the heroes and some support the opponent....