How Do Achilles and Gilgamesh Compare As Epic Heroes?

Achilles and Gilgamesh were extremely different with regards to who they were and how they responded to death. Achilles was a warrior and Gilgamesh was a king, each well-respected and feared in his role. They both showed toughness and fearlessness in their roles, but their reactions to the death of loved ones differed greatly.

Achilles and Gilgamesh were both involved in many battles, as detailed in Homer’s “Iliad” and the Mesopotamian “Epic of Gilgamesh,” respectively. Achilles was known to be arrogant while Gilgamesh was seen as ruthless. Each hero, however, had one extremely close friend, and the death of that friend pushed him over the edge. Gilgamesh’s grief over the death of his great friend Enkidu spurred Gilgamesh’s quest to seek the immortality of the gods and to bring Enkidu back to life. Achilles, on the other hand, showed extreme grief upon the death of his great friend Patroclus, fasting, smearing himself with ash and mourning with the same kind of language used to mourn a lover. Achilles’s extreme reaction separates him from Gilgamesh, who did not allow himself to become so emotional and vulnerable. The death of Patroclus provided Achilles with the motivation he needed to return to battle, this time with the aim of avenging his friend.