Name 1 Name Class Instructor Date To Explain the Inexplicable: Mythology and the Reconciling of Existence Topic 1 - The habit (or temptation) of interpretation can create difficulty in reading the ancient Mesopotamian myths. For a modern reader with a thoroughly Western (read Greek) orientation, the inclination to apply a Greek mythological construct to Mesopotamian hero tales, tales of creation and of regeneration can be tempting…
While it may be useful to regard the Greek mythological paradigm as a “Rosetta stone” of sorts for more ancient traditions, it can be a “crutch,” a complacent academic refuge. As such, it can be difficult to appreciate the Mesopotamian myths on their own terms. A less analytical problem is the absence of whole stanzas in the Mesopotamian myths. For instance, the 45 lines missing from tablet two of the Epic of Gilgamesh undermines the tale in terms of continuity and leaves a gap in the development of the relationship between Enkidu Name 2 and Gilgamesh. These gaps are, of course, unavoidable but do engender a degree of difficulty in understanding and appreciating the story within its own cultural context. This, as well as the tendency/temptation to impose a Greek construct, is reminiscent of a characteristic mentioned in Campbell’s first function of mythology. Campbell contends that “the mind goes asking for meanings; it can’t play unless it knows (or makes up) some system of rules” (Campbell, 2011). ...
Topic 2 - Campbell reminds us that the business of comparative mythology is to draw conclusions about the similarities (and differences) between cultures based on their particular belief systems. Indeed, Campbell draws parallels between Ishtar, Inanna and Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and fertility. In so doing, Campbell speaks to his first function of mythology, which is described as the means by which consciousness gratefully affirms the awe of existence. The role that Ishtar/Inanna and Aphrodite play in their respective mythological traditions, that of sex and fertility, is a representation of an elemental aspect of human existence. These “elemental” goddesses exhibit an unmistakable and life-affirming continuity between ancient Mesopotamian and Greek cultures. Thus, we may see religious/mythological continuity as an affirming element of ancient cultures that, between them, span thousands of years. Name 3 The Epic of Gilgamesh as hero-tale-cum-morality-play contrasts behavioral traits that both belittle and ennoble humankind, ranging from the capacity for evil and tyranny to the redemptive quality of friendship and love. We are introduced to Gilgamesh the tyrant, a defiler of women, in whom the power of life and death rested uneasily. Through the intervention of Anu, the great sky god, Gilgamesh is confronted by Enkidu, a being with power and skill to match his own, whom Anu has created to purge Gilgamesh of his arrogance. They begin as deadly foes, but the two develop a bond of brotherly love and fight together to vanquish Gugulanna, the Bull of Heaven. Enkidu’s death inspires Gilgamesh to seek eternal life, a reverent acknowledgment of the power and mystery of existence and the gifts it can bestow, such as friendship and love. In ...
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