History is not only a number of events but also a set of values and beliefs, which characterize each particular epoch. Mythology, art and religion are media that keep these values imprinted for years and centuries. Each period of time has its hero who is a quintessence of the epoch’s ideals, manifested in larger-than-life stories. Gilgamesh, Old Testament, Oedipus the King and the Story of Sinuhe belong to different cultures. Therefore, it is not surprising that they are different in terms of values pursued by the characters. The clash between love and fame, family ties and political power determine the moral conflicts in the above mentioned works.
The Story of Sinuhe belongs to ancient Egyptian culture and tells the story of ruling dynasties. Sinuhe has quite a high position in society, which is important for him. He has the power, while the reigning King Amenemhet is alive. However, after king’s death the man has to escape from Egypt in order to save his life. Although, he flourishes after marrying the daughter of Chief Ammunenshi, he is not completely satisfied. He is a good warrior and goes on his activities on behalf Amminenshi, but he is not the one who can be happy in exile. His dream is to return to Egypt because his native land is a top priority for him. When he finally manages to come back, he is happy. It is underlined in the text that Sinuhe dies in honor in his city, which suggests the key values of that epoch. It is evident that marriage is not the most significant aspect. In fact, it is only a way to achieve a certain level in society and also a sign of clan belonging. Thus, when getting married, Sinuhe fights on behalf of his wife’s father. Patriotism and honor are the most important values, as well as loyalty to the country and especially to its ruler. That is why it was so important for the hero to return home before he dies, and to be honored after his death, as well. Comparing love and fame, it is worth saying that Sinuhe’s reputation is more important to him. He enjoys worship that his people demonstrate for him: “Every heart burned for me; the women jabbered. All hearts ached for me thinking: “Is there another champion who could fight him?”” (Was the story, 2012). In the same way, as has been mentioned above, political power is more important but family ties are an instrument that helps achieve and maintain it.
In Sophocles’ Oedipus The King, a tragic story is told. Due to the unfortunate fate Oedipus is to be killed when he is a kid, but he is lucky to survive. However, when he grows up, he has to fulfill the dark prophecy given to his father by Apollo’s oracles. His destiny is to kill his father and to marry his own mother. Oedipus is not aware about this prophecy, but it comes true: he accidentally kills Laius and later marries his widow Jocasta, who is his biological mother. It is remarkable that Oedipus is of royal blood and that he becomes a king. Fame is important within the story. Oedipus wants to be glorious and proves his right to be the king when resolving Sphinx’s riddle and saving the city. In a way, marriage is a trophy again, although he is quite genuine about Jocasta. Anyway, royal marriage is an instrument that serves to strengthen power and influence. At the same time, fame is not a key attraction for Oedipus; he is honest and generous when trying to serve his people. However, the play reveals the fact that family ties are extremely important because wrong family relationships crash the people’s lives, when the truth is finally revealed. Society is based on family; Oedipus loses all his power, when he loses family. Thus, comparing the meaning of love and fame, the story reveals that love is more meaningful as a value, and so is the significance of family ties, which is a higher priority than political power.
Speaking about Gilgamesh in this context, it is worth saying that while being a real historical leader, not a mythological person he became because of his deeds. He is the one who embodies vanity and urge for fame and glory. In contrast to Oedipus, who is willing to serve his people, Gilgamesh struggles with them. His value is political power and independence at any cost, so he is quite rebellious and not politically wise. However, gods create Enkidu as a balance for him because they are not pleased with his actions. Gilgamesg transforms in the course of time. He is initially very selfish but feels affection for Enkidu, although he fights him at first. In the same way, Enkidu changes when meeting Gilgamesh. So, the authors of the epic refer to the value of love, which is able to transform people in a positive way. It is said to be more important than power and fame, which cause only trouble to Gilgamesh. Besides, when Gilgamesh’s personality changes, he becomes a wise ruler, as well. He stops thinking about his private interests and desires and realizes that there are other people, for whom he should take responsibility. Thus, political power is an important value in the story compared to family ties, although the hero’s understanding of it changes throughout the plot. Besides, love is positioned to be higher than fame, which is clear from Gilgamesh’s transformation throughout the book.
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The Old Testament is a sacred book, which is a treasure of moral beliefs. The story of flood in Genesis 6-9 reflects the values, which were important for the epoch. This part describes the story of Noah’s building an arch to save his people from flood. Because people are not living virtuous lives, God is unhappy about his creation and decides to destroy it. However, because there is such a noble person as Noah, he gives a chance for salvation of humanity. In the process of building and leading the arch, Noah reveals his nature of a wise ruler who cares for others more than for himself. In the same way, the biblical story of Joseph is also remarkable in terms of values. It reveals an idea of family importance, as it is typical for the Old Testament in general. Joseph’s brothers betray him because of their jealousy, but he is able to forgive them because he realizes that love is more important than revenge. Although, at the beginning, he wants to teach them a lesson, he learns God’s mercy and tries to act in the same way. Joseph’s story is a vivid illustration of how family ties are more important than political power. Although Joseph becomes famous and receives all honors in the new land, he cannot stop thinking about his family, although they have treated them in a bad way. Similarly, love is more important than fame; Joseph is merciful to people and is ready to forgive them.
Thus, all of the mentioned works are reflections of their cultures and epochs. While the concept of honor is important for the ancient world, love and especially family bonds are also meaningful. The works promote an idea of being a wise ruler and carrying for the people, while marriage is still treated as a social bargain in order to ensure stability and to achieve success in community. Comparing the mentioned heroes, it is worth saying that family is an important value for Oedipus and Joseph, while political power is more important for Gilgamesh and Sinuhu. However, despite the fact that all these heroes become famous, love appears to be more important in the end. In today’s world, fame attracts many people who want attention. Yet, as the described experiences prove, none of the heroes becomes happy due to the fame only. It is human affection and family that help them in the first place.