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Examples of Parataxis, Epithets, and Repetition in the Epic of Gilgamesh

The Epic of Gilgamesh is considered one of the primogenial myths revealed in written form. Although this text was derived from oral accounts, it portrays numerous characteristics of the traditional oral myth. The multiple elements witnessed in the Epic of Gilgamesh are epithets, parataxis, and repletion. Parataxis is a literary approach that uses short and simple and short sentences. Occasionally, these sentences coordinate with conjunctions. In this case, most parts of the Epic of Gilgamesh are written and presented in paratactic styles. More often, the parataxis was used during the storytelling forums since the listeners could follow the speaker without being confused since the sentences were short and brief, facilitating understanding. The short sentences and phrases narrated by the presenter were meaningful to the audience. Thus, this attracted the audience since they easily understood what the presenter wanted to tell them. Moreover, the parataxis was essential during the storytelling since they were accompanied by descriptions, facilitating understanding. The Epithets are the short phrases and words accompanying a name to add a description. In this Epic, repetition is applied to emphasize the changes made during the presentation of the text. In general, the replay at the start and the at the end develops attention on how the presenter of the story will change and in which criteria have been applied to enact the change.

A good example implying the application of parataxis is “Veni, Vidi, Vici” or “I came, I saw, I Conquered” (Hogue, 2017). Julius Caesar applied this phrase to help the audience understand the story he was telling. Although this phrase had a hidden meaning, it was applied to create understanding for the audience since it incorporated a wide range of meanings. For instance, this Latin phrase was applied to refer to a conclusive and swift victory. In this context, the parataxis has omitted the conjunctions in the phrase suggested by Julius Caesar. Another significant example of applied parataxis is portrayed in The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. Ernest has made a description in the form of a sentence that is not connected with conjunctions. This description states, “The steer was down now, his neck stretched out, his head twisted, he lay the way he had fallen” (Hogue, 2017). In this case, each clause in the sentence stands alone, and every clause is equal to the others with no connection among them. This creates an impressive aspect for the reader that means they may have all the information in the sentence at once, understanding all the clauses simultaneously despite having different meanings.

As initially stated, parataxis omits conjunctions and uses conjunction to connect two to sentences that can stand alone. The most commonly used conjunctions are; and, nor, yet, for, and so. For instance, “I went home and ate dinner” is a good example of parataxis applied in conjunctions to help the audience digest the two phrases in a sentence, their meanings, and how they are connected. This form of parataxis application is called coordinating conjunction. A subordinating conjunction is another parataxis application where two clauses are connected to impress the reader. In this case, one clause must depend on the other to make sense to the reader and facilitate understanding. A good example is, “I went home because I had to eat dinner.” In this sentence, the parataxis clause is connected so that one clause depends on the other to make sense and allow the reader to understand it. Furthermore, parataxis application is portrayed biblically. For instance, the phrase “And God said, let there be light, and there was light” (Kovacs, 1989). These are three phrases connected with a stable meaning. A good example of the application of parataxis in the Epic of Gilgamesh is the phrase, “He searched lands everywhere.” This phrase has a full meaning that is attractive to the audience to understand what is being described. In this case, since the phrase is short, the readers are able to follow the story closely without being confused. The sentences are presented continuously, making the audience understand what is being narrated. In this case, it is suggestible that parataxis is applied in the Epic of Gilgamesh to attract the audience hence facilitating understanding.

Stock epithets are the primary epithets applied in the Epic of Gilgamesh. They were the repeated words that primarily acted as the main descriptive words to the main characters. In this case, stock epithets described Gilgamesh as the hero. In this case, Gilgamesh was referred to as “a strong net,” “goring wild bull,” or the “raging flood wave” (Kovacs, 1989). Throughout the text, Gilgamesh is called a wild bull, applied in translations and fragments. Moreover, the application of epithets in the Epic of Gilgamesh is portrayed in his companionship with Enkidu. In this case, the companion is called the “offspring of silence .”The examples provided above show the proper usage of epithets which expresses a quality or a characteristic of a person. For instance, the phrase “offspring of silence” shows the characteristic of the companionship between Gilgamesh and Enkidu.

The phrase “the goring wild bull” was used as a trait to describe the character of Gilgamesh, which portrayed the image of power, masculinity, and violence equivalent to that of a bull. In this case, it was not a surprise to have Gilgamesh described as a hero due to his capability to cause violence, power, and masculinity. Moreover, the phrase “raging flood-wave” was used in the Epic of Gilgamesh to describe the characteristic life of the God-man, which the powers possessed by the God-man indicate. For instance, the phrase suggested that the God-man could even destroy the walls constructed with stone. Gilgamesh is considered Lugalbanda’s son, the initial king of Uruk (Kovacs, 1989). In this context, the story proceeds to describe that he possessed powers that could allow him to dig well in complex places like the flags of mountains; he opened mountain passes, crossed the ocean, and brought back the sanctuaries that the floods had destroyed. In this case, it meant that Gilgamesh was a God-like human. Perhaps, he was one-third a human and two-thirds a god. This is where he drew powers to do complex tasks that a normal human being could not perform. Like the wild bulls, he made himself powerful and handsome of all other persons existing. He also utilizes his powers to raise himself above others as well as make himself mighty. Rivals cannot form weapons against him; if they do, they cannot defeat him due to the powers he possesses to defend himself like a wild bull, as described in the Epic. His followers are often attentive to him and significantly follow his orders to the latter.

In this case, it is evident that epithets applied in the Epic of Gilgamesh were used to describe an individual’s characteristics primarily. In contrast, several phrases were used to portray how Gilgamesh behaved. For instance, “wild bull” was applied to portray how strong Gilgamesh was since he was, at a certain rate, a god and another rate, a human being (Kovacs, 1989). This means he had powers to control his followers, and no rival could defeat him.

Repetition has been applied throughout the text in the Epic of Gilgamesh to portray the changes he undergoes. In this case, repletion develops attention to how Gilgamesh will change, suggesting how he has changed. In this case, a good example of repetition in the Epic of Gilgamesh is seen when he is on his journey to immortality (Kovacs, 1989). Everyone he faces tells him the same thing on his way, and his response is the same to all people he encounters. In this context, the repetition converts the story into a poetic style, making it alive for the storyteller. Moreover, the Epic of Gilgamesh is poetic because it narrates a story rather than portraying the narrator’s feelings. He also changes his perspective to focus on gods rather than addressing earthly issues. He appreciates the greatness of others living in the city he rules. A sight of change is also witnessed when Gilgamesh is forced to change his mind and accept that he cannot be immortal while living on Earth. In this case, the main reason he was mandated to agree that he cannot be immortal on Earth is that people want him to live in legacy and adhere to other people’s memories. Notwithstanding the forms of repletion regarding Gilgamesh as outlined above, several phrases have been repeated during Gilgamesh’s journey with Enkidu to slay Humbaba. For instance, “At twenty leagues they broke bread, at thirty leagues they pitched camp, at fifty leagues they traveled in the course of a day” is repeated several times to portray the change (Kovacs, 1989).

In conclusion, the Epic of Gilgamesh was an epic poem narrated from ancient Mesopotamia. It is a poem about Gilgamesh, the king of Uruk. The epic poem was developed with adherence to repetition, parataxis, and epithets, all integrated into the poem to portray certain meanings. In this case, parataxis was a literal technique that applied short phrases to guide the audience to understand what was being narrated without confusion. The short phrases were presented continuously so that the reader could easily understand the concept of the poem. One of the short phrases in the Epic of Gilgamesh that portrays the usage of parataxis is “He searched lands everywhere.” It is a short phrase with a full meaning that cannot confuse the audience. On the other hand, epithets were short phrases that followed a name to add a description. For instance, Gilgamesh was referred to as “wild bull,” which portrayed a significant meaning about him. This phrase meant that he was strong than all other beings, like the wild bulls are strong. As a result, no one could direct weapons against him and survive. Lastly, repletion was applied in the Epic of Gilgamesh to show the changes he had undergone.


Hogue, C. (2017). Parataxis. LitCharts.

Kovacs, M. G. (1989). The Epic of Gilgamesh. Stanford University Press.


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