Pegasus

Pegasus, the winged horse | Apulian red figure vase C4th B.C. | Tampa Museum of Art
Pegasus at the spring, Apulian red-figure vase
C4th B.C., Tampa Museum of Art


Pegasus is one of the best known mythological creatures in Greek mythology. He is a winged divine stallion usually depicted as pure white in color. He was sired by Poseidon, in his role as horse-god, and foaled by the Gorgon Medusa. He was the brother of Chrysaor, born at a single birthing when his mother was decapitated by Perseus. Greco-Roman poets write about his ascent to heaven after his birth and his obeisance to Zeus, king of the gods, who instructed him to bring lightning and thunder from Olympus.




The winged horse Pegasos bursts forth in birth, from the decapitated neck of the Gorgon Medusa. The hero Perseus wings away with her head tucked inside his kibisis sack.
Metropolitan Museum, New York City, USA 

Medusa and Pegasus

Pegasus and Perseus with the head of Medusa - Peter Paul Rubens

     Now she pulled her cowl down again. Her hair writhed with the serpentine undulations. The golden snakes separated from her locks and hissed softly. Perseus stood still, both enthralled and terrified. From her forelock, one strand of hair turned darkest black, red eyes glowing like coals.
     “Do you know who this is, Perseus?”
     “Venpay” he breathed.
     She nodded. “You have seen his children’s work. Venpay has the purest venom in the world. When his fangs sink, my death will be certain, and none can reverse it. He tells me because of my close proximity to him for many months, I will not be spared an instant death. My time will take perhaps a few minutes, and it will be a death of asphyxiation and fear. He advises that it would be a kindness to sever my head." She pointed to the adamant sword. “Using that, it would be instant and painless.”
     He looked away. “I cannot kill the woman I love.”
     She spoke. “I understand the prophesy. Only the man who truly loves me can do this. A strike to me will be a strike to Poseidon himself, and on my behalf.”
     She saw him waver. She walked to him and kissed him gently, softly, then reached and caressed his face, smiling, at peace. “This is the time.”
     She reached back and took the sole black lock from her scalp. She kissed Venpay and stroked his head. She whispered to him, then smiled and spoke to Perseus. “I am thanking him for his gift of his venom. It is a singular honor never before bestowed upon a mortal.”
     She gently took Venpay’s head and held it to her wrist. “Strike at my command, Perseus. Our sons, Cassup, and all within can be saved."
     The ancient serpent god wrapped around her wrist, and then gently sank its fangs into her skin. Even as he watched, stunned, she began to pale and slow.
     “Strike, if you have strength!" The voice was Stheno's.
     “Strike, if you have courage!" The voice was Euryale’s.
     “Strike, if you love me." The voice was Medusa’s, and weakening fast.
     Nearly blinded by tears, he brought the adamant blade in a perfect arc toward her neck. The last mortal words she heard were his cry for forgiveness.

Peter Paul Rubens

 ***
     Her lids closed as she awaited the sword’s blessed release. She had planned for her last moments to be in prayer for the delivery of her children, but as her eyes shut, she found herself detached from her body and back in that of the dream horse. Instead of paralysis, the coursing venom seemed to impart immense strength and vitality.
     She ran with all her strength, boldly and without hesitation toward the cliff. Her front hoofs found the edge and she leapt with joy, reaching for the stars themselves breaking through the evening skies. All fear was banished, replaced by elation.
     In the moment when she was perfectly balanced between the strength of the leap and the pull of gravity, a rippling came from her shoulders. Instinctively she pushed down, then up. Huge wings had unfurled, bedecked in white feathers each longer than a man’s arm. She pulled herself up into the air, striving for the beckoning stars, hoofs catching on the air as if it were turf. She cried out in a shout of delight, the sound swirling the cosmos.
     Stars shattered and scattered and realigned. 

Excerpt - S.D. Hine's Medusa

Chrysaor

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 31. 13 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :

“As Medousa was slain [by Perseus], the neck was delivered of its twin birth, the Horse [Pegasos] and the Boy [Khrysaor] with the golden sword.”




 Chrysaor, son of the Gorgon at the pediment of the Temple of Artemis in Corfu

PERSEUS, MEDUSA & THE GORGONS

From Medusa's dead body the giant Chrysaor and the winged horse Pegasus, her son by Poseidon, sprang forth.  Chrysaor was often depicted as a young man



The hero Perseus flees from the scene of the decapitated Gorgon Medousa. He is depicted as a hero armed with two hunting spears, wearing winged boots, a cap, and the kibisis bag containing the head of Medousa. A second almost identical figure (with chlamys cloak) is the god Hermes. Behind the pair follows Athene with her aigis cloak outstretched. The scene shows all three Gorgones, winged maidens with a pair of serpents sprouting from their waists. The middle sister is the decapitated Medousa, from whom is born the boy Chrysaor and the winged foal Pegasus. 






The Birth of Pegasus and Chrysaor

From Medusa's decapitated body the giant Chrysaor and the winged horse Pegasus, her son by Poseidon, sprang forth. 



Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898), The Birth of Pegasus and Chrysaor, c. 1876-1885

More Athena and the Aegis

Athena often helped heroes, like Jason and Perseus. She wore an aegis, a goatskin shield which had a fringe of snakes. When Perseus killed the gorgon Medusa, whose face turned men to stone, he gave the gorgon head to Athena, and the goddess placed it on her aegis.


Athena wearing her aegis, with its snake-fringe and gorgon head
Toledo 1963.26, Attic black figure calyx krater, c. 520-515 B.C.


Athena depicted on an Attic red figure amphora from ca. 525 BC. Her aegis is positioned over her right shoulder so that the Gorgon head—the head of serpents—is seen in full frontal-face. The look of the Gorgon Medusa had the power to turn men to stone. The glare of Medusa still mesmerizes those who don’t look away to Genesis to discern Athena’s true identity.

Athena and the Aegis

Medusa was killed by the hero Perseus with the help of Athena and Hermes. He killed her by cutting of her head and gave it to Athena, who placed it in the center of her Aegis, which she wore over her breastplate.



The Aegis is a protective device that was originally associated with Zeus, but also, and later solely, with Athena. It is variously considered to be a bright-edged thundercloud (because when Zeus used it lightning flashed and thunder sounded) fashioned by Hephaestus, or the skin of the divine goat Amaltheia. It is represented as a sort of cloak, sometimes covered with scales and fringed with serpents, and with the head of Medusa fastened in the middle. The Aegis could also serve as a shield and in that fashion Athena wears it upon her breastplate. 

This statue of Athena from the old Parthenon, now in the Acropolis Museum, shows her snaky aegis well. 

Perseus Delivers the Head of Medusa


Edward Burne Jones depicts Perseus showing Andromeda the head of the slain Medusa.  According to mythology, even looking at the dead Medusa would turn you to stone and she could only be viewed safely through her reflection.

Notice while Andromeda is looking at Medusa, Perseus is gazing steadily at Andromeda.

Slaying of Medusa

Perseus rendered his name immortal by his conquest of Medusa.The conqueror placed Medusa's head on the shield of Athena which he had used in his expedition. The head still retained the same petrifying power as before, as it was fatally known in the court of Cepheus

Perseus and the head of Medusa in a Roman fresco at Stabiae


Perseus and Medusa. Pompeiian wall painting, ca. AD 50 - 79. Perseus, carrying head of Medusa, liberates Andromeda; dead sea monster at left.

The Death of Medusa



     Now she pulled her cowl down again. Her hair writhed with the serpentine undulations. The golden snakes separated from her locks and hissed softly. Perseus stood still, both enthralled and terrified. From her forelock, one strand of hair turned darkest black, red eyes glowing like coals.
     “Do you know who this is, Perseus?”
     “Venpay” he breathed.
     She nodded. “You have seen his children’s work. Venpay has the purest venom in the world. When his fangs sink, my death will be certain, and none can reverse it. He tells me because of my close proximity to him for many months, I will not be spared an instant death. My time will take perhaps a few minutes, and it will be a death of asphyxiation and fear. He advises that it would be a kindness to sever my head." She pointed to the adamant sword. “Using that, it would be instant and painless.”
     He looked away. “I cannot kill the woman I love.”
     She spoke. “I understand the prophesy. Only the man who truly loves me can do this. A strike to me will be a strike to Poseidon himself, and on my behalf.”
     She saw him waver. She walked to him and kissed him gently, softly, then reached and caressed his face, smiling, at peace. “This is the time.”
     She reached back and took the sole black lock from her scalp. She kissed Venpay and stroked his head. She whispered to him, then smiled and spoke to Perseus. “I am thanking him for his gift of his venom. It is a singular honor never before bestowed upon a mortal.”
     She gently took Venpay’s head and held it to her wrist. “Strike at my command, Perseus. Our sons, Cassup, and all within can be saved."
     The ancient serpent god wrapped around her wrist, and then gently sank its fangs into her skin. Even as he watched, stunned, she began to pale and slow.
     “Strike, if you have strength!" The voice was Stheno's.
     “Strike, if you have courage!" The voice was Euryale’s.
     “Strike, if you love me." The voice was Medusa’s, and weakening fast.
     Nearly blinded by tears, he brought the adamant blade in a perfect arc toward her neck. The last mortal words she heard were his cry for forgiveness.
***
     Her lids closed as she awaited the sword’s blessed release. She had planned for her last moments to be in prayer for the delivery of her children, but as her eyes shut, she found herself detached from her body and back in that of the dream horse. Instead of paralysis, the coursing venom seemed to impart immense strength and vitality.
     She ran with all her strength, boldly and without hesitation toward the cliff. Her front hoofs found the edge and she leapt with joy, reaching for the stars themselves breaking through the evening skies. All fear was banished, replaced by elation.
     In the moment when she was perfectly balanced between the strength of the leap and the pull of gravity, a rippling came from her shoulders. Instinctively she pushed down, then up. Huge wings had unfurled, bedecked in white feathers each longer than a man’s arm. She pulled herself up into the air, striving for the beckoning stars, hoofs catching on the air as if it were turf. She cried out in a shout of delight, the sound swirling the cosmos.
     Stars shattered and scattered and realigned. 

Excerpt - S.D. Hine's Medusa

Medusa and Poseidon

 
Poseidon on an Attic kalyx krater (detail), first half of the 5th century BC.


Poseidon desecrated the temple of Athena by seducing the young and beautiful Medusa within the sacred chambers. The goddess found this behavior so deplorable that she punished the maiden by changing her into a hideous monster. Just one look into her abhorrent face would instantly turn any observer into stone.


Poseidon moves towards the Gorgon Medousa holding a trident in his hand. The Gorgon has a crown and belt of snakes. Beside her a double Medousa lies beheaded. The winged horse Pegasos springs forth from her neck.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts, USA


 The quiet was unnatural in this temple that had so recently heard the clash of bronze, the cries of fear, and the groans of the dying. Now, silence was more alien than the blood splattered walls.

    She walked down the corridor, careful to avoid slipping in a puddle of blood too fresh to have congealed. A snaking tendril of sunshine illuminated a passage, and she paused to observe the sole occupant: A priest stood frozen, mouth open in a silent shout, arm raised and holding a sword. He would hold that pose until he was buried or burned, like so many others.

     She continued her walk, ignoring other frozen men until she reached the center sanctum. There, towering above, was the statue of Poseidon, his thrusting trident held above his head. Marble eyes flashed aquamarine for a moment, illuminating the scowling visage. Dimly, she registered the bloody, torn bodies of two priests tossed in the corner like a child's rag doll.

     Delicate fingers reached to the cowl of her robe and let it fall. Golden hair cascaded around her shoulders, framing a striking face. As her green eyes locked with Poseidon's, her hair seemed to rise, hissing and writhing, golden serpents replacing her tresses.

     "Greetings, Lord Poseidon" she whispered. "Remember me?"


~ Excerpt from Medusa

The Finding of Medusa


Perseus sought out Medusa's lair, surrounded as it was by the petrified remains of previous visitors, and he found the Gorgon sleeping.


The Calling of Perseus

 


At the beginning of his quest for the head of Medusa, Perseus receives help from the goddess Athena, although at first he spurns her words of advice. She gives him a sword and a mirror to protect him from the Gorgon, whose glance turns men to stone. He next proceeds to the three Graiae, who collectively share a single tooth and a single eye, which Perseus snatches from them in order to gain information about where he can find the sea nymphs. After he discovers the cave of the nymphs, they bestow on him the winged sandals of Hermes, the helmet of invisibility and a bag in which to carry Medusa's head.

Perseus pursued by Gorgons by "The Gorgon Painter" 580 BC



The handsome bowl atop this fancy stand in the Louvre (F874) is a dinos, a punch bowl that was filled with wine mixed with water and set out to serve the guests at a banquet or dinner party and into which they could dip their wine cups. We wonder, however, whether this one was ever put to such a use, its stand being so elaborate as to suggest it was created mainly as an ostentatious showpiece. It was made in Athens about 580 BC and painted by a painter who didn't sign it but is known today as "The Gorgon Painter," after this famous vase.

Most of the vase and its stand are painted in a series of bands or "friezes" with abstract geometric designs or rows of animals in the older "Geometric" and "Corintian" styles. Only the top band or frieze is given over to story-telling involving mythic heroes and their gods. The hero here is Perseus, who, backed by Athena and Hermes, set out to behead the mortal Gorgon Medusa and bring her head back to Athena. On the vase we see Hermes and Athena standing by to protect Perseus right after he beheaded Medusa and now flees from her two immortal sister Gorgons.



Hermes and Athena abet the murder of Medusa, who falls headless, as her sister Gorgons chase after Perseus. The Louvre notes that "In place of her severed head, the painter has drawn a series of hatched strokes." I think he meant them as spurting streams of blood. Note, below the geometric palm frieze in the band below them, in the same "kneeling/running" pose as the three Gorgons, the Mistress of the Beasts between a lion and a lioness.



Medusa's two sister Gorgons chasing Perseus. Like Medusa, all three figures here wear winged ankle-boots, signs of speed as well as flight, and all four of them are drawn in the "kneeling-running" pose that prevailed in the Archaic period. Also, unlike Perseus, all three Gorgons have Archaic wings curved like scythes, and they are twisted from the waist up to face and frighten the viewer and ward off evils or whatever. 


Reposted from Ancient Worlds

Perseus Pursuing Medusa

Perseus, wearing the winged cap and boots of Hermes, chases after the Gorgon Medousa with sword drawn. The Gorgon is depicted as a winged woman with talonned hands, a broad round face, wide mouth, protruding tongue and staring eyes.


More Perseus and the Hesperides

The Arming of Perseus - Edward Burne-Jones

The Arming of Perseus -  Edward Burne-Jones 

Athena instructed Perseus to find the Hesperides, who were entrusted with weapons needed to defeat the Gorgon. Following Athena's guidance, Perseus sought out the Graeae, sisters of the Gorgons, to demand the whereabouts of the Hesperides, the nymphs tending Hera's orchard. The Graeae were three perpetually old women, who had to share a single eye. As the women passed the eye from one to another, Perseus snatched it from them, holding it for ransom in return for the location of the nymphs. When the sisters led him to the Hesperides, he returned what he had taken.

Athena wearing her aegis, with its snake-fringe and gorgon head Toledo 1963.26, Attic black figure calyx krater, c. 520-515 B.C. 



From the Hesperides he received a knapsack (kibisis) to safely contain Medusa's head. Zeus gave him an adamantine sword and Hades' helm of darkness to hide. Hermes lent Perseus winged sandals to fly, while Athena gave him a polished shield. Perseus then proceeded to the Gorgons' cave. 

Perseus and the Hesperides

 THE HESPERIDES were the goddesses of the evening and golden light of sunset. The three nymphs were daughters of either Nyx (Night) or the heaven-bearing Titan Atlas. They were entrusted with the care of the tree of the golden apples which was first presented to the goddess Hera by Gaia (Earth) on her wedding day. They were assisted in their task by a hundred-headed guardian drakon named Ladon. Herakles was sent to fetch the apples as one of his twelve labours, and upon slaying the serpent, stole the precious fruit. However, Athena later returned them to the Hesperides.

The Hesperides were also the keepers of other treasures of the god. Perseus obtained from the artifacts he required to slay the Gorgon Medusa.

The three nymphs and their golden apples were apparently regarded as the source of the golden light of sunset, a phenomena celebrating the bridal of the heavenly gods Zeus and Hera.


Detail of the three Hesperides, the tree of the Golden Apples and the coiling Drakon - British Museum, London, UK

Perseus and the Graiae

At the beginning of his quest for the head of Medusa, Perseus receives help from the goddess Athena, although at first he spurns her words of advice. She gives him a sword and a mirror to protect him from the Gorgon, whose glance turns men to stone. He next proceeds to the three Graiae, who collectively share a single tooth and a single eye, which Perseus snatches from them in order to gain information about where he can find the sea nymphs. 

After he discovers the cave of the nymphs, they bestow on him the winged sandals of Hermes, the helmet of invisibility and a bag in which to carry Medusa's head.

Edward Burne-Jones - Perseus and the Graiae




The Gorgon Sisters' Sisters

The Graeae were two, or some say three, ancient sea-daimones (spirits) who personified the white foam of the sea. They were grey from birth, and shared among themselves a single detatchable eye and tooth.

Perseus & Graea, Athenian red-figure krater
C5th B.C., Archaeological Museum of Delos


The graeae guarded the passage that led to where their sisters were. When Perseus was searching for Medusa, he stole their one eye and one tooth which they shared, forcing them to help him find and kill Medusa. 

Their names suggest rather dire monsters--Deino "the terrible." Enyo "the warlike" and Persis "the destoyer."

The Graiai were usually depicted as old crones. However according to Aeschylus they were Seiren-shaped monsters with the head and arms of old women and the bodies of swans.

Perseus Returning the Eye of the Graiai, Henry Fuseli.


Euryale

Euryale was the second eldest one of the Gorgons, three vicious sisters with brass hands, sharp fangs, and hair of living, venomous snakes.

Euryale's name is translated to mean "far-roaming." She was known for her bellowing cries. Her cries were projected from her due to her mourning for her sister. It is said that Athena invented the flute to try and copy the cries of Euryale.

She and her sister Stheno, were immortal, where as Medusa was mortal. In some versions of mythology, Euryale also had the ability to turn anyone to stone with her gaze. They were daughters of primordial sea god and goddess Phorcys and Ceto, who personified the dangers of the sea. In many stories, Euryale is noted for her bellowing cries, particularly in the tale of Medusa's death at Perseus' hands.



Museum of Nabeul Athena tossing away the flutes she had just invented. She did so after she realized (by seeing her image in a river) that playing them disfigured her face (from Kelibia)






Stheno

Stheno in Greek mythology, was the eldest of the Gorgons, vicious female monsters with brass hands, sharp fangs and "hair" made of living venomous snakes. Her name can be translated as “forceful” or “mighty.” She and her sister Euryale were both immortal, and the third sister, Medusa, was mortal until she was immortalized in her hideousness by Athena.

Of the three Gorgons, she was known to be the most independent and ferocious, having killed more men than both of her sisters combined. In Greek mythology, she was transformed into a Gorgon because of standing with her sister Medusa, who was raped by the sea god Poseidon in the Temple of Athena.


Athena wears the ancient form of the Gorgon head on her aegis, as the huge serpent who guards the golden fleece regurgitates Jason; cup by Douris, Classical Greece, early fifth century BC – Vatican Museum

The Gorgons Stheno Medusa and Eryale

Before gargoyles protected the buildings of Europe, the fearsome Gorgons served a similar purpose. The Gorgons were monsters, whose faces turned those who saw them to stone. They protected Greek buildings, as carvings or mosaics, and in smaller versions, they served as protective amulets.

The three Gorgons, Stheno, Euryale, and Medusa, were sisters, but only two were immortal. Medusa could be killed, and was, by the hero Perseus, a son of the great god Zeus. 


All three terrible sisters had brass hands, fangs, golden wings, and sometimes serpent skin or even serpent bodies. Their hair was all snakes, or else snakes twined and hissed among their hair. Their glare, of course, was deadly.

They were born in the caverns beneath Mount Olympus (except Medusa perhaps). Their father was Phorcys, a primordial merman-seagod. Their mother was Ceto, a sea monster after whom the Cetaceans, the whales and their kin, are named. Both parents were the children of Gaia, the earth, and Pontus, the encircling sea.


A Gorgon head on the outside of each of the Vix-krater's three handles, from the grave of the Celtic Lady of Vix, 510 BC

MEDUSA


Medusa was originally a ravishingly beautiful maiden, "the jealous aspiration of many suitors."

Poseidon, the Lord of the Sea and brother to Zeus, laid eyes on the beautiful Medusa and immediately wanted to possess her.

However, Medusa was a chaste woman and wanted nothing to do with Poseidon and took refuge in the temple of Athena, hoping that the virgin goddess would protect her.



Aspecta Medusa: 1867 Dante Gabriel Rossett

The legend of Theseus and the Minautor Master of Cassoni Campana - beginning opf the 16th century.

Italian Painting Avignon in four panels and more than six meters length, the Master of Cassoni Campana tells the legend of Theseus and the Minautor. This masterpiece abounds with details and can be read like a modern comic strip. 

 
Passions of  Pasiphae


The Defeat of Athens by Minos, King of Crete, from the Story of Theseus


Ariadne in Naxos, from the Story of Theseus

Theseus and the Minotaur, from the Story of Theseus






Atalanta

Atalanta was a virgin huntress, unwilling to marry, and loved by the hero Meleager.

Atalanta was a disappointment to her father because she was a girl, so he exposed her, but the goddess Artemis favored and protected her. Atalanta grew to be a top athlete.
 

Peleus and Atalanta wrestling, black-figured hydria, c. 550 BC, Staatliche Antikensammlungen (Inv. 596).

She was such a fast runner that Aphrodite had to provide her opponent with a trick to enable him to beat her. 


The Race between Atalanta and Hippomenes, by Nicolas Colombel (1644-1717), Liechtenstein Museum, Vienna. Atalanta is slowed as she picks up the golden apples rolled down by her rival
 
She was one of the many Greek heroes known as Argonauts who went with Jason to fetch the Golden Fleece.

When Artemis was forgotten at a sacrifice by King Oineus, she was angered and sent the Calydonian Boar, a wild boar that ravaged the land, men, and cattle and prevented crops from being sown. Atalanta joined Meleager and many other famous heroes on a hunt for the boar. 


Many of the men were angry that a woman was joining them, but Meleager, though married, lusted for Atalanta, and so he persuaded them to include her. Atalanta was incredibly fast and accurate with missiles. She was first to strike the Calydonian Boar.  After Meleager finally killed the boar with his spear, he awarded the skin (or head) to Atalanta. 



Meleager Presenting The Head of the Calydonian Boa to Atalanta, Crosato Giovanni Battista

Theseus and Pirithous and the Calydonian Boar

Theseus and Pirithous were among the company of heroes that hunted the Calydonian Boar.  The Calydonian Boar is one of the monsters of Greek mythology that had to be overcome by heroes of the Olympian age.

The Calydonian hunt. Tondo of a Laconian black-figure cup, ca. 555 BC.

King Oeneus ("wine man") of Calydon, an ancient city of west-central Greece north of the Gulf of Patras, held annual harvest sacrifices to the gods on the sacred hill. One year the king forgot to include Great "Artemis of the Golden Throne" in his offerings Insulted, Artemis, the "Lady of the Bow", loosed the biggest, most ferocious boar imaginable on the countryside of Calydon. It rampaged throughout the countryside, destroying vineyards and crops, forcing people to take refuge inside the city walls (Ovid), where they began to starve.

Oeneus sent messengers out to look for the best hunters in Greece, offering them the boar's pelt and tusks as a prize


Calydonian Boar Hunt , Frieze from the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford





Theseus and Pirithous

Theseus and Pirithous fight a centaur attempting  to steal a bride from a wedding party


Thousands of years before there were "Buddy Films" in Hollywood, such as the "Lethal Weapon" series, "Men In Black", etc, there was Theseus and Pirithous.

Pirithous was said to be a prince of Lapith. Having heard much of Theseus, he decided to test the Athenian's mettle by stealing his cattle. When Theseus showed up in hot pursuit, the two men faced off…and found they liked each other. And thus began a friendship that was akin to that of Achilles and Patrocles. Theseus and Pirithous were brothers thereafter and fought shoulder-to-shoulder, battling drunken Centaurs at a wedding party, kidnapping a young Helen of Troy, and even raiding the realm of Hades to steal his bride, Persophene.

Though one of the first, the buddy story of Theseus and Pirithous was not the first. 

That nod goes to "The Epic of Gilgamesh". Taken from cuneiform tablets, it is the possibly the earliest work of literature known to man. 

Gilgamesh, the king of Ur in ancient Mesopotamia, seeks to capture a "wild man" called Enkidu. Enkidu was created by the gods to counter the powerful Gilgamesh because they feared his strength. But instead of a counter to the burgeoning might of men, Enkidu and Gilgamesh become best friends. When the gods kill Enkidu because Gilgamesh spurns the advances of a goddess,  Gilgamesh embarks on a quest to defeat death, and encounters Noah and his wife, the only two people the gods granted immortality (The story of God, Noah, and the Ark predates the Bible). Gilgamesh finally learns that the lot of man is death, and comes to terms with it.