Triggs, Richard Per.5, 11/11/01 The Concept of Immortal When realizing the earliest civilizations known to man, three great and ancient cultures come to mind: the Sumerians, the Hebrews, and the Greeks. All these cultures were vastly unique from one another and are generally known as separate entities. However, there is an idea amongst these three cultures, which conflicts with this generalization. This idea is the following: there is similarities between the Bronze Age Greeks and the Sumerians, as well as similarities between the Classical Age Greeks and the Hebrews, over the concept of life after death.
The Sumerians were the earliest of these ancient civilizations and were first of these archaic cultures to grasp an idea of immortality. The Sumerians' funeral ceremonies consisted of a burial within the ground. The deceased body was placed in the ground, but the Sumerians knew nothing of a life after death and made no assumptions on the idea that there might be a heaven.
This idea affected the culture of the Sumerian greatly because, with no dictated belief in an afterlife, the Sumerian people believed should be happy and merry while you were still alive and to enjoy to the fullest. "The Epic of Gilgamesh advocates this concept. "Utnapishtim said, 'There is no permanenceÃ¢ÂÂ¦life and death they allot but the day of death they do not disclose.'" The Hebrews acquired a different philosophy on the ideas of immortality than that of the Sumerian culture. Unlike their neighbors, the Hebrews believed there was an afterlife and that one's actions do affect how one is treated the new life lived after death. With this idea in mind, the Hebrews were a religious people and kept readings of their beliefs in a book known as the Old Testament. This was the doctrine they had ensued and the Hebrews expressed this idea of eternal life through this collection of books. "Whither shall I go from the spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: If I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there." The Greek idea immortality has been a conflicting one. During the Bronze Age or Heroic Age of the Greeks, the Greeks had burial rites, but were very unsure of whether or not life was still existing after death. This was almost exactly alike to the philosophy of the Sumerians. However, as the rise of city-states became evident, a new time period known as the Classical Age had begun and a new philosophy was adopted. These Classical Age Greeks had adopted a belief in Hades, the Greek god of the under world. This very different idea conflicting with the idea from the previous Bronze Age was very similar to that of the Hebrews.
The ideas of immortality between all three of the ancient western cultures have many differences amongst each other, but are similar in the fact that Greeks believed in the Sumerian concept of immortality as well as the Hebrew concept of a life after death. The Sumerians lived in a culture where no one had the knowledge of any life in a heaven or hell. The Hebrews believed in a grant into a heaven, bestowed upon those who lived a good life, and they further believed in a hell where the immoral and evil ones were sent. The median between these two concepts was the Greeks' conflicting ideas of immortality. In either case, the Sumerian concept of an unknown after life and the Hebrew concept of a life after death are reflected within the Greek cultures of the Bronze Age and Classical Age Greece.