Human Suffering in Ancient Civilization

Human Suffering in Ancient Civilizations
Suffering is a facet of life that all cultures must learn to deal with. Whether it is religion or mythology, humans must find a way to explain suffering and more importantly, death. Death is the single most unifying aspect of all cultures – after all, it doesn't discriminate. Ancient civilizations such as the Babylonians, Hebrews, and Greeks all had different mythology to explain the reasons behind suffering and death, but all of it is fundamentally the same. When life seems too harsh and unhappy, society will create a way to welcome death. This is true throughout the entire history of civilization, even today. However, in ancient times, it was much easier for the people to swallow because it also provided an explanation for all the unexplainable that occurred around them all the time.
The concept of divine intervention seems to pervade Mesopotamian culture when concerning suffering and death. In "Lament for Ur," the God Enlil punishes the city of Ur by summoning a hurricane that ravages the town until "the people lay in heaps." This idea of divine intervention explaining the suffering brought on by a hurricane is the only way their ancient culture had of dealing with the random nature of such an event. Since there was no way of predicting a hurricane, it had to be an act of an angry and vengeful God.
A view of pessimism resulted from the way Mesopotamia viewed suffering. If there was nothing that could be done to predict it, if no god can be prayed to for assistance, then how can one have an optimistic view of life? In "Mesopotamian Wisdom Literature," the author conveys his frustration to the Gods. "What is good for oneself may be offense to one's God/What in one's heart seems despicable may be proper to one's God," he bemoans, his pessimism towards the gods and life in general a direct result of the suffering he has en…


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