Fate is Not Your Own

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Fate is Not Your Own

What would it be like, to live in a world where one’s fate lays in the hands of unmerciful gods? The same gods who wreak havoc in the mortal world for sheer entertainment? Never knowing when one’s life would come to an end simply because a god was persuaded or coaxed; life would be brutal. The Greeks lived life by their fate – or predetermined course of events – the gods being the ones who predetermined it. Because one’s fate is predetermined, it cannot be changed or altered in any way. In The Iliad, Homer demonstrates the inescapable nature of fate in order to justify the gods’ actions when assisting the mortals in a victory.

Throughout The Iliad, we can see that even gods can be persuaded into meddling in the lives of the mortals. We first read about Achilles asking Thetis to “call in the debt that Zeus owes [her]” (Homer 1. 410) in order to “see if he is willing to help the Trojans” (1. 425) in the war. Instead of winning a victory alone, Achilles calls to the Gods for assistance. Although Zeus did not redirect the path of any individuals’ fate, he was able to justly assist Achilles, who was “dishonored by King Agamemnon” (1. 537), by giving the “Trojans the upper hand” (1. 439). We also see Apollo assisting Chryses when his daughter is taken from him. Chryses prayed to Apollo, who then “aimed his needle-tipped arrows at the men” (1. 59). Although Apollo does not kill Agamemnon directly, he still picks off Agamemnon’s men and cattle out of rage, making Agamemnon’s men realize they have displeased a god.

However, a god cannot be able to be persuaded into changing the fate of a mortal. Patroclus, “whose fate [had] long been fixed” (16. 478), was unable to escape his death. Even when “Zeus . . . pondered when Patroclus should die” (16. 678-681), Zeus realized Patroclus would die “in the conflict over godlike Sarpedon” (16. 683) because “it was fate” (16. 889). We see here that Zeus wants to help Patroclus so that “he should live to...
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