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Gods in the Iliad and their interactions with their disciples

By ashmodexc Oct 23, 2014 1405 Words
In Homer’s The Iliad, readers are subjected to an epic that includes gods and goddesses that are intertwined into human society. These supreme beings are at most times less likely to display divine emotional characteristics, and instead display an extremely humane range of emotion. This can be seen in many different ways throughout the epic through the many squabbles, and humane emotional reactions that pop up from time to time as the actions of the gods begin to mirror the actions of the mortals. These god’s reactions are what allow the reader and many people of ancient societies to connect to these supreme beings throughout The Iliad, while also providing a sense of folly and comic relief. Their acts of vengeance, pity, compassion, and jealousy all remind the readers that these divine beings are present in the world around them. While reading The Iliad, many readers understand that they are reading of divine characters and their dealings with the earth due to the godly, and prolific powers that these beings are shown to have. But, for characters so divine and all powerful these beings are quite trivial in their dealings. Emotions that are near uncontrollable in human life are seen fairly often in The Iliad. Violent emotions become a hazard when portrayed by the gods. Emotions like vengeance and rage can be heightened by their divine powers thus causing a threat to all of the humans under this umbrella of emotion. Vengeance, can be seen displayed by Apollo as he “swept the fatal plague through the army” (Book one, 77, line 11). This wrath was brought upon all due to Agamemnon disrespecting Apollo’s Priest on Earth. Chryse’s prayer is heard and vengeance is enacted on the Achaeans until the source of the plague is discovered. This vengeance from Apollo shows that he has empathy and pride just like the human characters and this connection to the mortal world allows him to enact his emotions in a humane imperfect way. Although these gods are separated from mankind with their divine abilities, and seem to be at times separate in their feelings for humans in general readers can see a sense of humane compassion in a lot of the gods actions. Even Zeus, the god over all gods and supreme ruler of the heavens, is shown to have compassion toward some of the mortals. Zeus’ decision making can actually be considered one of the most humane out of the gods on Olympus with many of his choices being based on his human qualities of pride, lust, and power. This humane compassion can be seen when Zeus’ son Sarpedon is going into battle with Patroclus. Sarpedon is fated to die by the hand of Patroclus, and although Zeus should understand the rules of fate he still feels the need to save his son from the death ahead of him. Even though Hera eventually convinces Zeus to consider otherwise, the fact that he considered saving a mortal son from the perils of fate that awaited him showed that Zeus did care for his lineage, and in fact almost defied fate in order to save Sarpedon. Zeus is a prideful god although he has nothing else to prove, his power and might are worshipped constantly, and this thought that he must must be superior is what shows his pride in his lineage. When Zeus labels his son Sarpedon as the “dearest of all men” and “the man I love most, my own son””(Book 16, Page 427, Line 515) he is placing his lineage above all the other gods and pronouncing his superiority even over the inhabitants of Mt. Olympus. His actions parallel with those made by humans in all societies due to mankind being a prideful species. People want to believe that their fore bearers are of the utmost importance on earth, and through this sense of pride the ancient greeks were able to connect on a basic level to even the greatest of the ancient gods. None of Homer’s epic would exist if it wasn't for a few goddesses and their humane parallels. Examples of vanity and jealousy are huge catalysts throughout The Iliad, and can be seen in many of the books and is especially portrayed by the goddesses’ Athena, Aphrodite, and Hera. These women compare heavily too modern day females vanity in their actions and reactions to their outside stimuli. The Iliad having been set 9 years into the Trojan War would never have reached this point theoretically if the war had never started. Thanks to the competition between the three goddesses on who was the fairest, Paris was given the most beautiful woman in the world. This woman, Helen of Troy so happened to be married to Menalaus and thus the taking of Helen is considered to be the catalyst of the Trojan War. Hera, Aphrodite, and Athena believing that they are each the fairest, thus show that they are humane and vain in their emotions. The choice that Paris made in this test affects his entire story as a character and creates an opportunity to show Hera and Athena’s other emotions, such as their jealousy, and rage. Hera and Athena in an act of hatred and scorn towards Paris, a prince of Troy, side with the Achaeans in an effort to destroy Troy. These actions based on their feelings of disdain caused by their need to feel worshipped are a giant contributor to the war as a whole, and show their weakness for human emotions. These gods and goddesses portrayed by Homer are not perfect in any way, shape, or form, and due to these flaws with jealousy, vanity, and anger these goddesses are relatable to the people of the earth and the many flaws that humanity carries. Society once again is connected to these superior beings not only because of their divine powers, and need to worship in order to receive sustenance, but also because of the feeling of similarity that these gods carry with society as a whole. Humans are a species that are prone to promises, grudges, and petty arguments; and due to these qualities inside The Iliad, the gods are depicted at the same emotional level as a majority of humans. Zeus, the ruler of the gods, is privy to keeping his word, thus Thetis’ wish, provided to her by Achilles, is granted and Zeus is from that point on, slightly favoring the trojans. Although he is considered to be all powerful, Zeus still grants Thetis’ wish in order to keep his word on the favor that he owes her. With all of his divine power Thetis’ request could have been denied easily, but Zeus’ humane nature shows up in his decision and he makes his choice, therefore connecting him to the honorable ways of the society at the time. Hera’s anger created from Paris giving the title of fairest to Aphrodite is seen as Zeus enacts on his favor. Her grudge allows her to see nothing but red for the Trojans and in turn she becomes annoyed with her husband’s decision which creates a mirrored situation to earthly relationships. Although these choices are extremely important to the fabric of the timeline, and fate in general, the gods are still depicted with a very comical and surprisingly human reaction to a situation/war that can cause the death of thousands upon thousands of people. Hera’s hurt feelings cause a bickering that can only be solved by a threat from Zeus, thus creating a sense throughout The Iliad of domestic unrest and a dysfunctional relationship that would be expected of a human couple, not of these divine and superior creatures. In conclusion, Homer allows the reader to step into a world of divine intervention, but this divine intervention is decided by surprisingly very human emotions. Because of these emotions Homer’s The Iliad allows the gods to be relatable to earthly society, and at sometimes mirror the events that occur on Earth. These gods might have the ability to change the tidings of wars, civilizations, and society in general, but because of their emotional tendencies it is justifiable to state that not all of the divine decisions are in fact perfect and instead are more privy to the emotional state of said god or goddess. Divinity therefore is more humane than usually understood and these similarities with human emotions allows a connection to the gods for people of all backgrounds. 1512 Words

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