The gods in The Iliad are very greedy, self-centered, vain, malicious, and two-faced. Homer does a very good job of showing us this throughout the entire epic poem, and he does it in such a way so that anyone who reads this can understand. All of the gods that get involved in this war have their own self-serving motives behind all of their interference.
Right in the very beginning of the epic poem, one of Apollo's priests prays to him to send a plague onto the Achaeans because they will not give him back his daughter. Apollo decides to go ahead and do what the priest asks because the priest is loyal and if he does do this then the priest will sacrifice many things in Apollo's name. The Achaeans gave the daughter back and sacrificed many bulls in Apollo's name while Apollo heard, "those young Achaean warriors singing out his power, / and Apollo listened, his great heart warm with joy" (I. ll. 565-566). It shows really that he did not do this just because the priest asked him to, but because he is greedy and wants more sacrifices and followers so that he can become more powerful among the gods. He also gets his sister Artemis to join the fighting on the Trojans side just because he has much influence over what she does.
We then have Achilles praying to his mother, Thetis, to have her speak to Zeus and get him to punish the Achaeans for this stupidity done by the commander, Agamemnon. Thetis of course agrees to talk to Zeus because Achilles is her son and she wants him to be safe and get what he wants. Thetis talks to Zeus and he gives his approval that it will be done. Thetis does this as well because she knows the prophecy that if Achilles fights in this war then he will die because she says that Achilles is , "Doomed to a short life, you(Achilles) have so little time" (I. l. 496). She does not want her son to die so she tells Achilles to, " stay here by the fast ships, rage on at the Achaeans, / just keep clear of every foray in the fighting" (I. ll. 504-505). This is very much self-centered because she does not want to see her son die. Thetis is greedy as well because she knows that there are other sons of gods and goddesses fighting in this war and that some of them will most likely die, but she only cares about her own son.
Now Hera is the worst goddess of them all. She only chooses to be on the Achaeans side because Paris, a Trojan, did not pick her to be the most beautiful out of the goddesses. She is so vain and full of herself that she pretty much seals the fate of Troy being destroyed just because someone said she was not the most beautiful. She sees that Zeus is helping the Trojans so she decides to trick her own husband, Zeus. She gets a belt from Aphrodite that makes anyone fall madly in love with the wearer. She then seduces Zeus and gets Sleep to put him to sleep. Once Zeus is sleeping, Hera sends Sleep to Poseidon to tell him that Zeus is in, " a deep, soothing sleep as soon as Hera / seduced great Zeus to lose himself in love" (XIV. ll. 427-418). This shows the true treachery of Hera because she really did not want to love Zeus, but it got him distracted long enough for the Achaeans to hurt the Trojans really bad. Hera embodies all of the bad traits, vain, self-centered, backstabbing, and very greedy. If she were a human today, she would definitely be friends with Paris Hilton.
The goddess that Paris did choose as the most beautiful was Aphrodite, the goddess of love. So she, of course, helps the Trojans out. She ends up getting a small injury during a battle and flees to Mount Olympus and convinces her husband, Ares, with her "charms" to go fight for her. He does do and ends up getting wounded and flees to Mount Olympus as well. Ares then says to Zeus, "We everlasting gods Ah what chilling blows / we suffer- thanks to our own conflicting wills- / whenever we show these mortal men some kindness" (V. ll. 1008-1010). Ares shows here that he knows the gods have their motives in this war by saying they have their own conflicting wills. He also gets injured by an Achaean that he himself was trying to kill. He says he was showing kindness to the humans when all he did was go down there and kill people, this shows how self-centered and malicious Ares really is.
Poseidon is a god that only does what he wants to for his own self gratification. Even though he is on the Achaeans side for most of the battle, he still does not really like either side. He is angry at the Achaeans for building a rampart and never sacrificing bulls. He is really pissed because, " men will forget those ramparts I (Poseidon) and Apollo / reared for Troy in the old days - / for the hero Laomedon we broke our back with labor" (VII. ll. 523-525). He is just thinking of himself and how the people will now forget this trouble he went through a long time ago. Again, he is being very self-centered and greedy. He then helps out the Achaeans because the Trojans kill one of his grandsons in the middle of book fourteen, showing more greed and vanity. Then Poseidon saves Aeneas, a Trojan, at the end of book nineteen because it will make Zeus happy and he will look more favorable on himself then. This is just another example of Poseidon showing that he is really greedy and self-centered.
Now, Athena, the goddess of wisdom, is helping the Achaeans out. She is helping the Achaeans because Hera asked her to so this will make Hera look more favorably toward her. She really does not do much actual fighting in the battles but she inspires people and gets them to fight like in book two with Odysseus. She is also the biggest deceiver and backstabber out of all the gods in this epic. She is always disguising herself to start fights as in book four when she gets an archer to shoot an arrow at Menelaus, but she, " deflected it down the belt / where the gold buckles clasp and breastplate overlap" (IV. ll. 152-153). She only did this to get the fighting started again. She is finally able to trick Hector into fighting Achilles and brings about his death. Hector finally realizes, " the gods have called me down to death. / I thought he was at my side, the hero Deiphobus- / he's safe inside the walls, Athena's tricked me blind" (XXII. ll. 351-353). He knows he has been tricked by Athena and it is as if he expected it to happen. Athena is only doing all of this for her own gain in the eyes of Hera because she is the queen of the gods.
Through all of Greek literature the gods play the most important role in all the stories. In most of the stories they behave like human beings, and Homer does an excellent job of portraying them for what they really are with brilliant language. He shows that they all have their own self-serving intentions. He also shows that they quarrel with each other, and they play with humans' lives just to have a little fun and excitement in their own. In actuality, they behave like little children and only do something if it is to their own benefit. The gods of ancient Greece are very self-centered, greedy, malicious, and very conniving. A very different perspective than the one we perceive of the different deities that the world looks at now.