Classic Cultures 1110
Q: Consider the role of the gods in the Iliad. Why are they given credit or blame for so much of what happens at Troy? Does Zeus have ultimate control over the fate of these mortals? To what extent do the mortal characters exercise free will in their choice of actions? Be sure to discuss at least three separate episodes from the text to support your argument.
In Homer’s The Iliad, divine intervention is a recurrent theme in the epic. The epic portrays a world in which humans and Gods somewhat co-exist even though they are in very different worlds. We witness that heroes in The Iliad go through many troubles when “fate” and the Gods operate their lives. In Homer’s ...view middle of the document...
These gods can change sides quickly. For example, Zeus becomes involved in the war when Thetis convinces Zeus to help the Trojans, or when the same goddess gets Hephaistos to make a new suit of armor for Achilles.
The gods have the power to manipulate people’s emotions, the weather, they could disguise themselves as humans, or do basically anything they wanted. As you can see, the war wasn’t just humans versus humans. It was gods versus gods and humans were the pawns to be used for their desires or for fate to be adhered to.
One theme The Iliad talks about is fate. For example, in Book 20 of The Iliad, Apollo had come down and intervened during the fight between Hector and Achilles. Apollo had covered Hector in a mist and saved him from grave danger so Achilles would not be able to kill him. The reason that these heroes are saved from the midst of these battle was because of the adherence to fate. It was fated for Hector to live and it wasn’t his time yet.
Throughout the The Iliad, the Gods continual intervening into the human world was just to make sure fate was on its right course. When Patroclus was killed by Hector due to the help of Apollo, “Apollo advanced, veiled in a dense mist, invisible to Patroclus in the tumult, stood behind him and struck him in the back with the flat of his hand. The warrior’s vision spun, as Apollo knocked the helmet from his head, sending it under the horses’ feet with a clang, and the plumes on its crest were streaked with blood and dust. The gods had never allowed it to be fouled till then.” (16:789-791) Apollo knew that it was decided that Patroclus would not be the one to take Troy. In this instance, Apollo affected the outcomes of certain events to fulfill the fate to come.
The Iliad brings up the question of who or what is actually responsible for a man's destiny. It seems as if the most powerful god Zeus could control many of the events that transpire. As the leader of the gods who governs the law and social order, his job is to make sure that everything goes according to plan. In fact, the opening statement of The Iliad contains the phrase "the will of Zeus," which means that everything is up to Zeus. It is also a way of saying that there is no free will and all matters are in the hands of the gods. Also, even though the gods do not have a destiny, because they are immortal, they still have to follow fate because even when Sarpedon, Zeus’ son dies, Zeus considered saving him, even though it was against Sarpedon’s destiny.
In Book XXII, one...