The Role of the Gods in the Iliad, a Poem by Homer
What role(s) do the gods play in the narrative of the Iliad?
This is a world of two levels. One the divine, the other human; a vast part of the Iliad’s plot, action and meaning lies in their interlinking. That there are gods is as much a reality as the men Homer portrays. Although most obviously seen as fully-fledged individuals with particularised roles like that of Zeus the ‘chief’ and Hephaestus the ‘peacemaker’ (mirroring human personalities, Agamemnon the ‘overlord’ and Nestor the ‘diplomat’, usually in a comic and trivialising manner), they are nonetheless mysterious figures of extraordinary power and influence who practice a ritualised relationship of prayer and sacrifice with mankind. Whatever their characterisation, this all-pervasive presence in the poem makes them integral. If nothing else, the sheer number of appeals for heavenly aid places them implicitly in the drama. Indirectly and directly, they are there to steer the course of the Trojan War, as when Athena convinces the foolish Pandarus to fire the arrow that reignites the war in Book 4, and Zeus brings out the scales of immortal justice, which is also that of human fate and determines the death of Hector. Yet on a less serious perhaps level, they are capable of providing a bit of light relief. Another function to weigh against is their usefulness in creating contrast and stature. Counterpoints to the mortal realm, the differences that always separate man and god both define the tragic destinies of heroes and give them their dignity. When something happens, when immense feeling is felt, and Homer telling his story with the aid of the gods wants to emphasise its cosmic scale, you may be certain that the Olympians are there, behind it, watching it and sometimes moved by it.
From the beginning, the wrath of Achilles is not alone in effecting the plot. The first word, and principal driving force, may be the rage of Achilles, but this is soon followed in the narrative by a divine motivating source. ‘and the will of Zeus was accomplished / since that time when first there stood in division of conflict / Atreus’ son the lord of men and brilliant Achilles’. Here the gods are explicitly involved in the fate of men and the Trojan conflict; they are ‘the ones who drive on the ‘action’. As it is at the start so it is at the end when the very human reconciliation in Book 24 is masterminded by the gods. ‘so [Zeus] spoke’, and his delegates conduct ‘Priam to Achilles and [order] Achilles to yield to him the body of Hector’. The repetitive force of the many imperatives in the king of gods’ speech to Thetis (24.104 – 119),‘go’, ‘command’, ‘tell’, is merely the poetic expression of the ‘will’ that pervades and orders the entire tale. As a compositional device, the gods are enormously vital. Not only broadening the scope of the ‘Achillead’ from one man’s anger into a bunch of threads on the gods’ inevitable loom, the ‘plan of Zeus’, ‘ . . . also enables the poem to allow the Greeks to be beaten without losing face, as a side-effect of superior immortal resolve. It smoothes out the plot and aids the preservation of heroic dignity. In a combination of both these narrative roles, the gods actively intervene in the affairs of heroes. For, the rescue of Aeneas by his patron gods, his mother Aphrodite (5:318) and the sympathetic Poseidon (20: 325), serves to prevent the wasteful loss of warriors’ lives in otherwise thrilling duels (the tale can hardly bear a bloodbath of the noblest and best) and operates as a literal ‘deus ex machina’ to fulfil the poet’s awareness of the total story. The powerful god of the sea saves the mortal ‘for fear / the son of Kronos may be angered if now Achilles kills this man. It is destined that he shall be the survivor . . . Obviously Homer knows that this shall be the case and the gods are his omniscient, omnipotent bearers of future events.
The Iliad is both retrospectively and prospectively founded on a divine level. Their predictive knowledge of the Trojan War, its end and everything in between, ‘And glorious Hector shall cut down Patroclus / . . . In anger for him brilliant Achilleus shall then Hector . . . / [and then] the Achaians shall capture headlong Ilion’, ‘ . . . ’ (15: 59 – 68), is consistently reiterated and forms a large part of the poem’s tragic irony. When Zeus foretells the death of his son in battle with Patroclus, it is repeated again only moments before the fatal encounter: ‘among [those he will kill shall be] my own son, shining Sarpedon’, ‘’ (15: 67); ‘ / ‘Ah me, that it is destined that the dearest of men, Sarpedon, / must go down under the hands of Menoitios’ son Patroklos’ (16: 432). The cleverness of this arrangement is that the audience is also emotively complicit in his death. They ‘know’ even at the point he starts struggling in the dirt like an animal, ‘a blazing and haughty bull’ (16: 481), that it is useless and he will die. ‘Tears of blood’, (16: 460), are wept by his immortal father though and this all-too-human response points to another aspect of the gods that defines their narrative position. Not just human-like in their appearance, they are to be ‘regarded as truly anthropomorphic’. Subject to the same feelings as the human combatants, this makes them sadly more effective ‘than the poet’s own voice’ at creating ‘pathos and foreboding’ through their prognostications. They can be personally involved in a way that Homer simply cannot.
This is true also of their intense relationships and partisanships. The Olympians are depicted as a family divided; ‘Her father / Kronides caught her against him . . . / and questioned her: “Who now of the Uranian gods, dear child, has done such things to you . . .” / Artemis . . . answered him: “It was your wife, Hera of the white arms, who hit me, / father, since hatred and fighting have fastened upon the immortals’, ’ (21: 508 – 513). There are two points to this familiar characterisation. One is that such human parallels reflect a relatable situation presenting a former world of peace. Like the developed vista of the two springs in which the Trojan women used to wash their clothes ‘in the old days / when there was peace, before the coming of the Achaians’ (22: 156), the heavenly domestic drama offers an alternative, more pacific vision for the Iliad. On the other hand, there is the very pungent fact that as with any family the immortals ‘behave under Zeus . . . as individuals’. They have their own accustomed roles: Hermes is the one to whom ‘it is dearest / to be man’s companion’, ‘(24: 335 – 336), while Aphrodite is concerned largely with the ‘lovely secrets of marriage’. What’s more, such characterisations do indeed inform their behaviour. Hermes accompanies Priam on his perilous journey in Book 24, most appropriately for an end that while devised by gods is to do with human matters and human empathy, and requires a sympathetic hand to guide an old man. The goddess of love, in turn, fulfils her persona when in Book 3 she tries to inflame Helen with desire for her husband, ‘you would not think / that he came from fighting against a man; you would think that he was going / rather to a dance’, . Conversely, far from being human-like in their distinct characters, they may yet be stranger and more figurative. After all, Aphrodite inspires lust; she could very well be Lust. ‘Forces that we would consider psychological may also be attributed to an external and divine power’; abstract personifications, the gods in this perspective are more literary figures than believable entities. Herodotus’ belief that ‘it was Hesiod and Homer that created a theogony for the Greeks’ supports the idea of a flat religious expression of the pantheon within the text. However, this has been named naïve, coming as ‘a not very profound remark’ from an author who had not the benefit of any ‘prior source’. In any case, their family unit is like any family: too ‘temperamental and argumentative’ to be meant as anything other than real characters. They feast, ‘thus thereafter the whole day long . . . / they feasted’,’ (1: 601), laugh, ‘But Hera and Athena . . . began to tease the son of Kronos’, (5: 425 – 6), and fight for their chosen sides as much as the men involved, ‘for we two, Pallas Athene and I, have taken / numerous oaths and sworn them in the sight of all the immortals / never to drive the day of evil from the Trojans’(20: 310 – 12). For all their specific personalities, some more defined than others, the Olympians resemble in their Homeric portrayals nothing so much as a court hierarchy, all under the aegis of one Father and divided amongst themselves by different loyalties.
Hera’s statement of bitter, implacable hatred for the Trojans is not only peculiar to her (and Athena’s) role in the poem, their job being to support the Greeks and destroy their enemy at any cost, but forms that retrospective framework mentioned previously. The ‘Judgement of Paris’ is the cause that is never explicitly mentioned except in a hint at the last book, ‘[they] kept their hatred for sacred Ilion as in the beginning, / and for Priam and his people, because of the delusion of Paris / who insulted the goddesses when they came to him in his courtyard / and favoured her who supplied the lust that led to disaster’(24: 27 – 30). This is the reason for the animosity that leads the queen of the gods to ‘gather my people and bring evil to / Priam and his children’, 4: 30 – 1). This is why Troy falls. Of course, there is the concept of justice and right on the side of the Achaeans. When Menelaus is wounded by the archer Pandarus in Book 4, Agamemnon sees it as a breach of oaths and ‘they must pay a great penalty, / with their own heads’. The emphatic anaphora of, the second one further emjambed, has the powerful cadence of ritual, the sure trust of a mortal in the righteousness and strength of the gods’ laws. They certainly have the raw force to do it. Apollo’s ‘foul pestilence’,(1: 10), is the first terrifying vision the Iliad presents of the divine will in action. Again, like Hera and Athena’s anger, it drives the beginning of the plot: his sign of awful disfavour leads the Greeks to petition Agamemnon to return his prize, then he in turn forces Achilles and then . . . Still what is interesting is that Apollo’s reasons for righteousness are entirely selfish; the hurt done to his earthly representative dishonoured him. Rather than an externalised, impersonalised figurehead of religious morality (Chryses is a priest whose daughter has been violated), he is primarily a ‘mixture of awesome power and quarrelsome pettiness, reflected in ethics by his mixture of roles as guarantor of justice and amoral self-seeker’.
The number of prayers and sacrifices sent up to the gods shows them in the light of a reciprocal relationship with humanity. Man ‘makes sacrifices’, to palliate the wrath of Apollo in Book 1 and consecrate oaths in Book 3 between the two sides. Direct addresses are even more common, and revealing of the ambiguity of the gods’ attitudes towards and their positions concerning humans. So, at moments of great peril and importance, the divine are appealed to: Book 6, when the Trojan women beg for the goddess Athena to go easy on them and remember their piety towards her (258 – 9) and Book 24 (307 – 313), Priam seeking some sign of Zeus’ support for his seemingly crazy mission. The latter is answered; the former not. Athena is not thinking of the laws of reciprocity or ‘human fairness’ in rejecting the poor women. Her role has more to do with the upholding of a personal grudge than any moral judgement. Thus, the gods can reject the world of mortals as easily as they intrude to change or drive it. This curious paradox, of absolute involvement and identification, and yet blasé, callous detachment, may be seen in the fateful decision of Book 4. Agamemnon may think that the wielder of the thunderbolt, a force of nature, will grant Troy’s destruction ‘in anger for this deception’, (4: 165). In actuality, Zeus and Hera carry out a chilling exchange; compelled by her passionate hatred for the people of the man who slighted her, she agrees to hand over the fate of her favourite cities to her husband in return for Ilion, ‘all these, / whenever they become hateful to your heart, sack utterly’,. The simplicity of the imperative underscores her casual dismissal of the human life and achievement that is supposed to mean the most to her. In contrast to the Odyssey, whose opening lines illustrate the function of the gods as punishers of mortal immorality, ‘they were destroyed by their own wild recklessness . . . and the [Sun God] took away the day of their homecoming’ (i. 7 – 9), the divinities of the Iliad are more awful, selfish and apathetic.
If there is an implicit moral to Homer’s story of Troy it would be Achilles’ statement on how the interplay of gods and men affects the world: ‘Such is the way the gods spun life for unfortunate mortals, / that we live in unhappiness, but the gods themselves have no sorrows’. This is the fundamental part of the divine; to reflect to an extent, but ultimately show more by their differences, what it is to be human. It is a tragic vision. It is also a unifying one. Trojans and Greeks suffer the same mortal frailties and crucially the same gods. Unlike Virgil, who presents the Egyptians on the Shield of Aeneas with barbaric idols, Homer injects not only fairness, but also a common humanity into his dealing of two feuding people who nevertheless exists under one sky and one pantheon. Both limited by age and death, the Lycian Glaukos and the Greek Diomedes know men as ‘miserable’, and the gods as those ‘who live at their ease’, (6. 119 – 211). While heroes, however, ‘godlike’, are doomed to die and fail at some point in their careers, their heavenly counterparts are portrayed ‘uncontrollably’, laughing and listening ‘the whole day long’, to the lyre of Apollo (1: 601 – 4). Understandably, Homer’s gods have been accused of levity and ‘frivolous irresponsibility’. When Apollo blithely summarises the tragedy of mankind, ‘Shaker of the earth, you would have me be as one without prudence / if I am to fight even you for the sake of insignificant / mortals, who are as leaves now’, (21: 461 – 5), the audience is reminded of the trivial goings-on of the gods in battle. A parody of real combat, the ‘theomachia’ of Book 21 sees Artemis with her ears boxed, just as Asteropaios who was so proud of the generations that preceded him ‘like leaves on a tree’ is killed at the hands of Achilles. The contrast presents the yawning chasm between mortal and immortal that no hero, not ‘even Patroclus’, (21: 105), can bridge. Yet this ultimate ‘pathos’ gives Homer’s warriors a greater dignity that makes their inevitable fall both more tragic and more glorious. A paradox, this is clearly summarised by Longinus as the rendering of ‘the men of the Trojan war gods, and the gods men’. Heroism is explained as the willingness to accept death and still fight on; how can the gods reach that height if they are never to be faced with such a choice? However, there is seriousness in the figure of Zeus at least that emphasises his higher status as a divinity. The famous simile where he, in his role of punisher of the unrighteous, sweeps away in a vast flood those mortals whose ‘decrees are crooked’ (16. 385 – 95) represents the formidable justice of the king of the gods. Such a natural manifestation of moral force though is not the norm in the Iliad. Rather his, ‘eye’, is turned more on the world of men entire than those who contravene his laws. What interests the Olympians are not the ethics of the situation, as may be seen in Zeus and Hera’s agreement, but the panorama.
The distance between gods and mortals Apollo refers to in Book 21 enables them to ‘see’ humans like another audience in perhaps their most vital narrative role. Thetis’ ‘inconsolable grief’, and terrible foreknowledge make her the unique link between the two levels. In the same way, the gods are involved in the universe of men and removed, providing the listener with characters that are agents everywhere in the plot and passive commentators. For example, in Book 4, they are ‘gazing down on the city of the Trojans’ (4), and in Books 8 and 16 the same. Thus, when Zeus weeps in Book 16, as active griever of events and observer, we weep too; when in Book 8, he simply sits down to watch, we do also and are further alerted to the enormity of the passage.
In fact, the presence of the divine very simply elevates the mortal Trojan landscape into something worthy of attention. Whether to an audience of immortal beings or the real people drinking it all in, the story of the Iliad is remarkable, exciting and tragic. Its gods are an essential part of this.
A Question Of Moral in Iliad
Achilles is morally superior to Agamemnon
The long narrative poem, Iliad, combines the historical events of two legends of the ancient Greek. The two legends are mentioned to be the Greek king, Agamemnon, and the great soldier as well as Greek prince, Achilles. Homer’s Iliad portrays Achilles as possessing a superhuman strength and a close relationship with the gods. Through his superhuman characteristics, he proves the mightiest man in the Achaean army. He is also mentioned to be proud, similarly to the king and commander in chief of the Achaean army, Agamemnon. The two characters resemble in some aspects though Achilles is still morally superior to Agamemnon in many aspects.
Both Achilles and Agamemnon have a similarly hot temper and a flattering streak while Agamemnon comes out to be more arrogant than Achilles. In the poem, Achilles is portrayed as a character who is driven by a thirst for glory since he finds it difficult controlling his pride. Moreover, he possesses all the marks of a great warrior, proving to be the mightiest man in the Achaean army. Apparently, Achilles is willing to sacrifice everything so that he creates history in the military. On the contrary, Agamemnon over uses his influence to let other people feel the effect of his leadership. His is a character who appears to be very opportunistic and has the intention of acquiring the largest portions of the plunder although he does not take high risks in battle. In Homer’s Iliad, Achilles pride flares up after he is forced to withdraw from the war. On the other side, Agamemnon cannot afford to lose his pride no matter what comes his way. He appears to be a selfish leader who does not intend to hand over power despite the availability of other young people who have the leadership skills and are willing to serve. For instance, Agamemnon does not agree to hand over the leadership of the army despite the presence of his younger brother, Menelaus, whose wife, had been stolen from Paris, and has the real grievance against the Trojans (Homer).
It can, therefore, be argued out that Achilles shows his personal determination to display good morals despite the many challenges that he comes across as a great warrior. The rivalry between Achilles and Agamemnon, in this case, is indirectly caused by the nature of the traditional oral society. Agamemnon was the leader of the Greeks while Achilles was the great warrior who was the most honored for the virtue of his position and prowess in the job. Although Agamemnon was the leader of the Greeks, he wished to be honored just like Achilles. The nature of the traditional society, therefore, put the two legends in Homer’s Iliad at odds.
Achilles does everything possible to let the coming generation remember his name for doing great things in the Achaean army. He is probably willing to sacrifice everything possible so that his name will be remembered. Agamemnon, on the other hand, does not allow the Achaeans to forget his kingly status. He demonstrates the greed for power by refusing to let his brother lead the Achaean army even though he has the real grievance against their enemy. The failure of Agamemnon to hand over power to a more promising candidate makes his moral status very inferior as compared to that of Achilles. Achilles strives to make a positive history by that would give him all the glory in future.
The statement of moral superiority that tends to favor Achilles and condemn Agamemnon is very acceptable. Anybody who reads the poem could come up with an immediate judgment that tends to identify Achilles as the morally superior legend. The poet also tactically brings out his judgment about the two by dwelling on the standards of ethics and customary law, thus creating no doubt about the point of moral superiority in the poem. Agamemnon does not therefore abide by the standards of ethics and customary law as expected by the society; hence he does not qualify to be morally upright. The opposite is true for the case of Achilles. All his doings are aimed at serving the interest of the society even though he shows some sense of pride.
Achilles is committed to those seem to love him but also nasty to those who do him harm. The other character, Agamemnon, appears to be concerned with himself, having the habit of manipulating those around him to do as per his wish. Agamemnon does not show any sense of appreciation to the people whom he rules. Instead, he is apparently looking for more ways in which he can make the best out of the people. Any reader would feel a lot of sympathy for Achilles because of his guanine emotions that also lead him to reconcile with Agamemnon.
The conflict between Achilles and Agamemnon can inform the reader of the independence of the Achilles from Agamemnon. The poet elaborates on the defiance from the Achilles, making it more morally superior than the mighty Agamemnon. Agamemnon is however very dependent the Achilles ability to do what it claims. For example, he is relying on the Achilles willingness to return to the army (Homer).
Achilles values morality than material wealth, as opposed to Agamemnon, who is apparently possessed of worldly riches. The drama is evident when the king attempts to draw Achilles back into the army without offering an apology. The king instead provides material wealth, but the propasal is turned down by Achilles. In response to the offer, Achilles identifies one thing that seems to be missing from the terms set by Agamemnon. From the poem, it is evident that material things could not lure Achilles back into the army. His value for good deeds is extraordinarily evident in his refusal to begin fighting again. Unlike Agamemnon, his pride is worth more than that. The king was proud for his position and his ability to influence the action of other people for his advantage.
From Achilles’ choices, it is arguable that his acts are propelled by private passions while his individualism alienates him from the society and even human identity. Through his relationship with the community, Achilles shapes the moralist commentary of the narrative poem, creating tension between self and civilization. Achilles, therefore, comes out to be a celebrated hero due to the social structure in which he functions in the narrative. The position of the rivalry between Agamemnon and Achilles also brings up the idea of no party willing to quickly give in. Basically, the life of any human being is governed by time; hence Achilles has to repossess what he had lost initially. On the same note, Agamemnon has to lose what he gained.
In a nutshell, Agamemnon differs from Achilles in many aspects relating to the society’s customary laws. Homer’s poem, Iliad, brings out the feud between Agamemnon and Achilles, highlighting the similarities between the two characters. However, the difference in morality standards of the two characters is surprising since they can simply be judged by the reader.
Similar Themes in Iliad And Odyssey
Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey share many thematic concerns, as are fundamental to the epic tradition. Most significant are the issues of lineage, xenia, and divine intervention – all of which are of the utmost important in Ancient Greek tradition.
The extracts from each poem illustrate the centrality of lineage in patriarchal Ancient Greek society, as the characters in both clearly believe in honouring their fathers’ connections. In the Iliad, the matter of ancestral ties is so important that men of the opposing armies, Trojans and Achaians, are compelled to abandon their duties as warriors; Glaukos and Diomedes reconcile with each other at the realisation of their fathers’ bond. The Greek warrior adopts a conciliatory tone towards Glaukos – as heard in the phrase “See now”, a phrase which evokes familiarity, as the narrator illustrates with the description of his “winning words of friendliness” – thus disavowing the enemy status held between the two heroes up until that moment in the battle. The significance of familial links is foregrounded as he refers to “our fathers”, the plural possessive lexically unifying them on the basis of patrimony. This unity established, the implication is that they can do no harm to one and other – it would be wholly inappropriate, and a dishonour to their fathers.
To emphasise his point, Diomedes elaborates on the history of the bond, detailing how “Brilliant Oineus once was host to Bellerophontes / the blameless”, making the connection explicit and undeniable. Whilst it can be assumed that this recollection is for the benefit of the reader, that Glaukos would already be aware of the particulars of a story which held so much importance in his family history, it does undoubtedly strengthen the Trojan’s conviction that to renounce battle is his moral and cultural duty. This scene clearly demonstrates cultural significance of patriarchal lineage to the Ancient Greeks as the two men agree that “I am your friend…and you are mine” on the basis of their fathers’ bond alone; two enemy soldiers are willing to “avoid each other’s spears” upon their discovery – in the ninth year of devastating war, this indicates the magnitude of meaning behind ancestral connection.
Similarly in the Odyssey, the goddess Athene disguises herself as Mentes, a friend of Odysseus, in order to gain the trust of his son, Telemachus. Once she has introduced herself as the man, she declares “Your father and I claim to be guest-friends by heredity / from far back”; the intensifying phrase which is the end focus of this statement stresses that their families are tied through generations, and that Mentes and Odysseus can call themselves ‘guest-friends’ solely on that basis indicates the importance of ancestry. The implication of this is clearly that Telemachus is to trust this man, as there is a history of loyal relations between their families – this is the Athene’s purpose in disguising herself as Mentes, as she is at Ithaca to reassure the young man of Odysseus’s life and advise him on his best course of action.
Athene also expresses the meaningful friendship, in order to put Telemachus at ease, by comparing him to his father. The moment in which she, presenting as Mentes, describes the likeness “about the head” and in “the fine eyes” feels immensely tender, and creates a sense of nostalgia. This touching display is to be interpreted by Telemachus as affected by the older man’s 20 years apart from his friend, as he mentions when Odysseus “went away to Troy”, for the 10 year battle, which is understood to have ended 10 years prior to the Odyssey.
A further theme evident in each extract is that of the matter of hospitality in the Ancient Greek world. In the Iliad, xenia is central to this; Diomedes gives great attention to the exchange of gifts between his and Glaukos’s ancestors, detailing the “golden and double-handed drinking cup” his father Oineus received from Bellerophontes, and is sure to demonstrate that it is still “in my house”, that it remains a significant object to him and his family. This is a show of respect towards Glaukos and his father, and it is implied that the expectation is that he too honours the “war belt bright with the red dye” from the gift exchange. The centrality of xenia is further emphasised towards the end of Diomedes’s speech, as he proposes “let us exchange our armor” in order to solidify their bond, so that “others may know / how we claim to be guests and friends” – it is clear that despite the drastic shift in tensions between the two warriors, with this display of their ancestral connection, neither hero would be questioned by their fellows of their respective armies; hospitality is too highly valued in their culture for it to be challenged.
However, it is arguable that the exchange between Diomedes and Glaukos is somewhat false, that the Achaian does not truly extend xenia towards the Trojan, as they exchanged “gold for bronze”, “nine oxen’s worth the worth of a hundred”. Whilst Glaukos’s agreement to this was due to the powers of Zeus, that Diomedes suggested this exchange indicates his intentions to cheat the Trojan and to gain personally from the encounter. This reflects the wider story of the Trojan War itself, as war is the ultimate destructor of equal and civil relations between peoples, relations which perhaps it is impossible for Diomedes and Glaukos to achieve in this context. On the other hand, it can be argued that the real xenia of this scene is not that of the material exchange, but is in “the promise of friendship” between the men. As they are physically “both springing down from behind their horses”, they metaphorically abandon the normal rules of battle, and as they “gripped each other’s hands” they closed both the literal and figurative distance between them. After nine years of intensive fighting, to agree to stop fighting with just one opposing warrior, to spare his life and not gain the glory of murder, was a major shift from the norm. Therefore, the central act of hospitality in this section of the Iliad is in the consolidation of friendship in itself.
Comparatively, in the Odyssey, Telemachus extends xenia towards Athene, who is disguised as Mentes, despite being unsure at first “what man” has entered his home; a respectable Greek feels obliged to welcome any guest into his home, as to reject them or to be a less than gracious host would tarnish their reputation, and potentially upset the gods, whom the mortals believed tested them in these instances. Thus, upon Athene’s arrival, Telemachus taking her “by the right hand”, exclaiming his welcome, and insisting that nothing can be said or done until his new guest has “tasted dinner” is not simply a sign of warm character, but one of an incredibly status conscious man.
In exchange for the Ithacan’s hospitality, the goddess – as Mentes – is a courteous guest, and a helpful one also. “I will accurately answer all that you ask me” she proclaims, showing a willingness to cooperate; Telemachus has shown great kindness to the old man, so in return, his guest is clear and informative, in order to put his anxieties about unfamiliarity at rest. This is further aided by Athene’s answers in themselves, due to the evocation of the host’s father, as well as the later assurance of Odysseus’s safety and the wise advice given to the host. Whilst this is not a material exchange, nor one of life and death, xenia is showed in the graciousness of both participants.
Another key epic theme demonstrated in the two passages is that of divine intervention. In the Iliad, when Diomedes proposes that he and Glaukos “exchange our armor”, the reader does not receive the Trojans untampered reaction; immediately, the gods interfere, as Zeus “stole away the wits of Glaukos”, which is seen to be the direct causation of his acceptance of this exchange. The suggestion is that if Glaukos had been thinking clearly and independently, he would not have agreed to this, as it is an unequal trade of “gold for bronze”. This scene is something of a microcosm, as it is a small example of immortal meddling in the affairs of the mortals; as “the son of Kronos” changed the balance of material value to the men’s arms, he also redressed the fates of great heroes such as Hektor and Achilleus.
Similarly, in the Odyssey, the entire extract is centered on Athene presenting herself as Mentes, in order to take charge of the situation in Odysseus’s Ithacan home. The reader is aware that it is “the goddess gray-eyed Athene” talking when it is said “I announce myself as Mentes, son of Anchialos / the wise”; Homer explicitly displays the intervention of the gods here. As Telemachus is miserable, “his heart deep grieving within him”, and distraught over his mother’s suitors, the gods decide that they must do something to rectify the situation – sending Odysseus’s old friend to “the very child of Odysseus” to help him is their solution. He is promised that “the gods be your witnesses”, evidently a proclamation meant to strengthen his statement, and cause the Greeks to believe and obey him, when he gathers “the Achaian warriors into assembly” to announce that Odysseus lives, and to “force the suitors out”. To be in favour with the gods ascertains your safety, and security in your position; Telemachus having the word of the gods allows him to embark on the physical journey to the homes of Nestor and Menelaos, the journey which parallels his journey from boy to man. Therefore, divine intervention is the driving force of the Odyssey’s plot.
The passages from the Iliad and the Odyssey are similar in many ways, due to the traditions of Ancient Greek culture; however, the two epics have contrasting aspects also worth noting. The former is focused on the battlefield, and everything else surrounds this context. The Odyssey on the other hand takes place 10 years after the end of the Trojan War, and the other themes are not centered on war – although the whole scenario is created by it – but on more domestic and internal matters. This is not to say that it is any less epic in scale; similar issues are merely placed in a different context, and different aspects are amplified.
A Person With a Weak Heel
Homer’s Iliad is a poem that deals with various emotions and addresses the complexity of these said emotions. From lust filled desires that led to a war that waged on for 10 years to meddlesome gods that took control of the mortals, Iliad covers it all. The central theme around which Homer revolves his story is “The Wrath of Achilles”.
Achilles, a man in search of personal glory and consumed by his pride and his might undergoes a chain of emotions from feeling his honour being questioned to rage to indifference and finding his way back to rage. His wrath is also a major catalyst as to why the war progressed for quite a long time.
The wrath has its roots from the moment Agamemnon takes away a concubine of Achilles during the time of war of the Greeks against Troy. Enraged, Achilles is determined to involve in the war against Agamemnon; but the Gods intervene and Achilles subdues his anger and decides to go rebel silently. He instigates Thetis (his mother) to convince Zeus to help the Trojans so that the Greeks would lose.
As Zeus helps the Trojans in their war efforts and Achilles, the most powerful ruler the Greeks had ever seen, The Greeks were on the losing front. Achilles who was still consumed by his pride refused to partake in the war. The war led to the death of numerous Greek soldiers and thus, softened yet proud, Achilles unwillingly his friend Patroclus to the field to fight for, Patroclus was a fine fighter. The belief was that the Trojans would back off from the war, the moment they realise that the mightiest warrior who once went on self-proclaimed exile had come back. On the war grounds, Hector confronts Patroclus who was in Achilles’ armour and attacks him. Patroclus dies on the field whilst Hector removes the armour and wears it as his own with pride.
Achilles is enraged and struck with grief when he hears that his beloved friend Patroclus suffered a horrible death on the field and thus, the “wrath” is imposed on everyone in the war. Achilles suffers a pain unfathomable to the common man and thus begins, his quest to avenge the death of Patroclus.
The theme in Iliad is established through this act. From the first book, Achilles has always been portrayed as the man who is so powerful, yet cannot control his emotions and lets them flow. His indifference to the war, followed my absolute rage is definitive proof of the same. Thus, Achilles undergoes a cycle of emotions during the war. The emotions which Achilles expresses goes on to set the background for the changes that Achilles as a character underwent throughout the entire plot of the poem.
As aforementioned, Achilles’ rage knew no bounds. Anger seared through him and he wanted revenge. Vengeance for the lost lives and more particularly, for Patroclus. He vowed to avenge his friend’s death and will not stop until he does so. Achilles charges into war, in search of the man who killed Patroclus. As Achilles finds Hector in the war, his anger is two-fold, for he sees Hector wearing Achilles’ armour, the one Patroclus wore to the war grounds which Hector so proudly and cockily wore around.
When might meets rage, the effects are certainly unimaginable. Achilles chases Hector around the city till they finally decide to duel with each other. Achilles is clearly aware of the armour’s weak points and thus, throws a spear at Hector’s throat and thus leading to Hector’s death. Before his death, Hector had a wish that his body should be sent to Trojans’ for burial. Achilles still consumed with rage refuses his last wish to be fulfilled.
Unsatisfied with the death, Achilles drags Hector’s body mercilessly around the city three times. Hector’s body dangles from the chariot hitting every stone and pebble as he was dragged around.
At this point in the book, it is evident that Achilles went in search of a relief that he wanted from the anger he developed. Killing Hector from a mere stab wasn’t satiable for Achilles. He tries to justify his actions through the anger he holds against the entire war. His anger against Agamemnon and his anger against the Trojans especially Hector still hadn’t subsided. Albeit, he reconciled with Agamemnon, the anger still persisted. A few character flaws such as this reminds us of the fact that Achilles at the end of the day is a mortal.
As Achilles carried Hector’s body around the city, Hector’s parents King Priam and Queen Hecuba were in trauma and grief for their son was being paraded in front of them. King Priam solicited for Hector’s body so as to hold a proper funeral for him. Achilles, being ever so merciless, reprimanded King Priam.
After twelve days, the Gods were tired of Hector’s body being dragged around and thus, asked Thetis, mother to Achilles to convince her son to give up the anger and let King Priam conduct an honourable funeral for his son. King Priam offers Achilles gold equivalent to that of Hector’s weight.
Since the tempting offer was kept on the table, Achilles agreed to the same and even volunteered to stop the Greeks from fighting, so that Hector’s body could be disposed of away with dignity.
At the end of Book 24, the two teams call for a temporary truce. The treatment of Achilles is done in such a way that, albeit a mighty ruler, he does show a soft corner. At least when it comes to the inevitable – death. The book ends with Achilles letting go off the anger and rage he once held and accepting the situation and moving on. In the end, it is wise after all to be accepting of the situation and let go.
The Power Of Gods And Fate in Homer’s Iliad
Gods are very powerful beings that possess abilities that are unknown to man. Also, they tend to interfere in mortal lives and influence their decisions. Even with the immense amount of powers that they do have, there is still one thing that they have no control over. That unstoppable thing is fate. Fate is something that is destined to happen. The gods cannot control what a certain person’s fate is because it is determined by something outside of their realm of power. Since they can’t control what it is, they do something else regarding it. I argue that Zeus and Athena’s interference in Hector’s death shows that even though fate is inescapable, the gods ultimately play a role in the execution and timing of it. Similar to many other mortals, Hector knows his fate and accepts it. However, he does not know the exact details of it. All he knows is that he will die in the war. Hector talks of fate saying “no one alive has ever escaped it… it’s born with us the day we are born”.
Fate is an unchangeable force that is inevitable for everyone. Even though they can’t control what a person’s fate is, they can try to prolong it and keep it from happening. Hector was with Ajax and the two would have “hacked each other if heralds of Zeus and men had not come rushing in”. Hector was losing the battle with Ajax and could have died, but Zeus stepped in and stopped it from happening. Zeus prolonged Hector’s fate and made it so that Hector could regain his strength and keep fighting. By intervening and not letting him die, Zeus helped Hector survive but he cannot escape his inevitable fate, which is his death. Zeus has the ability to influence the timing of when one’s fate comes. In Book 22, Hector and Achilles finally get to fight. This will be their first and only fight because one is going to die. Both men know their fates, but do not know when they will actually happen. Zeus sees the men fighting and sees that Hector is again losing, so he debates with the other gods “either we pluck the man from death and save his life or strike him down at last, here at Achilles’ hands”. Zeus is trying to decide whether or not he should again save Hector and prolong his fate from occurring. Zeus has this powerful golden scale that he decides to let weigh the fates of Achilles and Hector. The outcome was that “Zeus raised it high and down went Hector’s day of doom, dragging him down the strong House of Death”.
The scale showed that it was time for Hector’s fate to come crashing down. Achilles could have been the one destined to die at this time, but Zeus’s scale undoubtedly chose Hector. The time has come for Hector to finally die. Even though fate is set in stone and dictated at birth, gods can still have control over how that fate is carried out and executed. Now that the timing of Hector’s fate has been determined by Zeus and his golden scale, the only thing left is for Hector to actually die. Athena plays a part in the execution of this. Hector is running from Achilles when Athena “taking the build and vibrant voice of Deiphobus stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Hector”. She turns herself into one of Hector’s brother and convinces him to stop running and to fight Achilles head on. Hector was running from Achilles and would have kept on until he ran out of energy and was killed, so Athena just stepped in and changed the situation. If she had not done that Hector and Achilles would have eventually fought and one of them would have died. However, it is impossible to know which one was going to die at that time if it weren’t for Zeus’s scales. Also, Athena just told Hector to stop running and fight. She isn’t the one who killed him, she just helped the killing of him come faster. In the end, his fate was to die by Achilles’ hand, which is ultimately what happened. Hector’s “soul went winging down to the House of Death, wailing his fate”. All Athena did was aid in the execution of his death and will it forward. Hector knew his fate and that is was inescapable.
The god’s divine intervention is important to the epic because their actions have helped seal the fates of the mortals. The gods know that no matter what they do to try and change one’s fate, it won’t matter because the end result has already been predetermined. All they can do is try to affect how it is reached. That is what Athena and Zeus did for Hector’s fate. Zeus saved him from dying too early in the war. Then he thought about saving him again from his fate, but ultimately decided to let his scale decide if it was time for Hector’s death. Lastly, Athena convicted Hector to stop running and fight, which in turn just accelerated the coming of his death. The gods never changed his fate with their interferences in his life, they just influenced how and when it came to happen. So, even though fate is uncontrollable and inevitable, the gods still have the ability to influence the execution and timing of it.
The Main Female Characters in The Iliad And Their Relationship With The Male Characters
This article is a study of the only four significant female characters in the Iliad (Helen, Andromache, Hecabe and Briseis) and their relationship with the male characters.’ It will demonstrate that despite the tremendous differences between them, Homer treated them all in the same manner. He emphasized how intense and deep were their emotions and sentiments and how little regard the male characters had for these emotions and sentiments. Thus he impresses on his audience their desperate helplessness and utter inability to determine the course of events, including their own lives. In this way they are all extremely tragic figures.
The Greek camp provided only a limited scope for presenting female characters. But Homer made full use of the scenes in Troy for this purpose. In fact, women play a very important role in every scene that takes place in Troy. The first woman to come into prominence in the Iliad is Helen. She is mentioned in book II as the cause of the war. In book III she becomes the main subject. A duel is arranged between Paris and Menelaus and “whoever is victorious … let him take the woman and all the possessions and bring them home. Here and in the other places in book III where the purpose of the duel is mentioned, Helen’s own feelings are completely ignored. She is treated like an object. In fact, in each case she is lumped together with the possessions that came with her from Sparta to Troy. When the scene shifts to Helen, Homer again emphasizes the passive role she is forced to play.
While Paris and Menelaus are deciding her future she is inside weaving. She is pre-occupied with the war, but the only way: that she can express her interest is by weaving pictures of it. Iris tells her to come to the wall so that she may see whose wife she will be. Then, after impressing on his audience how little Helen’s emotions are taken into consideration, Homer reveals how real those emotions are: “the goddess put sweet longing into her heart for her previous husband and city and parents … and she hastened from her room shedding a round tear”. The first time she speaks we can again see the depths of her feelings, which are so completely ignored by the men who are determining her future: “Would that evil death had been my pleasure when I followed your son here, leaving my chamber, relatives, grown daughter and my lovely companions”. As Tronquart observes “cet adjectif EpatEtvr’!-qui est de Ia meme famille qu’ i:poos-signifiant qu’elle a encore en elle de sa naivete de jeune fille qui depla9ait jadis sur ses compagnes les premiers sentiments d’amour . ..” Not only does Helen feel strong regret and homesickness, but also shame. When she does not see her brothers, she assumes that she has brought such disgrace on them that they are ashamed to show themselves. Then, in order to show how completely cut off Helen is from even the most basic knowledge about her family, Homer remarks that her brothers are dead in Sparta. She also feels intense guilt. She calls herself hateful and then says that it would be blameworthy to go to bed with Paris.
Later, in book VI, line 344, she refers to herself as a “dog, nasty contriver of evil”. She goes on to wish that she had died at birth and then again describes herself as a dog. In her only other speech she again says that she wishes that she had died before she came to Troy. Indeed, in a society that has accurately been described as a shame culture, Helen seems to be the only person with what we would call a guilty conscience. However, despite the intensity and depths of her sensitivity she is treated as an object by the men who control the course of events. As for the scene on the wall itself, Kakridis offers the interesting theory that it is adapted from the standard motif of a woman being present at a duel where she is the prize and so that she must be visible. If this is true, then the change that Homer introduces is very significant. As Kakridis says: “The figure of the young girl who is visible to the contestants is replaced in Homer by the woman who now watches the rivals without being visible to them the motif takes on a new and deeper meaning; the poet is now interested not in the reaction of the two men but in how the woman will react psychologically. “But, as always in the Iliad, a woman’s psychological state, which is so interesting to Homer, is irrelevant to the men who are determining her future. Kakridis himself observes that in some passages Helen is a “beautiful, lifeless doll” and in others a deeply feeling person. He attributes this difference to stages in the development of the myth: “When in the Iliad the heroine is presented as a lifeless object of transaction between men … we know that we have to do with elements borrowed from older versions of the myth.” extreme pathos of Helen’s situation is created by exactly the fact that a deeply feeling person is treated like a lifeless object.
The pathetic and agonizing nature of Helen’s situation is brought out very strongly in the conversations that she has with Aphrodite and Paris at the end of book III. Unfortunately, in trying to understand the Aphrodite scene the problem arises that it is very difficult to form a clear conception of the gods in the Iliad. They function very differently in different passages, and everywhere they are fundamentally different from the Christian conception of divinity. As for Aphrodite, Hermann Frankel observed that the greater gods, such as Athena and Apollo function as independent personalities but the lesser divinities such as Hephaestus and Aphrodite are closely associated with their specific functions. The word Aphrodite is actually used in Odyssey 22, 444 simply to mean physical love. In Iliad XIV 198-199, Hera says to Aphrodite, “give to me the love and desire with which you overpower all immortals and mortal men.” When Aphrodite tries to participate in battle, she is completely ineffectual, and is told categorically to stay in her own sphere of activity. The human whom she loves and protects is unmartial, erotic Paris, to whom she had given fulfilment of lust.
The Representation Of Gods in The Gomer’s Iliad
The mortals in the Iliad have inherent characteristics that provide the driving force behind their actions: the gods simply act in concert with them, allowing the human beings to exercise free will of their own. Why are the gods portrayed as having human like characteristics?
Throughout the text, the gods are portrayed with all the flaws and eccentricities of mortals. This human-like behavior isn’t restricted to Zeus and Hera. Because the gods are so similar to the mortals, one can make the argument that they exist simply to explain different facets of human nature: therefore, they have an influence on the human heroes, not because they are all-powerful deities, but because they represent personality traits already inherent in each individual person. The deities are being presented in this unique way to help explain human behavior – more specifically, the behavior of the humans in the Iliad itself. The argument that the gods are facets of human nature is also evident in smaller characters. This indicates that the actions of the heroes in the Iliad are actions of free will, rather than decisions made because of divine intervention. Throughout the Iliad, Zeus and the rest of the Olympians are presented as remarkably human in almost every way. In fact, the only obvious difference between the deities and the human characters is that the gods are immortal meaning that they will have to live with their decisions forever. They are acutely aware of this – at the beginning of the Iliad, Hephaestus urges Hera and Zeus to forgo their argument about the Greeks, since “they’ll be no more pleasure at our feasts if we let things turn ugly”. Having to bear each other’s presence forever seems to be a good incentive to keep the peace. And yet, peaceful is hardly the word to describe the relationship between the gods, perhaps because their immortality, in nearly every instance, is countered by their great humanity.
In one memorable scene, Hera flies into one of her customary rages and accuses the son of Kronos of plotting behind her back. Zeus replies that his plans are none of her business, and angrily bids her to keep her silence. At this point, it is clear to the reader that Zeus and Hera are hardly divine symbols of peace and equanimity. Just like mortals such as Agamemnon and Achilles view each other with suspicion and intolerance, the gods experience identical emotions of wariness, anger, and irritation. When Helen refuses to share Paris’s bed, she infuriates Aphrodite. Since Helen is already in a delicate position with the other Trojan women, Aphrodite’s fury is understandable. What is surprising is Aphrodite’s furious response. If one looks at Aphrodite as a divine entity, her reaction may not make sense, but when it is viewed as a manifestation of human emotion, it become almost reasonable. Her angry response to Helen is no doubt spurred by her affection for Paris, whom she has long favored. By ensuring that he gets his woman for another night, she is playing into her own sense of vanity. Hera’s jealousy and Aphrodite’s ego don’t stand alone as examples of this divine humanity. It is also manifested through positive human emotions such as forgiveness. Although it takes some convincing from Hephaestus, Hera swiftly forgives Zeus for his secret scheming, and is soon merrily feasting with the other gods.
Throughout the text, major characters seem to be at constant battle with their different emotions. This inner conflict is mirrored by the everyday conflicts between the gods. Just as Zeus and Hera are constantly at odds with one another, so are the different aspects of Achilles. He’s faced with balancing cultural responsibility, pride, honor, and revenge. No one is completely at peace with his or her conflicting emotions in the Iliad – and therefore, neither are the gods, who represent these emotions. Hector is a prime example of a human figure who finds himself torn between two forces: his love for his growing family, and his duty as a prince of Troy. He admits to Andromache that he worries about his own mortality, but emphasizes how he must fight for Troy to defend the honor of himself and his father. These traits– a deeply ingrained sense of honor, a loyalty to home – are clearly established in the beginning of the text. Therefore, when Zeus later grants Hector “strength to kill and keep killing”, it is not too much of a stretch to attribute Hector’s dodged perseverance to his upbringing and rigid sense of duty, rather than to the intervention of Zeus himself. Cultural upbringing also lays the foundation for Achilles’s future decisions. When in the middle of a bitter argument with Agamemnon, for instance, he briefly debates gutting the king with his sword. Homer proceeds to describe Athena’s intervention. This passage indicates that Athena is solely responsible for preventing Achilles from this violent act. However, the fact remains that Achilles would probably have controlled his temper despite Athena. He is, after all, the son of a king; his awareness of the social hierarchy of eighth- century Greece would be enough to prevent him from raising a sword against Agamemnon.
Despite all the evidence in favor of my arguments, obvious objections can be made. One is why, if so many decisions are made through personal choice and free will, the characters blame the gods for the great losses sustained during battle. Priam, for example, assures Helen that she is not to blame for this war with the Greeks and that the gods are. Yet, if the gods are simply acting in concert with a human’s inherent characteristics, why blame them in the first place? The answer is simple: it is easier for mortals to blame a higher power for unfortunate events than to take responsibility for themselves. For Priam, shoving the blame on the gods may look better than admitting that Paris and Helen’s actions had disastrous consequences. It is also curious that there is so much conflict between each of the gods, when the gods are supposedly acting in concert with a human’s inherent traits. For example, Zeus and Apollo take opposite sides when Patroclus enters the battle. Yet, it is important to note that humans in the Iliad are going through inner turmoil themselves and are therefore constantly battling contrary emotions, making it logical that the gods would take opposite sides. Ultimately, the gods in the Iliad argue, forgive, and reason much like the mortals in the story; they therefore function to help explain human behavior. Although these deities, in the literal sense, seem to control the fates of the mortals, it is clear that each Greek warrior is actually an agent of free will. These humans have intrinsic traits, stemming from their cultural awareness and past experiences, that shape the way they act and behave. The gods simply exist to catalyze that process.
The Economics Of Gift Giving in “The Iliad” Of Homer
The Economics of Gift Giving in the Iliad of Homer
The exchange of property and value in the Iliad is central to its entire plot. Before the muse can sing of the “anger of Peleus’ son Achilleus,” they must first tell the story of Chryseis and her ransom. Book 9 sees an embassy approach Achilleus with an offer to reenter the battle, book 23 is splattered with various competitive prizes and book 24 sees the exchange of riches for the body of Hektor. Scattered within the remaining books are a plethora of different negotiates for goods, lives, and honor. In total, 27 different negotiations occur in the Iliad, 17 of which are successful (Wilson, 2002). These frequent negotiations and implied exchanges underpinned Greek life and something many modern readers are oblivious too.
This paper takes a very brief, closer analysis of this social practice and how ancient Greek gifts were not completely selfless. For the modern reader, Richmond Lattimore’s translation succeeds in making spontaneous exchanges of gifts, sometimes on the open battle field, as foreign but limits itself in engaging the reader with this ancient culture. For example, upon the surprising losses of the Achaians in the first third of the epic, Agamemnon decides to offer a massive number of gifts to Achilleus to hopefully lure him to defend the ships and defeat Troy (book 9). Agamemnon on his own accord agrees that he was in the wrong (9.115) and provides enormous compensation. This arguably pivotal point in the plot of has an overwhelmingly large number of gifts, something Lattimore’s translation seems to shed positive light on. However, Agamemnon’s gifts would have not brought back the dignity that Achilleus had lost. Due to the massive abundance, they “elevate [Agamemnon’s] own prestige and put Achille[u]s under severe obligation. The offer, if accepted, would have made Agamemnon the ‘winner’ and would have given him power over Achille[u]s” (Donlan, 1989).
This hidden meaning of these gifts as debt, I believe is lost in Lattimore’s translation and instead, unfairly characterizes Achilleus. He complains that he is in agony “when I remember the disgrace that [Agamemnon] wrought upon me before the Argives. . . as if I were some dishonored vagabond” (9.646-648). Upon first read, this alienated Achilleus from me and created frustration as the demi-god would not fight for his own army, even after being offered repayment of unimaginable wealth. In fact, when reporting to Agamemnon, the Odysseus says “that man will no quench his anger, but still more than ever is filled with rage. He refuses you and refuses your presents” (9.678-679). Lattimore’s translation continues this perpetuation of Achilleus as morally culpable through the rhetoric of Phoenix (9.496-501) and Aias (9.628-33). Even in the face of Achilleus however, uses the same tactic to participate is acquiring a more superior status than Agamemnon in the funeral games of Patroklos (23.29, 166, 237).
At the funeral games, his large distribution of treasures as prizes may be much more egocentric than Lattimore’s translation gives the English reader. In the final game, the demi-god gives Agamemnon the top prize without a competition (23.884). Beyond just a compliment and a move towards friendship, it also signifies a debt and power that Achilleus will hold over the Shepard of the people for the rest of the epic. Between the final bestowing of prizes and being able to take Agamemnon’s gifts while entering by his own decision, “The poetic message is that Achilles emerged the ultimate winner, because he took the gifts of Agamemnon on his own terms .And then outdazzled his rival with a brilliant display of generosity” (Donlan, 1989).While the conclusion of Achilleus is perturbed, it is inevitably still a decision left to the reader. Whether the gifts were a debt or gracious offer does not detract from a moral question of when does the hero stand up and fight.
The book ends with a semblance of alliance between the two but a realization that the poet and oral culture of ancient Greece would have understood that both heroes used gifts in their war or agon over superiority is critical to submersion into the world of the Iliad. It may also influence the readers view of Agamemnon as well. The gifts catalogue seems to show an egregious character that is self-centered, especially in his self-aggrandizement. This comes notably after having his leadership challenged by Thycides and Achilleus. It is after all, an unwillingness to wait for the sacking of Troy for more women that has caused the King of Men to be impatient and take the rightful property of Achilleus. “The king [Agamemnon], however, by insisting upon immediate recompense, reveals himself to be a less discriminating agent of exchange, a fact that makes him a more unsympathetic character to an audience already alerted to the debate about his worthiness to be the leader of such a host” (Widzisz, 2012).
This fascinating cultural difference in gifting is not as foreign as we may expect. Christmas gift exchanges can create a sense of inferiority if there is an obvious awareness of value discrepancy. However, the Greek culture appears to have used this to a larger extent in the creation of power structures and even strong bonds between leaders and followers. Walter Donlan explains the commonality of gifts and dedications throughout Homer by saying “[c]eremonies of giving, especially at the elite level, convey important information about rank and prestige” (Donlan, 1989). This prestige and ability to dedicate hecatombs (literally meaning 100 oxen) displays them above ordinary men and almost to the level of heroes. Men of similar social status however, use gifts as a form of competition and designation of who is superior. When no clear differential exists, the transaction of valuables creates a specific relative social standing of the participants. The gifts or thus carry a hidden burden or weight. This logic can be applied to the small microtransaction between Glaukos and Diomedes in book six. Seeming to take character from the Odyssey and time of peace, both warriors “spr[ang] down from behind their horses” (6.234)
In the middle of battle to complete a microtransaction that has confused scholars for centuries. Zeus intervenes to steal away the “wits of Glaukos” who in turn, “exchanged with Diomedes… armor of golf for bronze, for nine oxen’s worth the worth of a hundred” (6.235-236). Some critics that I read suggested it is an intentionally humorous act in the epic. However, I believe it really focuses on this same economical approach that baffled Agamemnon and Achilleus. Rather than showing supremacy through exchanges of gifts, now valuables are demanded as a form of submission. While it could be read that Glaukos simply furnished more on purpose, and in doing so, he displayed his dominance, it seems far more likely that Diomedes was the more powerful and far superior warrior. Thus, the greater gift symbolizes submission, almost a friendly ransom. Inferably a character of wit, Zeus allowed the character to live by removing his wits and forced him to give up the armor as a truce.Furthermore, this logic can be taken analytically further by taking into account both transactors situational status.
The exchange of gifts between Aias and Hektor (7.283) before a return to camp shows an explicit use of gifts to view unequal positions of power. Hektor is combatively inferior and his own people were “made happy when they saw him coming alive and unwounded out of the combat” only to “escape” the “unconquerable hands of Aias” (7.307-310). After initiating the exchange (7.299), he gives Aias a “sword with nails of silver” along with the sheath and belt. However, in return Aias gave a war belt of seemingly much lesser value. “Ajax’s answering gift is unmistakably of lesser worth than Hector’s. The audience will have understood this unequal exchange as a sign of his superiority and of Hector’s submissive status. The symbolic content is heightening by the fact that the unglamorous [war belt] is a purely defensive item, while the sword is the instrument of attack at close range” and when analyzing the book, all other mentions of the belt, (except 6.220) have it failing and allowing serious wounds (4.132) or death (5.539, 17.519, 20.414) (Donlan, 1989). This likewise is a gift of submission, something that personally seems foreignizing. Similar to a bully taking a child’s lunch money, this transaction seems counter intuitive to be initiated by the loser and have large valued items given without question.
Gifts and market exchanges also play a role in maintaining the divinely inspired system of leadership for the Achaian army. It is a culmination of all the inferior warriors giving gifts to their superior. This summation of war prizes and privileges given to the leader are simply an exhibition of his power and dominance. However, the Greek army is not that of a war monger that demands tribute but more of a quizi-oligarchy that also provides some benefits to the warriors. While miniscule in comparison to the lines of soldiers lost, there is conversely somewhat of an obligation of the subjects to the king or [image: βασιλεύς ]that demands bounty from sacked cities also flow downward. His superiority demands he also give these gifts and provide riches to the army that has won him the war. This supply and demand from both sides creates a mutual marketplace and system of exchanges. Donlan argues that “this continuous flow of mutual exchanges forms a system of reciprocities. This system is the economics of the highly personal leader-people relationship.
A reputation for generosity was an essential element of the political control of a of [image: βασιλεύς ]” (Donlan, 1989). This too is very foreignizing at a personal level but actually corresponds quite symmetrical to our government at a macro level. Our democracy takes place in the markets thanks to an upward flow of services and possessions (taxes) and in response, just like for the Achaians, downward riches should matriculate (welfare and protection). Extrapolating the somewhat foreign concepts and internalizing them provides a much more relatable engagement with the work of Lattimore. However, some topics that were natural and regular for the Greek marketplace are now completely foreign and unconscionable such as valuing a skilled woman at 1/3 of a tripod (metal stand), Object Value Location in book All-Golden Tassels 100 oxen 2.104: Object being held by Athene Gold Armor 100 oxen 2.236: Diomedes gets from Glaukos Bronze Amor 9 Oxen 2.236 Glaukos gets from Diomedes Great tripod, to set over fire 12 Oxen 23.703 Prizes for wrestling Woman skilled in much work of her hands 4 Oxen 23.704 Runner-up prize Unfired cauldron with flowers on it 1 Ox Mixing bowl of silver, very intricate > 1 ox 23. 741
First prize for foot race Half a talent’s weight of gold < 1 ox 23.751 Third place for foot raceFinally, I feel that this paper would be incomplete if it didn’t include the exchange of gifts between the mortal and the divine. Nicholas Boterf Professor of Classics at Stanford explains that heroes in Homeric Epics performed extremely large sacrifices. Writing about the Odyssey, he says, “Within the poems themselves, Odysseus owns 12 herds of cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs (Od. 14.100-102). So a sacrifice of even a single cattle was a far from insignificant piece of outlay” (Boterf, 2012).Overall, Lattimore’s translation of the Iliad successful foreignizes many aspects of the gift exchanges and sacrifices to a modern-day reader. The Greek marketplace appears to be focused on the establishment and building of long-term family relations rather than benefits from one individual trade. In this Greek "gift economy," many distinctions are seen from America’s often egocentric focus on giving. Critical to the readers emersion in the book is an understanding that the “highest premium is placed on generosity and display; superiority in gift-giving equates to superiority in social prestige” (Donlan, 1989).
Boterf, N. (2012, January 25). How much did a cow cost in Homer’s time? Retrieved September 20, 2018, from Quora: https://www.quora.com/How-much-did-a-cow-cost-in-Homers-time
Donlan, W. (1989). The Unequal Exchange between Glaucus and Diomedes in LIght of the Homeric Gift-Economy. Phoenix, 43(1), 1-15. Retrieved September 22, 2018, from https://www.jstor.org/stable/1088537
Sammons, B. (2008). Gift, List & Stroy in Illiad 9.115-61. The Classical Journal, 103(4), 353-379. Retrieved September 22, 2018, from https://www.jstor.org/stable/30038001
The Iliad of Homer. (2011). (R. Lattimore, Trans.) London: The University of Chicago Press. Retrieved September 19, 2018
Widzisz, M. (2012). Timing Reciprocity in the Iliad. Project Muse, 45(2), 153-175. Retrieved September 19, 2018, from https://muse.jhu.edu/article/477226
Wilson, D. F. (2002). Ransom, revenge and heroic identity in the Iliad. ebookcentral.proquest.com.
The Importance Of Gods in The Iliad
The gods in the Iliad played important roles in the war and affected the actions of warriors in the war greatly. Since the war was fated, they could not affect the outcome of the war but they did manipulate many conflicts in the war. Gods such as Phoibos Apollo (god of prophecy, medicine, plague, music), Ares (god of war), Aphrodite (goddess of love) remained strong supporters of the Trojans during the war. While Hera (queen of the gods and the goddess of marriage), Athene (virgin goddess of wisdom), Poseidon (god of the sea), Thetis (a sea nymph), and Hermes ( messenger for the gods) fought hard for the Greeks. Zeus (king of all gods) was one of the only neutral gods in the Iliad, he tried as best as he could to remain unbiased and establish order. The gods used various tactics in order to communicate with the warriors of the war and only vouch for the men that they are fond of.
All of the gods interacted with men differently, depending on which sides of the war they were supporting. For example, whenever Achilleus called his mother Thetis, she always comes to his rescue and hears his problems. When Achilleus asked her to ask Zeus to allow the Trojans to defeat the Greeks, she was willing to go to Zeus with the message, who in turn listened to her. The gods look out for their warriors in the war, they often provide help by entering the battle themselves. One example of that can be seen after both the Trojans and the Greeks decided to have a truce in book four, Hera did not like that idea since she wanted the Trojans to perish, so she sent Athene to attack Menelaus of the Trojans to break of the truce. Athene disguised herself as an archer to restart the violent war. Athene did not stop there; she continues to motivate and inspires warriors Diomedes of the Greeks to fight off and kill the Trojans. She also lured Ares to leave the war for a while. When Ares did come back Athene encourages Diomedes to fight and hurt Ares who then fled back to Mount Olympus, where all of the gods reside. The gods in the Iliad played important roles in the war and affected the actions of men tremendously.
They interacted with mostly the important figure of both sides of the wars. The gods communicated to the warriors by using a series of tactics such as sending omens, dreams, and taking the form of mortal warriors. The gods often utilize the way that they can impersonate as human beings, similarly to how Athene did for the most of the war. The omens that are sent by the gods, help warns the Greeks and Trojans of what is to come during the battle. One example of that can be seen in book two when Zeus sends Agamemnon a false dream that indicates that it was a good time for the Greeks to attack the Trojans. Agamemnon did not get his troop ready to attack Troy like the dream suggested, instead, he tried to test his troops’ loyalty by telling them that he has decided to return back to Greece. One other way that the gods communicate with men is by sending prophecies; one example is from chapter nine where Thetis tells Achilles his two possible fated future. Achilles can either choose to go home and live a peaceful life or he can choose to fight in the war and live a short but glorious life; he chose to remain in the war. One other example of ways that god communicate with men is with an omen that was sent to the Trojans. It was of an eagle carrying a snake. The eagle was bitten by the snake so the eagle dropped it and flew away. Poulydamas (who is an advisor and warrior) interpreted the omen for Hektor and told him to not pursue the Greeks but Hektor did not listen and chose to do the opposite. Both side of the battle, including the gods, knew how the war is supposed to end. Throughout the game, Zeus who cannot interfere with fate must try his best not to be biased and communicate to each side with many omens and dreams to foretell the ultimate outcome of the war.
The Gods’ actions are not believable in the twenty-first century due to many factors. Many people do not attach supreme beings to the features of nature anymore due to the advances in science and technology. People in the Homeric period used to label every natural feature (such as the night, sun, rain, pain, death, wedding, wind and many others) as having a sort of affiliation with a god as we can see in the Iliad. The gods were appointed to explain the things in nature that human being could not comprehend and understand. As a result, the gods played a major role in their everyday life. Those were people who also wanted to have a connection with nature with a hope of lessening the impact that nature had in their life. One of the reasons why people do not associate gods with nature and other things is because people in the twenty-first century have more religious freedom. New sciences and technology answer some of the questions that people have about Nature and its forces. People see no point in believing in having many many gods in their life. People in the twenty-first century can look at science to answer any mysteries that they may have about nature and do not feel the need to appoint a god for everything. They also use philosophical ideas to answer their mysteries about other things that they may be curious about such as war, feelings, and other things. People now do not see the gods as having power over their life no more so they do not believe that gods have anything to do with war and can not control the outcomes as a result.
The gods in the Iliad are very complex; more complex than our mind can comprehend. They appeared to be imperishable and acted in ways that were incomprehensible and beyond nature. The gods interacted with men in ways that are unthinkable now in the twenty-first century. Their roles of the battle between the Trojans and Greeks was very noticeable throughout the Iliad. The gods interacted with human beings through dreams, omens and by impersonating human figures. They alter the course of the action of the warriors of the war but they could not change the outcome because they do not control fate. Their actions are not believable in the twenty-first century for many reasons; two reason is that of advances in technology and science.
The Analysis Of The Epic Tale “Iliad” By Homer
The ‘Iliad’ by Homer is an epic tale of death, triumph, war, and glory. The story starts off in the middle of a ten year war between the Greeks and Trojans. A great transgression was committed against the Greeks by the Trojans. King menelaus’s wife has been snatched out of his grasp by the beautiful and meddling goddess Aphrodite. In the ‘Iliad’ there are many examples of Gods or Goddesses doing mortals favors only if the God or Goddess is receiving something in return. This alludes to the fact that whatever lead to Helen being in Trojans hands was because of a deal or partnership she made with Paris, the prince of Troy. Helen being ‘misplaced’ is the whole reason for this ten year long senseless war between the Greeks and the Trojans.
This show that are Paris and Aphrodite he primary villains of the “Iliad”. Paris, Son of Peleus, God like, and of course Prince of Troy, many thing can be said of about Paris but one thing that has never been spoken about is his prowess as a warrior(Iliad 3.32-33). During battle is neither intimidating or fearsome to his enemies, in fact on many occasions he is ridiculed for his innate nature of being more delicate and good looking than most (Iliad 3.45) (Iliad 3.55-56). So although Paris possesses many qualities of a hero to be remembered for centuries to come he falls shot in the most important aspect, having complete dominion of the battlefield. Instead of working on improving his skills as a warrior he chooses to wear the flashiest gear to distracts his enemies and make him feels more powerful.
This lack of prioritization is what leads him to end up being the damsel in distress when his wife is clearly at home. And so Aphrodite enters as his beacon of hope and Goddess in shining armor. Paris and Aphrodite, Goddess and mortal, master and puppet, but most of all partners in crime. Their biggest offense? The Greek and Trojan War. Long ago, 10 years ago to be exact there was relative peace among the Greeks and the Trojans, there were battles here and there but nothing like the war to come. Somewhere in Greece, Mycenae to be precise there lived a great and powerful King, King Menelaus and with him lived the alluring and fairest of them all Helen, his wife.
Helen, Helen the great, the desired, the beautiful and the spark that lit the fire in Paris’ loins. Helen was said to be the most beautiful mortal there was, blessed by olympus even and when Paris got wind of this he just knew he had to have her. With the help of Aphrodite Paris soon acquired Helen and all of her attributes. This of course made King Menelaus spit fire with fury his precious wife was stolen from him from right under nose and he didn’t find out till it was too late. The kidnapping of his wife was one of the biggest violations King menelaus had suffered and so he did the only thing he could. He started a war in honor of his precious wife that he desperately wants back, so desperately that the war lasted ten years.
The partnership between Paris and Aphrodite has benefited them both greatly. Aphrodite is revered even more the she already is because of her strategic movements in the Greek and Trojan War despite her not being a Goddess of combat in any way, shape or form. Aphrodite also receives unlimited warranty from Paris for all that she’s done for him. Paris receives the lust of his life, Helena she’s all he’s ever wanted, his most prized possession for sure. Paris is also very protected by Aphrodite out on the battlefield as well, there is an instance where Paris and Menelaus are fighting and right as Menelaus is about to go for the kill shot Aphrodite coomes to his rescue and whisks him away to be looked after by Helen.
The arrangement between Aphrodite is beneficial, their terms are negotiable but Aphrodite has the power of olympus by her side, if she wanted to she could have complete and utter control over Paris and there would be nothing he would be able to do. Although Paris and Aphrodite have benefited greatly from this situation there are many who this war was a detemement to, Helen lost her freedom,husband, and family and thousands of Greeks and Trojans lost their family and it was mainly Paris and Aphrodite fault all for beauty, honor, and kleos.