Assess The Significance Of The Gods In

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Assess The Significance Of The Gods In Homer’s Iliad And Odyssey Essay, Research Paper It is the gods, not fate, who are concerned with the activities of human life in both the “>Odyssey<-” and the “>Iliad<-”. The human action is so central that it quite absorbs the gods, as though they had no other responsibilities. We get a sense of this divine participation from the very beginning of the ” Iliad “Hera prompts Achilles to call the assembly (1.54); Athene checks his resolve to attack Agamemnon (1.188ff.); Zeus sends to Agamemnon a dream bidding him rally the Achaeans (2.16); Athene prompts Odysseus to prevent them from boarding the ships (2.182ff.); she silences the army to let him speak (2.281); Aphrodite drives Helen to Paris (3.420). Most notable

throughout the poem is a hero’s might increased by a god (4.439, 4.515, 5.1-2, 5.122, 5.125, etc.). In all these cases, the god achieves nothing supernatural but simply stimulates existing potentialities. It could not be otherwise. Human acts or states of being so stand out in their native quality that no external agency is allowed to affect their true nature. Yet a man’s fierce resilience may be quite baffling and may suggest some unsuspected power. Human free-will is something natural an mysterious at the same time. If the matter is seen in this light, it is pointless to inquire how far in Homer a man is responsible for his acts and how far he is influenced by the gods. Any intense moment of experience may seem imponderable. Whence comes a sudden excitement that gives us

added strength? It certainly comes from a deep unsounded source in which we may feel a divine power. With equal pertinence Homer says, ‘the spirit within him compelled him’ or ‘a god compelled him.’ Initiative is not taken for granted; it does not come mechanically. A body’s energy is no different in this respect. For instance, the two Ajaxes, touched by Poseidon, marvel at the way their feet and hands seem to yearn and move on their own account (13.73ff.). Near the end of the <+”>Iliad<-”>, we find the best instance of gods participating in a human initiative (24.23ff.). Apollo pleads the cause of Hector on Olympus: his body must be saved from Achilles’ indignities and returned to Troy. The gods agree. Zeus decides that Priam will go to Achilles with

the ransom and that Achilles will accept. Is then the great scene between Achilles and Priam predetermined? We might say that it is the other way around: the human cry reaches heaven and incites the gods to action. In any case, neither Achilles nor Priam acts passively. Pent-up emotions find their way out and prompt the ransom. We have seen how Achilles is affected; as for Priam, he says to Hecuba, ‘From Zeus an Olympian messenger came . . . and powerfully, within myself, my own spirit and might bid me go’ (24.194ff.). The gods do not weaken the human resolution but give it, rather, a greater resonance. We may look in the same way at the so-called divine machinery. It has been observed that the action of the<+”> Iliad<-”> could be conceived even without any

intervention of the gods. Others argue that nothing happens in the poem without the prompting of a god. The wrath of Achilles is explainable in its own right; and yet Apollo and Zeus come into the picture. Do we have a divine plan or simply a human quarrel with dire consequences? Neither alternative can be exactly true. Achilles’ wrath is momentous, and its import cannot be measured in ordinary human terms. Thus any sudden important happening spells bewilderment; it suggests a god. Human and divine power merge together. Gods and men are interdependent. This view is confirmed by the way Homer paints the gods when they are left to themselves. For in their Olympian abodes (as in 1.571ff.) they pale into a desultory immortality. The Olympian scenes are the only ones in which