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Robert browning

Role of Greek Gods In the Illiad

With our view of God, it can sometimes be difficult to comprehend

the actions and thinking of the Greek deities. The Christian God does

not tend to take such an active role in the affairs of people's lives,

where, on the other hand, the Greeks regarded direct involvement by

the gods as a daily, uncontrollable part of life. Needless to say,

divine intervention was a major variable in the equation of Homer's


The gods picked who they would favour for different reasons.

Except Zeus: As the symbol of supreme authority and justice, he makes

judgement calls as to the other gods' involvement in the war, remains

impartial, and doesn't seem to get caught up in picking favourites.

Even when his own son, Sarpedon, was about to die, Zeus chose to let

the outcome go unaltered.

On the other hand, Zeus's wife, Hera, displayed the more typical

actions of a god. After Paris, a Trojan, judged Aphrodite the fairest

over Hera, and, after her daughter Hebe was replaced as cupbearer to

the gods by a young Trojan boy, she was quite resentful towards Troy

and its people. Obviously she sided with the Greeks and would stop at

no length to express her will. Scheming and manipulating she even

dared to trick her husband, King of the Gods. Hera, along with Athena,

who was also passed over by Paris, is seen as the chief divine aid to

the Greeks.

Being the god of the sea, Poseidon was another strong supporter

of the ocean-faring Greeks. Whenever Zeus turned his back Poseidon

tried to help the Greeks in the fight. Poseidon felt that he was

somewhat Zeus's equal as his brother, but recognizing Zeus's authority

and experience, he looked to Zeus as an elder.

There were also Gods who favoured the Trojan side of the

conflict. Both Apollo and Artemis, twin brother and sister, gave aid

to the city of Troy. Although Artemis takes a rather minor role,

Apollo, perhaps angered by Agamemmnon's refusal to ransom Khryseis,

the daughter of one of his priests and was constantly changing the

course of the war in favour of the Trojans. Responsible for sending

plague to the Greeks, Apollo was the first god to make an appearance

in the Iliad. Also, mainly because Apollo and Artemis were on the

Trojan side, their mother, Leto, also helped the Trojans.

Aphrodite, obviously supporting Paris's judgement, sided with the

Trojans. Although she was insignificant on the battlefield, Aphrodite

was successful in convincing Ares, her lover and the god of war, to

help the Trojans.

One view of the gods' seemingly constant intervention in the war

was that they were just setting fate back on the right course. For

instance, when Patroklos was killed outside of Troy, Apollo felt no

guilt for his doings. It had already been decided that Patroklos would

not take Troy, he should never have disobeyed Achilles in the first

place. As a god, he was just setting fate on a straight line. Achilles <...

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