Home Forums Litterae Forum The Iliad The role of the gods in The Iliad

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    Do interfering, humanized gods make literature richer or more ridiculous? When Athena and Ares take to the battlefield are they in the way of the action or adding to it?


    Linda Oreilly

    Warning! Warning!
    I dug into the Iliad only a few days ago; my answers may/will be shallow.

    The gods enrich the story. The gods are, to me, the passions. And what country or kingdom gets into a passionless war?
    How do you convince the regular troops to go to their destruction without the commands and requests of higher powers?
    Even a secular state has higher powers to call on.
    Gods always take to the battlefields, even now — flags and anthems and prayers are right there in the stew.
    It’s hard to imagine a war, even a cold one, without the gods or whatever is used in their place.

    I’ll jump back into this when deeper thoughts strike me.

    • This reply was modified 5 years, 8 months ago by Linda Oreilly.

    Alan Birnie

    It is not at all shallow to suggest that the Gods add passion to the story. I agree completely.

    The Gods will intervene in the actions of mortals todetermone what happens (“Ajax knew the hand of heaven in this…” see page 20 of the PDF). Is this Homer’s representaion of how chance and circumstances combine to influencethe course of our lives?

    I am also interested trying to identify if there is a commone theme to the way the Gods respond to the pleas of mortals. The Gods appear to be judgemental in what they grant such pleas (“Part of it he did indeed vouch-safe him – but not the whole…” see page 23 of the PDF). What I am unsure of is how the Gods decide how they will respond to the pleas and sacrifices pf mortals. In other words what reasoning do the gods use? Additionally, what evidence do they require to grat a plae?. Is there a discreet message in the text which answers my uncertainty? It will also be interesting to identify any themes in regards to the response of the mortals to the actions of the Gods. Perhaps this would give us ideas about hwo we should live of lives in the modern world!


    Alan Birnie

    I have just come across this quote attributed to Lionel Trilling: “What gods were to the ancients at war, ideas are to us”.

    Anyone care to comment?

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