Gods vs. Men in The Iliad, Essay Example

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I disagree with the idea that the action is controlled by the gods. It is my idea that the gods in Olympus are just reacting to what men on earth are doing. At first it seems the other way around. Right away you see that the narrator addresses “the immortal one”, saying “the will of Zeus” was done. And then the question “Among the gods, who brought this quarrel on?” is asked and answered with “the son of Zeus by Leto”, who is Apollo, a god.

But then as you read, you see that the gods are actually just reacting to what the non-immortal heroes (like Achilles and Agamemnon) are doing. In fact, early on the outcome seems to depend on a vote of men, namely the soldiers who come out in favor Agamemnon returning Khryseis to her father. “Behave well to the priest, and take the ransom!”

This pattern is repeated throughout the story. Hera asks Athena to intervene by visiting Achilles, who is about to do battle with Agamemnon. Athena does so and pleads with Achilles to “stay your hand upon the sword hilt”, and gives him an offer of triple riches that she promises will be his if he obeys. In other words, Athena, a major goddess, has to bargain with Achilles. Achilles then says something that is revealing: “Honor the gods’ will, and they may honor ours.”

This statement pretty much describes the balance of power, at least in Book 1. Achilles is saying that the gods and men have a kind of pact to keep things in balance.  The gods can react indirectly by sending arrows, dreams, and even goddesses to earth to make their case, but those on earth still do what they have to do. They have to fight each other to eat before they can pray.

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