Greek mythology has systematically included the intervention of gods and goddesses in matters of the mortal world, and Homer’s The Iliad is no different. The poem is littered with divine intervention, with both positive and negative outcomes for humans involved. Edith Hamilton states that “the first written record of Greece is the Iliad. Greek mythology begins with Homer, generally believed to be not earlier than a thousand years before Christ.” SethL. Schein claims that “one of the most characteristic features of the Iliad is the gods.” The gods and their relations with men play an important role in the poem. Throughout the poem, Homer represents the gods as intervening in human affairs and by this way they change the destiny of human life. This intervention of the gods is an important part of the poem and an effective way of Homer’s method, because without their
intervention the poem would not have continued.
Because of the intervention, the gods start the war between Trojans and Achaeans and the reason of the war leads them to take sides. Before the start of the war, the gods hold a wedding feast for the honor of Thetis and Peleus, the parents of Achilles and the goddess Eris is not invited to wedding. Eris, in revenge, throws a golden apple inscribed “for the fairest” into the banquet hall, knowing it will cause trouble. All the goddesses claim it for themselves and the goddesses Aphrodite, He raand Athena ask Zeus to make the final decision but Zeus decides that the task should be delegated to a mortal, Paris who is one of the princes of Troy and a son of Priam. Each of the three goddesses offers Paris a bribe so that he will name her the fairest: Hera promises him a large kingdom; to make him lord of Europe and Asia, Athena promises him a military glory and rampage all over Greece, Aphrodite promises him to give the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen, the wife of Menelaus, who is the king of Sparta. Paris visits Menelaus in Sparta and falls in love with Helen, taking her back to Troy with him, thus the war starts between Trojans and Achaeans. Because he chooses Aphrodite, both Hera and Athena become against him simply because Paris judges against them in the contest, so they are against the Trojans in general. The gods do several things to support their sides; even they fight in the battle themselves. Siding of the gods is a Homeric invention and Homer divides all the divinities into two groups; Apollo, Aphrodite, Artemis, Leto supporting the Trojans on one side and Athena, Hera, Poseidon, Her mes supporting the Achaeans on the other side. The gods throughout thepoem demand of Zeus to support their sides but Zeus, most importantly, does not take a side, but intervenes in parts of the war where he sees necessary.
Homer represents the gods in many aspects; as humanlike, super being, controller, having miraculous actions, life savers, and disguisers. Firstly, Homer demonstrates the humanization of the gods throughout the poem. Wallace Anderson names the features of Homer’s gods as an thropomorphic; they behave as if they are human. In other words, as Anderson claims, the gods in the Iliad “exhibit traits and feelings which are decidedly human.” For instance, Thetis cannot stand and weeps when she sees her son Achille’s sorrowing after the death of Patraclos, when the gods match against each other at the battle Zeus laughs, when Achaeans build the wall, Poseidon gets jealous and angry so that he is not offered any hecatomb, and when Ares and Aphrodite are wounded, they run to Zeus to complain as well as to get sympathy of him.
Another humanlike function of the gods in the Iliad is the organization of the gods; it resembles to the model of human beings. Being the youngest son of Cronus and Rhea who is hidden away by his mother before eventually overthrowing his father, both brother and husband of Hera, brother of Poseidon and Hades, Zeus is the king of all the gods and the god of sky and thunder. As the head of all the gods, Zeus’s will is the ultimate law since he is the monarch and acknowledged. Like a mayor in the human world each of the gods rules a region with their certain rules and responsibilities. Therefore, as G. M. A. Grube claims all the gods “have to respect each other’s right and powers” because Zeusis the final authority.
Since the genre of the Iliad is a moral tragedy, the gods “demand among men strict adherence to oaths, proper regard for and mercy to suppliants, respect for the aged and for the dead, and obedience to the gods.” In terms of this moral code in the poem, when men violate the rules or do not respect to the gods, they cannot escape from their punishment. Iliad begins during the tenth year of the Trojan War and in an earlier attack against the Trojans, Achaeans captures two beautiful women and keeps them as a war prize; Chryseis is awarded to the commander of the Greek army Agamemnon and Briseis to Achilles. In the First Book, when Agamemnon offends Chryses, the priest of Apollo, and drives him away harshly by refusing to ran somback his daughter, Chryses appeals to Apollo. Then Apollo “heard him…Over against the ships he dropped to a knee, let fly a shaft and a terrifying clash rangout from the great silver bow,” and sends a plague upon the Achaeansinre tribution. Hence, the first intervention of Apollo leads to the angering of Agamemnon and then Achilles’ withdrawal for the battle.
After the army has suffered nine days, the goddess Hera like a human being takes pity on them and puts the thought in the mind of Achilles to arrange an assembly to discuss the matter. Agamemnon not only betrays to his wife physically but also he claims that he does not like her sexually any more: “because I, I refused that glittering price for the young girl Chryseis. Indeed, I prefer her by far, the girl herself; I want her mine in my own house! I rank her higher than Clytemnestra, my wedded wife-she’s nothing less in build or breeding, in mind or works of hand. ”Because Agamemnon betrays his wife and insists on not to send Chryseis, he is punished by the god Apollo but he will be also punished in the future by his wife, Clytemnestra and her lover. This way the gods intervene in human affairs and change the results of events.
Secondly, although the gods have some human qualities, they are presented as super beings with divine power. In fact they are superior to human beings since they are more than human; they can be wounded in the battle but can recover immediately, they know the future before it happens, because “they have the capacity to see everything and to know everything,” so they can change the fate of the human beings. In other words, the control of the human life is in the hands of the gods. Moreover, they can change their appearance into a human or an animal and they can also go from one place to another in light speed. For example, Zeus sends Athena to the battlefield and “down the goddess swept from Olympus’ craggy peaks and dove like a star the son of Cronus flings.”18 They can be visible or invisible as they wish an dalsoas George Calhoun states “a god may make the hero invisible, or transfigure him, or inspire him with divine fire…”
Thirdly, Homer represents the gods as having miraculous actions; they can give life to a human being who is dead or they can convey their message through animals. In Book Seventeen, for the death of Patroclus, Achilles’ horses weep: “But standing clear of the fray Achilles’ horses wept from the time they first had sensed their driver’s death…warm tears flowing down their eyes to wet the earth…the horses mourned.” In the same way, when Achilles grieves bitterly after he has leant the death of Patroclus, crying so loud that his mother, the goddess Thetis hears him from the depths of the sea, and comes to grieve with him and like a human being she weeps. Homer represents the gods as they pity the lives of human beings. Thetis prophesies to her son in tears that: “You’re doomed to a short life, my son, from all you say! For hard on the heels of Hector’s death your death must come at once.” When the goddess realizes she will not change his mind, she arranges an e warmor from the god of fire. Everything unfolds as Zeus has planned and Achilles finally throws himself into the fight.
Lastly, Homer portrays the gods as manipulative. That is, Homer represents the gods and their ability to control mortal lives, actions and consequences. Because human beings are victims of their passions, they need to be controlled by reason, by the gods. Athena is the goddess of wisdom and reason and Homer says that men are guided by reason. Only with the guidance of Athena, Achilles can control his anger. In the First Book at the assembly, Achilles reminds Agamemnon that he has all the prizes of the battle up to the present. Soon Agamemnon agrees to give Chrysies back but demands another woman as compensation and chooses the girl of Achilles, and takes Briseis. Then Achilles calls him shameless and greedy but Agamemnon counters that he doesn’t need Achilles. This announcement makes Achilles even angrier and he is on the point of drawing his sword to kill Agamemnon and telling Athena”I tell you this, and so help me it’s the truth–he’ll soon pay for his arrogance with his life!” The goddess Hera sends Athena at this point to stop him because Athena as a symbol of reason always controls the anger of Achilles. Athena prevents him from losing his temper and promises him greater glory. Achilles stops killing Agamemnon but pulls his whole army out of the war. If Athena had not intervened at this point, the entire plot would have been changed; without Agamemnon there will be no war and without Achilles there will be no hero and rage, thus the intervention of the gods greatly affects the plot of the epic. In addition, he prays to his mother, the goddess Thetis, to beg Zeus to avenge his dishonour by supporting the Trojans against Achaean forces. Thetis convinces Zeusto take the side of the Trojans.
Overall, Homer’s Iliad reflects the conflicts of the gods as similar to a conflict of humans. The Greeks and Trojans are on the point of ending the war, but the gods are not ready for this and stir the mup to continue battling each other because the gods still want to resolve their own struggles, so they use the men for their own purposes. We can say that the battle turns to be a war of the gods. Consequently, Homer in his Iliad represents the gods as humanlike, super being, controller, having miraculous actions, life savers, and disguisers. By means of humanization of the gods, Homer makes his audiences feel better sympathy towards them; the more the gods have human characteristics as jealousy, weeping, complaining, the more the audience empathize themselves with the gods. Besides these humanizations, we see the gods as super beings; they can recover easily, can see everything, arrange the future and so change the fate of human beings by intervening. In addition, by their miraculous actions, a dead person can be revived or an animal can speak; in other words, they can give life and sound to everything that seems impossible. Homer makes the gods intervene the human affairs to show that whatever human beings try to change their fate, the control of everything is in the hands of the gods; aman cannot escape from his destiny. Therefore, the gods are represented as the controllers of human lives and in order to control or intervene in the human affairs, the gods disguise themselves into animals or people so that they can cheat people or help them as they wish. Hence, Homer weaves the Iliad by representing the gods with his own myth making talent; demonstrating the gods as both human like and god like.