The Ancient Greek Gods

Thinking about The Iliad, what is the role of the gods in the story? What kind of forces do they represent? And what kind of relationship do they suggest between mankind and the divine? What agency (that is, what power to control or shape events) do people have? What agency to the gods have? What is the ultimate power? Does Homer give his audience any help as they struggle to understand their place in the universe? In other words, if you were looking for answers to the big questions about the meaning of life, what conclusions might you draw from the cosmology presented by Homer in The Iliad?

You may want to review some important passages that include the gods (the invocation; Apollo’s plague, in Book I; Achilles prayer to his mother, Thetis, a demigod; the drama between Thetis and Zeus and Hera; the role of Zeus as father of Sarpedon; the creation of the shield of Achilles by Hepheastus; any of Athena’s many interventions in the war) and ask yourself how we are supposed to understand the dynamic role of these gods in the story? Are they metaphorical interventions? You may also want to compare these gods as they are presented by Homer and by his contemporary Hesiod.

As usual, use these questions to come up with an idea to write about and use a quote or two in your discussion.

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