The Picture Of Gods And Religiosity In The Homer’s Iliad

Historians and critics have different opinions about Homer’s authenticity. The authenticity of The Iliad is often in dispute. Academic circles also sometimes question Shakespeare’s authorship. EV Rieu’s introduction reveals that Ilium was indeed present in modern-day Turkey. Although the Greeks may have actually occupied it, Rieu points out that Homer was not concerned about the fact that there was a Trojan War. Homer was just a poet who relied upon oral epic tradition. He was not attempting to record actual events, but rather to educate or entertain. The Iliad can be considered literature, regardless of its content. The discussion should therefore avoid vain questions that we may never know the answers to.

The primary question that arises is why Homer gives gods such prominence. Did Homer view this as a literary device that commented on the values and time of his generation? A man born in the eighth Century BC would have been influenced by popular beliefs. Homer paints them with the colours he sees. Herodotus claims that Homer and Hesiod gave the immortals a social identity. Homer’s gods have a clear resemblance to the everyday characters one may encounter. The gods in Homer’s text seem to represent an alternative structure. It is not that different from the real world. Homer doesn’t believe that Homer associates his gods the same qualities of divinity as we do. Their immortality is not proof of their omnipotence, as evidenced by Diomedes’s wounding of Aphrodite. Additionally, there is a clear hierarchy between them that is determined by their level of power. Zeus is designated the Olympus’ ruling patriarch. Zeus, the most powerful god, was able to dethrone Cronus, his father, through symbolic castingration. This hierarchy’s nature is revealed in Zeus’ warning to Olympians Book VIII: “Come on, gods. You can try me, please, and discover for yourselves.” Also, gods are seen to be superior to mortals due only to their strength. Homer could have seen the gods simply being powerful overseers.

Homer also does not attribute Homer’s omniscience to the gods. Homer is shown to believe that they live in parallel societies, each with their own set of insecurities. Although the gods can observe the world of the mortal from Olympus, they do not know the fates of their minions. The fate and destiny of immortals is an all-encompassing abstraction. Zeus, who is superior in strength and able to influence events and keep the other gods out of harm’s way, is seen to pre-empt future events. But even this is not the case. For example, when Sarpedon is killed, Zeus is seen to make peace with fate. Poseidon intervenes for Aeneas’ sake when Achilles is defeated by Aeneas. It allows him to fulfil his ultimate destiny which sees him establish the Roman lineage. Zeus, however, is not an all-powerful god. Instead, Hera seduces her to allow Poseidon to help Greeks.

In addition, they treat human affairs, in keeping with the feudal analogy above, as a game for themselves and their vanity. As evidenced by the many instances of them consuming mortals in Greek mythology, they only intervene when it appeals. They also suffer from the mortal flaws of ennui. This is illustrated by Book XIII’s Zeus turning his attention to other things, almost as if he were flipping through TV channels. Sometimes the sole purpose of Gods is to get as many mortal followers and as many worshippers as possible. If they are interested in an occurrence such as. When Zeus deceives Agamemnon through Book II’s dream, or Achilles prays in vain for Patroclus’ safety.

Homer’s description of omnipresence is clear. He describes them as entities that exist in the world, rather than abstracts. Therefore, they are similar to ordinary mortals who cannot be present at all times to take part. The gods also do more than just appear at certain locations. They are involved in the mundane process called locomotion, although this is done through supernatural means.

Homer’s gods are based upon human behavior. One can see the shadows of every mortal flaw, such as envy, pride, malices, conceit and lust, in the affairs of the gods. What emerges is a complex political structure with its own class structure, along with many tiffs. Although Zeus is the supreme god, none of them dare to provoke him. However, Poseidon, his wise brother, feels the same way. Rieu says that the “humanness of the gods can be seen in the smallest details”. He also emphasizes the aspect of divine domesticity, such as Zeus and Hera going to bed together in Olympus after a hard day of work.

The gods can be characterized as being prone to vengeance and effrontery. Why should immortals be involved in trivial matters of men? They do it, even at the trivial games at Patroclus’ funeral. This would be their greatest flaw, as Homer envisioned. Ares laments that Zeus is wrong: “We gods must bear with the most frightful humiliations from each other whenever God does mankind a favor – and that’s all you have to do.” The rope was indestructible. It could not be broken. However, it broke many. Homer’s brilliant use of audience foreknowledge is a noteworthy aspect.

The gods’ wills and purposes are often not apparent to mortals. They can sometimes see where divine favour might be going, such as when Menelaus was confronted against Hector over Patroclus’ corps: “When an individual decides, without the blessings of the gods and to fight another who has their favour, he is heading for disaster.” Ironically, Hector embarks on a rampage because Zeus supported him, without realizing that he was just being used by Zeus to show Achilles his greater will. He realizes this in the face death and says: “It’s over.” The gods summoned me to my own death, so it was true.

It is still encouraging to note, however, that the gods are beginning to realize the futility of their interference in the Trojan War. The war will be the business of men.”

Longinus, an ancient critic, said that Homer has “in relating gods’ wounds. quarrels. vengeances. tears. imprisonments. And manifold misfortunes. Homer’s gods are seen to possess a humanistic character. This is evident in their speech and actions. Peter Jones stated in the introduction that Homer created them through his personal experience.


  • davidwong

    David Wong is a 29-year-old educator and blogger who focuses on helping students learn in creative and interesting ways. He has a background in teaching and has been blogging since 2006. David's work has been featured on a variety of websites, including Lifehack, Dumb Little Man, and The Huffington Post.