Writing Assignment – Week 4

Outline and map out the divine events in Book 8. How does it compare with the actions of the mortals in that book? What is the relationship between the actions of the mortals and gods in Book 7-8? Are the two related or simply concurrent (or mixed)? What does it say about the experience of the mortals in these two books “on the ground,” compared with other books in the Iliad, e.g. 5-6?

NB: Initial posts should be 350-400 words; each reply should be around 100 words.

23 thoughts on “Writing Assignment – Week 4

  1. Aliyah Barbee

    I’m so lucky to be starting the conversation this week since this is my favorite aspect of the Iliad to talk about: the meddling of the gods. I know I am not the only one infuriated with all the divine intervention. In a sense it almost ruins the story. By the gods constantly changing the fate of the soldiers, how are we supposed to know who would really win? It’s almost as if the gods are bunch of five year olds playing with army men, am I right? You know the meddlesome behavior has become too much when Zeus has to sit all his offspring down and tell them to knock it off. I was ecstatic when Zeus forbid them to meddle any further in the war, only to read about Zeus throwing lightning bolts at the Achaeans a few lines later…WHAT! “And he himself crashed a great stroke from Ida, and a kindling flash shot over the people of the Achaeans; seeing it they were stunned, and pale terror took hold of all of them (8.75-77)”. How can you condemn someone for doing something, and then go do that exact thing yourself?
    The only god that I do not mind interfering is Hera because she does not cause as much “damage” as some of the others. She mostly just instills the troops with confidence like she did with Agamemnon. “And now he might have kindled their balanced ships with the hot flame, had not the lady Hera set it in Agamemnon’s heart to rush in with speed himself and stir the Achaeans” (8.218-219). The biggest offenders would definitely have to be Apollo and Aphrodite, who take it upon themselves to save mortals from death when they deem it necessary! Excuse me? Who are you to save them and who are they to be saved? When it’s someone’s time to go, it’s their time to go. Essentially the gods are helping mortals cheat death! This also poses a serious question about favoritism between the Gods and certain mortals. Why are Hector and Paris worthy of having their lives saved but Tlepolemos and Pandaros are not? Is it because Hector and Paris are royals, while the others are solely soldiers? No, that can’t be the reason otherwise Apollo wouldn’t have saved Aineias in book 5. So what gives? Are the gods just so bored with their own lives, that they must meddle in others affairs?

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    1. Danielle Wood

      I definitely agree with your comment that the gods seem so bored with their lives that they have to meddle in the affairs of mortals. It also really feels to me that their actions are not really for the benefit of the mortals they thin they’re helping, it’s all for their own benefit, for example when Aphrodite saves her son, Aineias.

      Their reasons also tend to be very petty. One example that I found almost ridiculous is when Poseidon spoke to Zeus at the end of book seven: “Do you not see how now these flowing-haired Achaians have built a wall landward of their ships, and driven about it a ditch, and not given to the gods any grand sacrifice? Now the fame of this will last as long as dawnlight is scattered,and men will forget that wall which I and Phoibos Apollo built with our hard work for the hero Laomedon’s city” (7.448-453). He’s upset cause they built a better wall then him and then Zeus says, Fine, you can knock it down later. While its not really meddling in the war, it does show how the gods can at times seem like children who have the ability to ruin the lives of just about everyone they come into contact with.

      All of it just makes me wonder what the gods get out of all of this meddling other than some really twisted entertainment.

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      1. Camille Leeds

        Danielle,

        The reason that Poseidon was upset was partly because the gods are dependent on the mortals. They want the mortals to make sacrifices to them because they like the smell of the sacrifices. For some reason, the gods need to be acknowledged and worshipped by humans, so by building another wall near Troy, that’s taking away some of the accomplishment of the wall built by Poseidon and Apollo, making their work not as important as it once was.

        But the Iliad does show that the gods care about those in the war very much, they want to be involved for some reason, but Zeus is forbidding them, so they wouldn’t even partake of the Trojans’ sacrifices at the end of book 8: “[The Trojans] accomplished likewise full sacrifices before the immortals, and the winds wafted the savor aloft form the plain to the heavens in its fragrance; and yet the blessed gods took no part of it… so hateful to them was sacred Ilion…”(8.548-552). So something is definitely up, because the gods are abandoning their traditions of what they normally do.

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        1. Danielle Wood

          That does make sense, that they rely on mortals to worship them and make sacrifices to them. It just on occasion seems like they need it to fan the flames of their own pride more than anything.

          I agree that the gods do care about those in the war, but it seems like it would go much more smoothly if they stopped meddling and let it play out. If anything, they could give small nudges instead of swooping down and pulling people out of battle only to make things worse. But it is odd that they wouldn’t even take part in the sacrifices given to them.

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          1. Natalie Smith

            Danielle,

            I agree that it would be easier for the gods to let things play out the way they’re meant to, but that’s so boring for the gods!! Think about how long they’ve been alive. For most of that time they’re probably not doing very much. They basically just sit around because mortals have free will. The gods probably don’t want to get involved with who gets married to who, mainly because it’s just not that interesting. So when a war comes around, of course they’re going to meddle! They have nothing else to do and a war is MUCH more interesting to them than marriage. Hades gets some souls and the rest of them get to watch something interesting.

            I think that they’re not accepting the sacrifices because of the wall that’s being built, because Apollo and Poseidon see it as an offense. They built the Trojan wall and I believe that they see the Greeks as disrespecting that wall.

      2. Neko Ramos

        In response to Ms. Woods, i do agree with your perspective on how the gods tend to meddle into the battles for their own glory. I understand your point of view and believe that everyone in the Iliad ultimately has their own objective and they all want to go by any means necessary to achieve that objective. Your last sentence sparked something in me because it relates to my own response to this topic. I notice that you question what the gods get out of interfering with the battles and that actually is a great question to pose. The whole story around the Iliad is the theme of “kleos”, which means glory, so in my own opinion i believe that each god has their own way of getting their own “kleos”. Someone is always pulling for a side and someone is always fighting for a cause, i think as we move along in the Iliad we will realize that there will very rarely be any neutral characters, and that everyone has a purpose.

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    2. Nakia Browner

      I agree Aliyah that the gods intervention does almost ruin the story. Its like the gods are playing with toys in the human world, not conscious on the affect it may have inn the human world. The gods maybe bored in their world therefore they have placed it upon themselves to meddle in the mortal world, but its unfair that they can decide fates based upon their favorite. This war hasn’t even been tested to its full potential with just the strength of the mortals because the gods have manipulated events so much that its almost impossible to win the war alone.

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      1. Katharyn Hill

        I agree with you Nakita that we haven’t truly seen the strength of the mortals because the gods/goddesses are constantly intervening instead of letting it play out. Once scene that I found particularly interesting was when Zeus weighted the fate of the Trojans and the Achaians. “But when the sun god stood bestriding the middle heaven, then the father balanced his golden scales, and in them he set two fateful portions of death, which lays men prostrate, for Trojans, breakers of horses, and bronze-armored Achaians, and balanced it by the middle. The Achaians’ death-day was heavier” (8.68-8.72). I found what Nakita said where the mortals are like toys to the gods very applicable in this scene and the value of the human life is diminished to a toy for the gods to play with. The fact that the fate of an entire army rest in a golden scale shows the magnitude of the gods power.

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    3. Brittany Matthews

      Aliyah Barbee,
      I agree with you that the divinities treat the warriors as if they are toys. I have actually thought a lot about why the gods/goddesses intervene so much in the lives and affairs of the humans and I have come to the conclusion that they have nothing better to do. Immortals have divine powers, eternal lives, and the ability to get almost anything they could ever want. I guess if they just stayed in Olympos all the time and minded their own business, they would not have anything new and exciting to do. I believe that the divinities intervene with human concerns because they enjoy the drama that comes with it.

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      1. Katharyn Hill

        I completely agree with you Britanny. The gods/goddesses have the power to interfere and many have their favorite humans, so why not try and help them survive battle? Although it seems unfair that the gods/goddesses can take such a strong role in the outcome of war and death, it’s become accepted in their culture to have them interfere. I do agree with Aliyah that it was very hypocritical of Zeus to one minute say no one can interfere, and then turn around and get involved. But then again, Zeus is the king of the gods, so he really does have the final say. I also think that the humans are so used to life with immortals that it would be bizarre for no intervention to take place and many count on the gods/goddesses to help them. I don’t condemn the god’s behavior, but I do understand that their intervention is constantly changing the fate of the humans and elongating the war.

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    4. Natalie Smith

      Aliyah,
      I feel like Zeus has a “do as I say, not as I do” attitude. Though hypocritical, he does whatever he wants because he is “the strongest of all the immortals”(8.17). Because he is the top god, he probably feels as if he can do whatever he wants.
      You say that you don’t mind Hera interfering, yet isn’t her instilling the troops still helping “the mortals cheat death”? Had she not encouraged Agamemnon to go into battle, then a Trojan that was killed by his sword might have ended up surviving the day. Even though she is not swinging swords with them, her influence is still meddlesome because she is changing the course of battle in a different direction then it would have originally gone.
      The gods tend to favor their offspring or the strongest of the bunch. Yes, it’s unfair, but they don’t really care. And they are probably very bored up on Olympus. All they do is drink nectar and smell the mortals’ sacrifices, so when a war starts of course they’ll want to jump in. When you live forever life must get very monotonous, so I’m not surprised that they’re messing with the whole thing just for kicks and to make sure that their offspring don’t die.

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    5. Chris

      Hi, Aliyah.
      I concur. I feel though that Homer is very careful to not allow the gods to inflict any real damage on any mortal, supporting the concept that mortals must act in this world of their own ability alone. Gods cannot fight the battles of men. We can see, for instance, Zeus striking lighting down in the path of Diomedes (8.133-36), as he favors Priam and Hektor alike. But even in his power his wisdom understands he cannot step further than this. We see that this inspires Hektor, however, and hence, Priam’s son is given glory.

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    6. Chris

      The motion picture Troy deemphasizes the intrusion of the gods by never showcasing the divine narrative or action in any part of the film. This allows us to see that gods cannot help us fight our mortal battles. This responsibility is ours alone. If we depended on the gods, we would never learn courage, and that we must fight strongly for what we love and cherish in this world. But believing there is someone who hears our prayers gives us strength and inspiration, and the power to accomplish destruction, beauty, and everything in between in this life ourselves.

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  2. Joshua Dillard

    Very perceptive response Aliyah. I really enjoyed your analysis because I feel the same way, but I suppose I just accepted it as the way things are in Ancient Greece.

    But you are absolutely right. The contradictions galore, and it really does beg the question, “Who are the great warriors, really?”

    Like, did the Gods help Nestor defeat Ereuthalion all those years ago, and now he’s walking around still taking credit for it?

    Good points Aliyah, good points.

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  3. Camille Leeds

    I definitely agree with your opinion of the gods’ meddling, Aliyah. Zeus ordering the other Olympians to stay out of the fighting, and then he proceeds to ignore his own advice. He says that he’s stronger than all the other gods put together (8.19-27), so you would think that whatever the other gods did in the battle he could counteract if he wanted?

    Also, I’m wondering just how much of the continuing of the Trojan War for 10 years might be because of the gods’ manipulating. It has been established that all the Trojans, in addition to all the Greeks, hate Paris and wish to see Helen returned to Menelaus but Paris won’t let that happen – “I wish that [Paris] had perished before [he took Helen from Greece]…” (7.390) “Let us give back Helen of Argos and all her possessions…” (7.350) “I refuse, straight out. I will not give back the woman.” (3.362). The only person who doesn’t want this war to be over is Paris. So I wonder if the gods are somehow playing a role in its continuance. Even Helen has said that she wishes she had never left Menelaus, and she isn’t Paris’ biggest fan, though maybe she loves him without liking him.

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    1. Neko Ramos

      Everyone has made some valid points about how the interference of the gods really does have a negative impact on how we can view the mortals as being true warriors that have fought on their own. The begining of book 8 starts of with Zeus giving orders to stay away from battle, “Let none of you neither goddess nor god try to cross me, but obey me every one of you, that i may bring this matter to an end. If i see anyone acting apart and helping either Trojans or Danaans, he shall be beaten inordinately.”(book 8 lines 8.7-8.12) So here we see Zeus actually threatening others to not get involved, but i ultimately believe that it is just his pride and selfishness showing because he would rather be the only god to have a part in the battle. Later in the book, the text shows the affects of Zeus going against his word by intruding into the war as Nestor realizes what is harming him and the Acheans, “Then he was afraid and said to Diomedes, “Son of Tydeus, turn your horses in flight; see you not that the hand of Zeus is against you?”(book 8 lines 138-140). This is a prime example of how the Gods have egos just as well as the mortals do.
      This reminds of how book 2 started of theme of Zeus pursuing honor for Achilles. He ultimately wants to seek revenge by attacking anything that is close Agamemnon and anything that is in his way. Zeus sent the dream to Agamemnon in book 2 to defeat him psychologically, and now in book 8 i believe it is just another form of attack for Zeus. The gods do more than what we are use to on Earth with our own religious beliefs. Once a mortal prays to them, they literally fight and get involved, in order to pursue that mortals goal. I know for me i do not see a lot of words of wisdom and any points where the gods just simply guide them. Just like in book 1 where Chrysses prayed to Apollo and that ignited Apollo to send the plague and literally kill Acheans. This just goes to show you that once a prayer goes up to the gods or once a god gets offended, then i believe that they soon become one of the mortals.

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  4. Brittany Matthews

    I noticed that there is a pattern in book VIII between the actions of Zeus and reactions of Hera, Athene, Diomedes, and Nestor. During the battle, Zeus shows favor towards the Trojans by shooting lightning at the Achaians (8.75-76). This action stunned the Achaian warriors but did not influence Nestor and Diomedes to retreat. When Zeus threatened to hurt any god/goddess that interferes in the war after he commanded them all not to (8.7-16), the immortals were stunned by his words; however, it did not influence Hera and Athene to accept a passive role and they still attempted to re-join the war.
    When Zeus shot lightning right in front of Diomedes’s horses (8.133-134), Diomedes and Nestor finally felt threatened enough to retreat. When Zeus sent Iris to tell Athene and Hera that he “will lame beneath the harness their fast-running horses, and hurl the gods from the driver’s place, and smash their chariot; and not in the circle of ten returning years shall they be whole of the wounds where the stroke of the lightning hits them” (8.402-405), the goddesses finally felt threatened enough to stay out of the war.

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  5. Emily Berg

    Aliyah,

    I agree with your post. I think that the divine intervention does ruin the story. Although it adds an interesting dynamic between the characters, it becomes almost too complex and takes away attention from the essential characters that we should be focused on. However, I think there is an interesting parallel between the Gods and the mortals. At the beginning of book 8 it seems that the chaos goes from the mortal to the Gods. I am not sure why Homer would direct the attention away from the mortals in the way that he does but I think it is significant to note.

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  6. Emily Berg

    Also, what is frustrating to me is that most of the time we cannot know why certain Gods favor the mortals that they do. The divine interference proves interesting, but creates confusion and complexity within the story. Also, Zeus is extremely frustrating because of what he says in the beginning of book 8. Homer writes,”Hear me, all you gods and all you goddesses: hear me while I speak forth what the heart within my breast urges. Now let no female divinity, nor male god either, presume to cut across the way of my word..” (8.5-8). Zeus’s comments are ridiculous because he is God of all Gods and therefore, he is to blame for all the interference. Yet, he blames them instead. Personally, I feel like majority of the Gods commit hypocritical acts or words.

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  7. Celina Gauthier

    Dear Aliyah:
    While I do agree with you, that the immortals are meddlesome. I disagree that the biggest offenders are Aphrodite and Apollo. Zeus is the mastermind. He plays a game of cat and mouse with all the mortals. In book eight, lines 470-477, he says to Athene and Hera, “Tomorrow at the dawning, lady Hera of the ox eyes, you will see, if you have heart, a still mightier son of Kronos, perishing the ranged numbers of Argive spearman. For Hektor the huge will not sooner be stayed from his fighting until there stirs by the ships the swift –footed son of Peleus on that day when they shall fight by the sterns of the beached ships in the narrow place of necessity over fallen Patroklos. This is the way it is fated to be;” In essence, Zeus is telling Hera and Athene this is how it is. Yes, many Achaians are going to die in this battle tomorrow because I will it. Nevertheless, Hektor, who is the one motivating the Trojans to kill as many Achaians as possible will die eventually. Achilles will kill Hektor to avenge Patroklos. The entire plot of this poem is based upon Zeus’ will. Why he wishes this battle upon the mortals is still indiscernible? I am hoping that someone can shed some light on this for me.
    Celina

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    1. Aliyah Barbee

      Celina,

      I see your point about Zeus being the biggest offender when it comes to meddling. Do you believe he meddles because it is fated like he tells Poseidon? Also it seems like he only attacked the Achaians because the scale said their fate was heavier. I guess that’s why I do not view Zeus as meddling the most because it’s almost as if he has to do it, for the story line to progress. Whereas Apollo and Aphrodite meddle just for the hell of it.

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  8. Celina Gauthier

    Neko:
    I think you made very good points about Zeus pursuing Achilles honor. Zeus is protecting Hektor. Zeus sends heralds to end the one on one battle between Aias and Hektor. In book Seven, lines 279-283, “Stop the fight, dear children, nor go on with this battle. To Zeus who gathers the clouds both of you are beloved, and both of you are fighters; this thing all of us know surely. Night darkens now. It is a good thing to give way to the night-time.” Zeus also gives glory to Hektor in Book 8. Lines 130-135, “And now there would have been fighting beyond control, and destruction, now they would have been driven and penned like sheep against Ilion, had not the father of gods and of men sharply perceived them. He thundered horribly and let loose the shimmering lightning and dashed it to the ground in front of the horse of Diomedes and a ghastly blaze of flaming sulfur shot up, and the horses both cringed away against the chariot.” Does Zeus allow Hektor to live in both these instances so that the Trojan and Dardanian troops will inflict punishment on the Achaians? Yet, when Hektor wants to burn down the ships of the Achaians, Zeus caves in to Agammemon’s entreaties. Book 8. ;lines 245-252, “father took pity upon him and bent his head, that the people should stay alive, and not perish, Straightaway he send down the most lordly o birds, an eagle, with a fawn, the young of the running deer, caught in his talons, who cast down the fawn beside Zeus’s splendid altar where the Achaians wrought their devotions to Zeus of the Voices. They, when they saw the bird and knew it was Zeus who sent it, remembered once again their warcraft, and turned on the Trojans.” It makes me wonder, why does Zeus wish Achilles to be the one to kill Hektor?

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  9. Celina Gauthier

    Hi Aliyah:
    Why Zeus willed the battle to begin is beyond me. I do know that Zeus has been persuaded by Thetis to demonstrate to Agammemnon how important Achilles is to the Achaian army. My understanding is that Aphrodite and Apollo are assisting the Trojans. While, Athene and Hera are vying for the Achaians. I do understand why you feel that Zeus is not a meddler. Your interpreting his actions as divine and prophetic. I just wonder why he needs to intefere with the life of the mortals.
    Celina

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