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.

8 thoughts on “Writing Assignment – Week 4

  1. Shukura McGhee

    Book eight begins with and assembly of the gods. Zeus puts his foot down and declares that there will be dire consequences for any god or divinity that interferes with the war on behalf of the Trojans or the Achaians. It is in this scene were we finally see Zeus flex his power and assert his will, that the war play out as it may. This opening scene sets the tone for the rest of the book. We don’t see much interference from the gods in the mortal realm. Instead we now begin to see the more vulnerable side of the gods, a trait that has been masked by wrath in the previous books.
    Another example of this vulnerability can be found in book seven. In line 455, Poseidon begins to complain to Zeus about the tower that the Achaians have beult. He believes that there work will overshadow his and that his efforts will be discredited. Zeus had to remind him off his power:
    “Deeply troubled, Zeus who gathers the clouds answered him: Some other one of the gods might fear such a thought, one who is a god far weaker of his hands and in anger than you are; but the fame of you shall last as long as dawnlight is scattered. Come then! After once more the flowing-haired Achaians are gone back with their ships to the beloved land of their fathers, break their wall to pieces and scatter it into the salt sea and pile again the beach deep under the sands and cover it; so let the great wall of the Achaians go down to destruction”
    This pep talk sums up the disposition of the gods, it seems that they feel powerless when they are not allowed to assert their wrath on the mortal world.
    It seems that as the gods lose their power the warriors are empowered to rely on their own strength and determination. We see the Achaians turn to one another for sources of strength after they lose the favor of Zeus.
    Jealousy is also prevalent in this book. There is a scene where Athene recalls favors she has performed for Hercules on behalf of Zeus, but yet he still favors Thersites over her. The gods have to be reassured of their ability and strength after the initial scolding at the beginning of the chapter.

    Did you guys see any other examples of that power struggle?

    1. Jerome Lawrence

      Well said. The gods did show human emotions such as jealousy. I believe that Zeus meant that he would fulfill his promise to Thetis to restore Achilleus honor by causing the Achaians to face hardships on the battlefield in his absence (back in book 1 where Thetis supplicates to Zeus) so Athena’s jealous words (8.370-8.373) were likely to have little effect to Zeus’ subsequent actions. The gods do indeed feel powerless as mentioned earlier with proof of this in line 8.31 where Athena acknowledges Zeus might, 8.28-8.29, Hera saying to Athena that she will turn back in line 8.426, and Poseidon refusing to disobey Zeus during his conversation with Hera beginning in line 8.200. They thus know that unless Zeus permits them to aid the mortals of either side on the battlefield, they were powerless to do anything.
      There is indeed a power struggle between almost all the gods except Zeus, since Zeus has shown overpowering dominance by his words and actions on the battlefield (throwing lightning bolts from Olympus. The power struggle is mostly shown between the goddeses in the Iliad however and it almost always seem to center Athena and Hera most of all.
      Compared to the actions of mortals, Hektor speaks with a lot of dominance almost always if not all the times he spoke in book 8. Diomedes does talk with exceeding courage in this book as well, but since Zeus was striking lightning bolts upon the Achaians, Hektor made more boastful remarks. He had reason to make these remarks for he had Zeus, the most powerful god, aiding the Trojans in their battle against the Achaians.

    2. Joseph Reid

      I agree with your post, Shukura, especially when you mentioned us finally seeing Zeus put his foot down and assert his power. I also see how this scene set the tone for the rest of the book in how there was no more interference, especially when Hera and Athena were threatened by Zeus. I was impressed with how you concluded asking a question about the power struggle. I also saw a power struggle, although later in the Iliad, between Zeus and Hera, deciding what to do with Sarpedon.

      1. Alyssa Sohns

        I definitely agree, Zeus was very deliberate and focused in his decision to make the rest of the gods leave the participants of the war alone. I agree that he finally asserted his full power as king of the gods, the most powerful god there was, and was unable to be moved from his decision. His decision is similar to Helenos, Priam’s son, who was deliberate in his speech toward Hector to have him fight one on one and spare the rest of the army, and he was so strong in his speech that Hector did as he said.

  2. Joseph Reid

    There were a lot of divine events in Book 8 of the Iliad. There was an assembly on Olympus, where Zeus reminds the gods of his power and tells the gods not to interfere.He tells the immortals he wants a speedy end to the war. He reminds them how strong he is and even Athena is impressed by his performance. He goes down to Mount Ida to keep a closer eye on things. He decides it’s the Trojans’ turn to triumph. Soon the Greeks are being routed and he makes sure of it by well judged use of thunderclaps, an example of this is when he frightens off Diomedes when he attacks Hector. Hera tells Poseidon she wishes they could interfere but he says no. Now Hector is victorious, and certain that tomorrow he’ll storm the wall and burn the ships. But Hera inspires Agamemnon to rally their forces before it is too late. Hera and Athena plan to arm and go to battle, but Zeus sees them and threatens them. They complain, but Zeus says he will kill whole armies and could send her to Tartaros if he wished. The actions of the mortals and gods are related especically in book 7 when Hector and paris returned, evening the battle. This resulted in Apollo and Athena proposing that Hector should issue a challenge to single combat with Ajax, who was chosen by lot.

    1. Bailey Allen

      After rereading all the posts, specifically Joseph’s and Jerome’s, I realized that Joseph starts off his post with Zeus informing the other gods not to get involved, and then goes on to describe all the ways in which they do. It did not click with me when I read the book, but just the way you ordered it here, they seem to be disobeying him in sneaky ways. Jerome also compared Zeus and Hektor, specifically the power they hold and how unquestionable they are. The two posts in order sort of shaped the thought in my head that perhaps Zeus is not quite as indisputable as I first assumed. That thought led me to wonder about all the leadership roles in the Iliad, and the legitimacy of their authority. For some reason, I am rather fond of Hektor and feel he’s doing a pretty good job considering the giant mess Paris got him into, but why hasn’t he just told Paris to knock it off and give Helen back or get out there and battle it out with Menelaous for real? And why exactly is Agamemnon in charge of the Greeks when it seems that Achilleus is a better warrior, and Odysseus it seemed to me a more respected leader? To relate this back to the question, divinities are supposed to have ultimate power, yet the situation appears to be only under their control in the slightest of ways, and within themselves they seem to be barely under the authority or Zeus.

  3. Jerome Lawrence

    I have seen some good posts. I posted before giving details about the god to god interaction and the similarities between the interactions of the gods and the interactions between the mortals (usually results from divine intervention. For example Hektor’s case that I mentioned above where he gains a lot of battle confidence from the fact that Zeus was assissting the Trojans. One big difference between the interactions of the gods and the interactions of the humans is although Hektor threatened the Trojans, it took a lot of action on his part (he slayed many Achaian warriors during the battle) for all the mortals including proud Agamemnon and the brave warrior Diomedes to fully fear and back away from his onslaught or take him fully serious and fearfully or at least mindful of his might enough to retreat; whereas, it actually only took words speaking of self-might from Zeus for the other gods to feel fearful. Athena and Hera attempted to disobey but just the words from Zeus relayed by Iris, the messenger that threatened the end of the Achaians and spoke of life in tartaros for Hera for them to obey and return obediently to Olympus. All of this takes place in book 8. What it shows is the real difference between the might, influence, and fear of a man (mortal such as Hektor) and the might of a god (Zeus). Regarding experience, the experience of killing warrior after warrior on the battlefield lets the reader visualize his battle skill and prowess now in book 8 rather than simply hear that he was a great warrior like back in book 1 when he scolded Paris and Paris accepted the scolding and praised him line (3.38) or in book 6 when he sets off for the battlefied and Paris meets up with him and apologizes for arriving late. Before this book, Hektor’s skill could be questioned and was indeed questioned by Sarpedon who said that Hektor talked a lot but was short of action. Zeus however, was always said to be the one in charge of all the gods. He even scolded Ares (the god of war) back when he aided the Trojans! Now Zeus is aiding the Trojans and no-one dared to speak ill of him to him.

  4. Bailey Allen

    I feel that the gods are just giant magical people. Typically, when I picture the greek gods, I imagine them sitting on the edge of Olympus with popcorn buckets, looking down and laughing at the funny little humans. Maybe they get involved by pushing thoughts around, but I sont see them popping down to have conversations with people. But here, the gods are emotionally involved and attempting to keep their most beloved human alive. The way they interact with the humans is persuasion or weapons, as Athena came down and instead of placing thoughts in Hektor to offer a battle, she has him persuaded. A few of you brought up the fact that they seem to have human emotions, such as jealousy, or compared Zeus to Hektor. All those points help contribute to the idea that gods are merely super human, at least in the context of the Iliad.


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