Writing Assignment – Week 8

Upon awakening from his night with Hera, Zeus lays out the basic plot points for the rest of the epic (15.49-77). How does this narrative foretelling relate to Prof. Nagy’s argument about the importance, to the epic, of the will of Zeus? Further, in what ways is this sort of ‘spoiler’ a different narrative tactic from modern storytelling? Be sure to support your claims with specific citations from and references to the text (both in this scroll and others).

20 thoughts on “Writing Assignment – Week 8

  1. Natasha Moore

    I guess that I’ll get this started. As we know, in Scroll 15 Zeus wakes to see the Trojans fleeing and Poseidon leading the Greeks. He realizes instantly what Hera had been up to earlier and confronts her, at which point he gives his boule (15.49-77) outlining what will take place during the rest of the epic. During this speech, he foretells of the death of his own son Sarpedon by Patroclus hands, the death of Patroclus by Hector, the death of Hector by Achilles, and of the eventual success of the Achaians (15.64-72). While we are already aware of what will eventually happen, Zeus’ spoken account acts as a reminder. In books one through fourteen we have yet to see much movement towards Achilles’ aristeia and the full extent of his wrath. Once the will of Zeus is presented, things begin to move much quicker and it seems like we are finally getting to the heart of the battle and of the epic.

    It seems as if the not only the will of Zeus but divine intervention is a key driving point to the Iliad. An example of this would be Patroclus death at the end of book 16. Before his downfall Patroclus proved himself to be the most successful on the battlefield by slaying a total of fifty three men. It is not until he is stunned by Apollo (16.844-846) that Euphorbos is able to spear him in the back and Hector is able to eventually kill him. Another example would be when Zeus snaps Teucer’s bowstring to keep him from shooting Patroclus. It is clear that the gods have some amount of control over the fates of mortals and because Zeus has a large amount of control over the other gods, his will is the most important.

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    1. Teresa Plummer

      I was intrigued by your comment that it seems like “not only the will of Zeus but divine intervention is a key driving point to the Iliad.” However, I would suggest that it is the will of Zeus alone that truly drives the Iliad, and that the intervention of the gods is simply in line with or the acting out of that divine will. If the will of Zeus is that Patroklos kills Sarpedon, Hektor kills Patroklos, Achilleus kills Hektor, and the Achaians capture Ilion (15.65-71), then the example that you gave of Apollo stunning Patroklos before Hektor eventually kills him was in line with the will of Zeus to “cut down Patroklos with the spear before Ilion” (15.65-66). And, in your example of Zeus stopping Teukros’ arrow from hitting Hektor (15.458-465) was also done in order to prevent an action that would have gone against the will of Zeus. This will of Zeus is so powerful and so all-encompassing that even Zeus with all his power cannot disregard it. When Zeus longs to snatch Sarpedon from the fighting so that he can live, he does not do it because it would go against his will and change the outcome of the epic (16.433-434). Even Hera reminds him that if he rescues his own son, going against “destiny,” (16.441-442) that every other god would want to do the same. Wouldn’t this mean that even Thetis would be tempted to pull Achilleus from the battle unharmed? That would definitely change the outcome of the story! No, the will of Zeus is vital to the epic and must be carried out.

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      1. Alicia Wooten

        The biggest question I have is how much of the will of Zeus is actually what Zeus wants? In book 16, Zeus desperately wanted to save his son, so why didn’t he? Hera convinces him that if he saved his son, the other gods would try to save their own mortal offspring. If Zeus is as powerful as he so often claims to be, why doesn’t he just stop the other gods later? This makes me wonder how much of what we attribute to the will of Zeus is actually the work of “destiny” (16.442) and how much influence Zeus has over “destiny.”

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    2. Kendal Longmore

      Thank you Natasha for getting us started. I like all your points and feel that they adequate represent what Prof. Nagy’s argument on the importance of the will of Zeus. For me, before the event of Zeus foretelling the events of the rest of the epic I hadn’t realized how much control Zeus really has. With him explaining the rest of the event in (15.49-77) I now realize the power he has over the human lives. Also in terms of this tactic in, we would not see such spoiler today. In most modern plays and things of such the audience will know the ending events but the characters within the story are usually unaware. This is supposed to make for “good drama” so to speak since we get to see how the events play out.

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    3. Alicia Wooten

      I definitely agree with Natasha’s point, “Once the will of Zeus is presented, things begin to move much quicker and it seems like we are finally getting to the heart of the battle and of the epic.” One of the reasons that the narrative was moving so slowly before is that the other gods were interfering with Zeus’s plan. First, in Book 8, Zeus tried to stop this hindrance by forbidding the other gods’ involvement in the war. This even did not stop Hera from finding a way to help the Greeks. She just helped Poseidon save the Greeks by tricking Zeus. Telling Hera his will was probably the easiest way for Zeus to get her to stop interfering.

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  2. Teresa Plummer

    Hi Natasha,

    I agree with your comment, “In books one through fourteen we have yet to see much movement towards Achilles’ aristeia and the full extent of his wrath.” At the beginning of the poem, we are told that the poem is about the “anger of Peleus’ son Achilleus” (1.1), but we don’t hear much from Achilleus after that first Book. It is almost as if the poet is building suspense by leaving Achilleus out of the action of the story, only to remind us from time to time that he and his anger are crucial to the plot. When Zeus gives this ‘spoiler,’ it does seem, as you say, to move things along quicker and finally get us to “the heart of the battle of the epic.”

    Thanks,
    Terri

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    1. Sheree Goffe

      I feel that the books are all a build up for Achilleus return to battle. Even with the manipulation of all the gods nothing changes how Achilleus will come back to battle with a vengeance where he will obtain his glory and respect. the book isn’t about troy or helen or agammnon. It is about Achilleus’ glory and how Zeus made it occur(his will). Which he tells when he awakens from his slumber in bk 15.49-77

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  3. Paulina Horton

    I think the “spoiler” in Book 15 functions similar to dramatic irony. The audience knows that Zeus’ will must be carried out, but the characters don’t. Unlike modern stories though we know everything. It’s like they’ve told us the ending to a book when we were half way through it. I know for me I thought that the story wouldn’t be as interesting because I know what’s going to happen, but it’s the opposite. I think this is interesting, because we kind of have the perspective of the gods. We’re removed enough from the story to know how it’s going to end, but we don’t know how each individual will react to bring the foretold events to fruition. The suspense of the story lies in the actions of the characters not in the story itself. That being said, the will of Zeus plays both a periphery and central role in the story. We all know that Zeus is trying to restore Achilles’ honor, but in order to do that he has to cause a series of events that can make that happen. He gives Hector the strength to push the Achaians all the way back to their ships, he gives Patroklos the idea that he can storm Troy that leads to his death, but these things individually aren’t what restores Achilles’ honor. They just help move the story along. It’s not until after Patroklos is killed and Achilles returns to battle to kill Hector that he has his honor restored, but in order for that to happen Hector must push the Achaians against a wall and kill Patroklos.

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    1. Teresa Plummer

      I felt the same way Paulina. Even though we know the outcome of the story, it is still interesting to read because “we don’t know how each individual will react to bring the foretold events to fruition.” And, even though it seems like the characters can change the outcome of the story or change the will of Zeus, they prove over and over again that they can’t. Even Hera knows that by putting Zeus to sleep, it is only a temporary reprieve for the Achaians when she says, “Poseidon, now with all your heart defend the Danaans and give them glory, though only for a little, while Zeus still sleeps” (14.357-359). Even though her actions do not change the outcome or the will of Zeus, they make the story interesting and suspenseful.

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    2. Sarah Lister

      I didn’t really consider dramatic irony until I read your post, but I have to agree. The spoilers form this irony in which we can sit back and look at the characters actions without feeling like they are really going to change anything. I feel like it’s almost a way to bring sympathy to even the least sympathetic characters because they aren’t in control of their lives at this point in time – Zeus is in control and even the other immortals’ attempts to change the characters’ fates are falling short.

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      1. Pascha Seda

        The spoilers of book 15 could definitely be seen in the form of dramatic irony but by definition it just doesn’t qualify as that for me. Dramatic irony is generally known as a plot device in which the audience has knowledge of the play of events that the characters are unaware of. Sort of like the “oracles” in the iliad but if we think back on the text we have seen many of the main characters who seem to have knowledge of what the future holds. Most commonly in their last moments of living as though they’ve had some moment of epiphany right as their killer stabs them. For example, during the dreadful scene depicting the last moments of Patroklos he forewarns Hector of his own death soon to be at the hands of Achilles. And put away in your heart this other thing that I tell you.
        IL.16.852”   You yourself are not one who shall live long, but now already
        IIL.16.853   death and powerful destiny are standing beside you,
        IL.16.854   to go down under the hands of Aiakos’ great son, Achilleus.’”

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        1. Paulina Horton

          Can you give me another example of when a character has an epiphany at his death about the will of Zeus? I see where you’re coming from, but I think Patroklos was just saying that his comrade would avenge him. As we’ve seen many times in the story when a warrior loses a comrade they get really upset and go on a killing spree to avenge their deaths. I think at this point Homer is saying that that principle will go doubly for Achilles and Patroklos since they’re closer than brothers. Patroklos knows this and can say with confidence that Achilles will avenge him, and we see that later in the story.

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  4. Kendal Longmore

    I think by Zeus telling his will within the story it differs from that of what we see today. We have gone into the reading with the knowledge of the death of Patroklos and the return of Achilles. By Zeus proclaiming his will within the story to the characters, well at least the gods, he is confirming what we know is to happen before we can see it play out. This does not normally happen in modern works. Although Romeo and Juliet is by no means a modern work we are never told the fate of these characters by some other person within the play. We have gone in with the knowledge that they will both die trying to preserve their love. In the Iliad because Zeus is the ruler he must tell his will to everyone. Despite this I would have to agree that knowing makes the story suspenseful because you are waiting and anticipating these majors events to happen so it always keeps you on your toes and alert when reading.

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  5. Sarah Lister

    I have to agree that the spoiler functions as a good way to present the story as the will of the gods – because Zeus is laying out what will happen, saying “Hektor shall cut down Patroklos with a spear” (15.65) and continuing, he’s showing that the entire story, the entire war, is his will; it’s almost sneering at Hera’s attempt to change the story, or at least, it seems that way to me. He basically rubs her deception in her face, saying “I will not let any other of the immortals stand there by the Danaans until the thing asked by the son of Peleus has been accomplished” (15.72), or, essentially, because of you, I’m ordering everyone to step back, and you can’t stop this, before ordering her to go back to Olympos.

    What caught my attention was her speech to the others: “Fools, we who try to work against Zeus, thoughtlessly. Still we are thinking in our anger to go near, and stop him by argument or force. He sits apart and cares nothing nor thinks of us, and says that among the other immortals he is pre-eminently the greatest in power and strength Therefore each of you must take whatever evil he sends you” (15.104); to me, in this speech, she’s confirming his spoilers, by saying that they have to sit back and accept his will, because they ultimately can’t change it, that the occurrences here are entirely his will and under his control.

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    1. Paulina Horton

      I never even thought to look at Hera’s response to Zeus’ proclamation. It really does show just how absolute Zeus’ command over the rest of the gods is. I’d like to add that I think Hera was also trying to tell the other gods how futile there actions are. Even with their interference in the beginning of the story it all ultimately fell in line with the will of Zeus. Achilles couldn’t have his honor restored in battle if Aphrodite hadn’t saved Paris in Book 3 from Menelaus. This also wouldn’t have happened if Athena had not convinced Pandaros to fire an arrow at Menelaus and restart the fighting in Book 4. The list goes on and on. Not only does her speech show how powerful the will of Zeus is, but it also shows how any interference by the other gods falls in line with the will of Zeus.

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  6. Pascha Seda

    You all have raised very interesting points, many of which I hadn’t even considered before reading your posts. The thing that stands out the most to me is everyone’s mutual conviction that Zeus’ will is sort of the script for the entire epic. Almost every influential event that takes place is somehow directed by Zeus despite the occasional disruption by the other gods. Which makes me question how and why the wrath of Achilles can still be credited with the series of events and outcomes in this great war. Although it was his greatest wish to earn kleos and his stubbornness that attributed to much of the Greeks’ suffering, it was never his wish for any of this to take place. It was by the request of Thetis that these matters were taken to the hands of Zeus and manipulated in such a tragic way. I do not see any of the mortals (including those who are of godly blood) as significant figures in the story at this point. They are all just disposable game pieces at this point. As we have witnessed favor, prayer, nor bloodline can save you at this point. It no longer seems that Zeus is determined to carve the glory of Achilles in history but rather him being more so determined to get his way and demonstrate his superiority over the other gods.

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  7. Sheree Goffe

    I like all the points you guys have made, but I feel as though the Iliad is indirectly Achilleus story. It started with him and will eventually end with him. In the beginning of the iliad it mentioned Zeus’ will. I feel that Achilleus and Zeus’ are both intertwined in some way.IL.1.1-7 SING, goddess, the anger of Peleus’ son Achilleus and its devastation, which put pains thousandfold upon the Achaians, hurled in their multitudes to the house of Hades strong souls of heroes, but gave their bodies to be the delicate feasting of dogs, of all birds, and the will of Zeus was accomplished since that time when first there stood in division of conflict Atreus’ son the lord of men and brilliant Achilleus. With that said it was already foretold that Zeus and Achilleus were the power structure of the iliad.

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  8. Natasha Moore

    I’m loving everything that we have touched on but I have another question. All of us have basically agreed that Zeus ‘ will has a huge impact on the epic and as Pascha has said Zeus seems determined to prove his superiority. In a way could the epic be considered more about Zeus’ actions than Achilles’ anger? Yes it is true that Achilles’ wrath is what got Zeus involved but at this point Zeus is the biggest character. Even when Achilles comes back to battle it is because Zeus is the one who planned the events that lead him there. Achilles would have been out of the war for good and happy with Agamemnon’s defeat had he not been drawn back into the fighting.

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    1. Kendal Longmore

      That is a very interesting point to make Natasha. I would say maybe looking from this point in the epic it does seem as though Zeus is playing the major rule but I think the main point Achilles wrath which you pointed out is always the central theme. Like you said, Achilles and his mother Thetis are responsible for bringing Zeus into the war. This known fact here I think will always override Zeus’s part towards the middle of the epic. Without Achilles Zeus wouldn’t have a great will or plan. And who knows, maybe Patroklos and others could have persuaded Achilles to reenter the war eventually.

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  9. Kendal Longmore

    That’s a very good point. I never thought of the Gods interfering with Zeus’s plan would make it go slower. To think about it though Zeus wouldn’t be able to keep an eye on the Gods and making sure that the war is going as planned. Especially with his own wife Hera on the opposite side of him.

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