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The Concept of God in The Iliad by Homer Essay

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The Concept of God in The Iliad by Homer

The American Heritage Dictionary defines a god as "1. A being conceived as the perfect, omnipotent, omniscient ruler and originator of the universe, the principal object of faith and worship in monotheist religions. 2. A being of supernatural powers, believed in and worshiped by a people."(360) I believe the first definition reflects Modern America's connotation of the word god. The latter definition recalls the Ancient Greco-Sumerian ideal of a being greater than man. While both definitions are equally valid in literature, many perceive the word only in the first view. However, the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Epic of Gilgamesh portray an obvious theme with gods possessing limits and imperfections, not "perfect, omnipotent, and omniscient"(360). The gods in the time of these selections obviously reflect society, unlike the first definition, the only difference is they possess immortality (Melchert 8).
In the Odyssey, the goddesses Circe and Kalypso both expected lifelong commitments from the mighty Odysseus. Both of the goddesses promised great things to the hero, including godhood. Odysseus could refuse both goddesses. Human obstinacy beat out the whims of goddesses. If the Protestant god were to make any type of demands upon his followers, more than likely, they would not refuse him. One could argue, though, that Odysseus did give in to the goddesses by bedding them. Always though, his focus eventually shifted to returning home and reuniting with his mortal wife. Homer portrayed a man who refused immortal beauty for true love. "She is mortal after all, and you are immortal and ageless. But even so, what I want and all my days I pine for is to go back to my house and see my d...


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knowing what lies at our feet and to what porportion we are born.
Strive not, my soul, for an immortal life,
but use to the full the resources
that are at thy command.
Clearly, the Greeks and Sumerians around the time of Homer had an alternate sense of the divine being. They recognized the power of the gods, but they were also aware of their limits. They realized that the gods were not all-powerful and were, as we have seen, constantly trying and testing them to see exactly how powerful they were. Today that is comparable with Christianity. All in all, the gods of Greco-Sumerian history were powerful, but in comparison to the mortals that they powered, the gods had merely the ability to live forever. Perhaps, these so- called gods should not be called gods, but simply immortals. They obviously do not stand up to the dictionary meaning of the word god.


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