Divine Providence and Destiny in Homer's Iliad


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Divine Providence and Destiny in Homer's The Iliad


Destiny is defined as fate. One cannot escape destiny. Divine intervention on the other hand is much different. One can at least beg for mercy or help. Both destiny and divine intervention are intertwined in Homer's The Iliad. In book I Thetis asks a favor of Zeus in order to make her son look good. Zeus decides to help Achilles against the wishes of Hera. In Book II there are two gods trying to accomplish different tasks. In order to make Achilles look good, Zeus must give glory to the Achaeans. Hera on the other hand tries to help the Greeks. The gods try to assert their divine authority, but without the humans realizing they are being played like puppets. Throughout The Iliad we see both divine providence and the luck of humanity playing a part in the lives of Hector and Achilles.

In Book I Achilles looks for a holy man to find out why the gods are against the Achaeans. Achilles knows that in order to win the war, the Trojan army must find favor with the gods. The chosen holy man was Thestor. It was said that the god Apollo had given Thestor power to see into the world of the supernatural. Before Thestor would even say anything, he required assurance that he would not be harmed for what he had to say. Thestor blames the plague of problems on Agamemnon. Because Agamemnon will not return Chryseis, the Achaean army has fallen out of favor of the gods. In order to return to the protective umbrella of the gods, restitution must be given. Chryseis must be returned. In this instance, the humans wanted favor from the gods. In order to get it, they had to comply to what the gods wanted, which was give back Chryseis.

In Book II Zeus uses a dream to change the lot of Achilles. Agamemnon has a dream indicating that the Achaean's should give up. Nestor also agrees after hearing the dream. Agamemnon and the chiefs make a decision about the war and the destiny of the Achaean fighters based on a dream sent by Zeus whose purpose is to make Achilles look good. Here again, the gods are the puppeteers and the humans are not really in control of their destiny.

In Book VI we see the belief in fate becoming more evident.

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After Hector left his beloved wife Andromache, she returned to their house and began the grieving process. It was well known that he was not yet dead, but all knew that he would soon be.

"So in his house they raised the dirges for the dead,

for Hector still alive, his people were so convinced

that never again would he come home from battle,

never escape the Argives' rage and bloody hands."

It is already known that Andromache will be a widow and that their baby son will be an orphan. This, in their eyes, is inevitable.

There is not only a battle between the Achaeans and the Greeks, but also the gods. Zeus granted favor to Achilles because of his mother. This of course angered his wife Hera. In Book XIII, we see that Hera seduces Zeus just to gain an opportunity for Poseidon to help out the Greeks. Hera must get help from Aphrodite to make her more desirable, and of course Posedion actually leads the Greeks in battle. Hera late blames the success on Posedion. Zeus had already declared that all gods must stay out of the battle. We see the conflict between the gods is just as devious as the battle on Earthly soil.

One can only wonder the outcome of the war between the Trojans and the Greeks if the gods had not gotten involved. Would there even have been a war? The humans were like marionettes being orchestrated by the gods. The gods chose who lived or died and also who suffered.

Works Cited

The Iliad.

http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/iliad.characters.html

http://academic.reed.edu/humanities/110Tech/Ililad.Outline.html

http://library.thinkquest.org/19300/data/Iliad/virtiliad.htm


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