The Gods and Men in Homer’s Iliad
Homer’s epic The Iliad is centralized around the wrath of Achilles and the events that unfold as a result of his rage. The epic exhibits the human behaviours and tendencies that are reflected in the gods such as the struggle to maintain absolute power and inability to control emotions, but also emphasizes the gods’ view of morality and immortality. Zeus and Apollo are two of the many gods to display confliction and rage. The gods and men mirror each other in many ways with the only difference being their immortality and how they abuse that privilege. The gods play a crucial role in the epic, exemplifying the motivations behind the mortals, as they are essentially puppets in a spectacle between the higher beings, choosing between the Achaeans and Trojans.
The demi-god Achilles, and the distant-deadly archer, Apollo are of different worlds but are also alike in terms of their wrath. The beginning of the epic opens up with Achilles and Apollo exerting their anger at Agamemnon for the same reason, that is, stealing a woman. Apollo curses Agamemnon for stealing his priest’s daughter, Chryseis, as his prize, condemning his army to a plaque. The irony in this is that in an attempt to plea for mercy, Agamemnon returns Chryseis only to enrage Achilles by stealing his prize, Briseis. When he tells Achilles of his plan to take Briseis away from him, “[h]e broke off and anguish gripped Achilles./ The heart in his rugged chest was pounding, torn . . .” (Iliad, I. 222-223). Also, both Achilles and Apollo are obsessively invested in the destruction of opposing sides, again, because of the disrespect placed upon Apollo’s temple by the Achaeans, and on Achilles’ part, because of the death of Patroklus. It is only until after Patroklus’ death and Achilles becomes determined to destroy Troy by killing the city’s future - prince Hektor. Despite an awareness of his own fate to come, he states, “[t]hen let me die at once” because he simply wants to make Hektor and the city suffer even it means he will not live once the war has ended (Iliad, XVIII. 113). It is important to note the irony in the wrath of Achilles if one were to view his rage as a disease. Apollo, being the god of sickness shares a unique bond with Achilles, fuelling the swift-runner’s rage.
As the ruler of the gods, Zeus struggles to maintain and uphold his position over the other gods on Olympus, just like Agamemnon struggles to maintain his command over the Achaean army. Thetis exemplifies Zeus’ past power-struggle when she reminds him of “[t]hat day the Olympians tried to chain him down,/ Hera, Poseidon lord of the sea, and pallas Athena . . .” (Iliad, I. 474-475). The fact that his own wife, brother and daughter would try to subdue him shows the lack of stability that comes with the title of being the king of Olympus. Since Hera cannot overpower Zeus with force, she wittingly seduces him into a slumber; urging Poseidon...