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 day of homecoming. If some god batters me far out on the wide blue water, I will endure it, keeping a stubborn spirit within me, for I have already suffered much (93-94)." Thus, the mortal Odysseus was able to deny the temptations of the goddesses multiple times (Duzer 109).
In the Epic of Gilgamesh, they put down another goddess' whims. Ishtar, goddess of war and love becomes attracted to the mighty but mortal Gilgamesh. But rather than giving into the goddes, Gilgamesh thought it out and refused. After the offer of her marriage, Gilgamesh replies, "--that I will not. How would it go with me? Your lovers have found you like a brazier which smoulders in the cold, a backdoor which keeps out neither squall of wind nor storm, a castle which crushes the garrison, pitch that blackens the bearer....And if you and I should be lovers, should not I be served in the same fashion as all these others whom you loved once?" (Mack 27). Thus, a second hero also refuses a god.
Sometimes, the gods only wanted honest opinions from the humans. In the events leading up to the Iliad, Hera, Athena, and Aphroditê all contend to be the fairest of the goddesses, but out of prudence, no god will endorse them with the distinction. When...