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The Relationships Of Fate, The Gods, And Man In "The Iliad"

2087 words - 8 pages

One of the most compelling topics The Iliad raises is that of the intricate affiliations between fate, man and the gods. Many events related by Homer in his epic poem exhibit how these three connections interweave and eventually determine the very lives of the men and women involved in the war. Homer leaves these complex relationships slightly unclear throughout the epic, never spelling out the exact bonds connecting men's fate to the gods and what can be considered the power of fate. The motivation for the ambiguousness present in The Iliad is not easily understood, but it is a question that enriches and helps weave an even greater significance of the results into Homer's masterpiece. I feel that the interaction between man, god, and fate can be shown to be one great fluidity that ultimately leaves life mysterious, giving much more depth and complexity to the bonds between the three.

To view the links that are instilled between mortals, immortals, and fate in The Iliad, it is worthwhile to examine each on its own to observe how they connect. The characteristics of the three are inherently unique in relation to each other, though in some areas there is overlap. Man is defined as a mortal, someone who can die from old age and disease. Products from mortal and immortal procreation, such as the hero Achilles, fall into a sort of category all their own, but Achilles himself suggests that he would die from old age if he were to return home (9:502-505). In this weakness of the flesh they differ from the immortal gods, who cannot die from natural causes. Nevertheless, the gods share the imperfections of man: disloyalty, deceit, anger, and even lust. They see themselves as above man, and yet their actions are often as selfish as that of the warring and prideful men. They can be evaluated in comparison to Fate in that they often appear to know what the destiny of mortal workings will be, even if they do not actually determine them. The beings who decided fate, if there were any, are never shown in any type of actual interaction with any character of the epic poem. In actual Greek mythology, three sisters, dubbed the Fates, decided the destiny of man. One spun the thread, beginning life, one held it while the man was alive, and the last cut the string, ending his life (Moirai). Nevertheless, the only physical representation present in the work is the scale used by Zeus to weigh the fate of the armies and those of Hector and Achilles (8:85-86, 22:249-254). Thus, it is hard to determine whether Homer saw fate as an actual deity or as a higher force above all.

The basic evidence in The Iliad suggests that there is a power, never heard from, to control what will occur in a man's life; the relationship between this force and the gods is one that shows the gods' obedience and also how they are used to ensure that fate is kept intact. Zeus often takes it upon himself to carry out the will of a fate he feels he must conform to. It is...

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