In the Iliad, the action we are witnessing is a war between the Achaeans and the Trojans supported on each side by different gods, with Zeus supposedly acting as the impartial referee ensuring that the rules of honourable conduct are adhered to. The poem opens during a ‘time-out’ in the nine year war and the losing Achaeans are blaming their poor performance on the actions of their ‘captain’ Agamemnon, who has upset the other side’s main supporter Apollo. But in appeasing Apollo, Agamemnon disrespects the honour of Achilles, and in retaliation he refuses ‘to play’ for his side until his honour is restored. It is at this point in the action that Zeus’s impartiality is compromised by a promise to Thetis that the Trojans will have the advantage until the Greeks acknowledge the worth of their ‘star player’ Achilles. When the action resumes in Books 2-7 each of the gods gives their support to their favourites on the first day of fig...
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... watching from high Pergamos was angered and called aloud to the Trojans: “Rise up, Trojans, breakers of horses, bend not from battle”(4.507-508). He goes on to admonish them for their poor performance especially as Achilles is not ‘playing’. But in contrast, as Apollo is calling out from the citadel as a spectator, Athene ‘drove on the Achaians, any of them she saw hanging back as she strode through the battle’ (5.515-516). Apollo’s relegation to a spectator maybe because the actions of the Trojan archer Pandarus, carried out in the name of Apollo, were considered dishonourable in warfare and Apollo wanted to distance himself from those actions. Apollo is again seen as a spectator in Book 5 as he and Aphrodite ‘take their ease and pleasure’ (5.760) on Mount Olympus, but this is only after he has taken direct action in saving Aeneas during a fight with Diomedes.
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