The Human Condition Of The Gods Essay

The Human Condition Of The Gods Essay

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The Human Condition of the Gods
The gods of The Iliad are shown to have tremendous power beyond the realm of human ability. However, this power is not without its limits. In The Iliad, Homer depicts a pantheon of Greek gods with human-like limitations, both in their interactions with humans and each other, and in their dealings with fate. This serves to expose the human condition, by showing that the origin of life is not unlike life itself.
Homer depicts the limitations of the gods with regards to human interaction in a number of ways. According to Emily Kearns in The Gods in Homeric Epics, Homer shows the gods as interacting with humans in ways that “seem less plausible, more fantastic, and which at the same time evoke Gods who are more like humans [such as] sexual and parental relations” (94). These human-like interactions help the reader see within the characters of the gods the ability for anyone, humans included, to treat others with respect or disrespect. The gods of The Iliad, while of higher status than mere mortals, have just as much at stake in the war as the story’s human characters. This position as a stakeholder in the conflict drives them to choose between selfish desires and what is best for all. For instance, Zeus feels remorse about the death of his son, but recognizes he must let him die for the good of all (Homer 16.531-534). He makes the right choice instead of the selfish one. In contrast, many of the gods affect the Trojan War in favor of their preferred side; Hera decides to seduce Zeus so he cannot help the Trojans (14.182-190), Poseidon helps the Greeks fight back (14.434-437), and Athena allows Diomedes to distinguish god from man so he can thwart the meddling of other gods (5.138-153). These actions s...


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...roughout The Iliad Homer explores the commonality between the deities and human characters of the story. By showing that humans and gods are not so different from each other, Homer is exposing the human condition and proving what truly differentiates men is the choices they make. The implication for modern readers is that Homer was on the cusp of a societal shift, from a focus on shame and honor to a focus on right and wrong. By showing what happens when gods mistreat others, fall into temptation, and try to manipulate fate, The Iliad asks readers to move beyond the human condition and choose what is right instead of what is selfish, to be like Zeus when he allows his son to die instead of like Hera when she seduces Zeus. Through these examples the reader can see that the human condition, although common to all, is only the base level, and humans can excel beyond it.

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