The gods remind the mortals of their power over them through divine intervention, elevating the statuses of the gods and reinforcing their superiority. The gods are vengeful and unforgiving, and demonstrate that the mortals are completely at their mercy. Poseidon hinders Odysseus’s journey home because he “‘bears the fighter an old grudge’” for poking out his son’s eye (Odyssey 1.91). The god will not forget Odysseus’s crime without seeking revenge. Even when Zeus tries to help Odysseus, Poseidon defies the king of the gods, establishing how the mortals never have security in their life when a god is against them. The humans are so vulnerable that even a god’s protection does not guarantee safety from another god’s resentment. Also, Akhilleus’ struggle with Xánthos, the river god, shows how mortals are inferior. Though Akhilleus is known for being a strong human, the lesser god proves to be capable of his downfall. Akhilleus cannot overpower the river, as “the pressure of swift water tired him” (Iliad 21.318). Though Akhilleus is more powerful than any other Akhaian, he is at the god’s mercy. Xánthos, though not strong among other deities, can still eventually defeat him. Akhilleus is shown his relative weakness despite his grand reputation. Even the most powerful human can be beat by the weakest god, ...
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... power to control the fates of mortals, like protecting and helping Akhilleus, while exercising power over other gods, like overruling Xánthos, thus establishing the hierarchy. Greater gods can control everyone. Lesser gods can control all humans. Greater humans can control lesser humans. However, even the high-ranking gods still intervene in Akhilleus’s life, showing his importance despite his place on the hierarchy. The hierarchy dictates who is powerful, not who is important.
Divine intervention in The Iliad and The Odyssey reinforces the inferiority of the mortals in general while still elevating the important humans and gods. The gods are aware of how their actions rank everyone and form the hierarchy. Understanding the thoughts of the gods, the controllers behind the stories, is key to understanding the characters of the epics, as well as the epics themselves.
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