Central to any study of the humanities is the human condition – our nature, which has historically shown that it is equally capable of both good and evil deeds – and the problem that arises from it; specifically, why do humans suffer? Many philosophies and religions have their own account for this aspect of humanity, and we find that what the accounts have in common is each explains the human condition in terms that are similar to how that institution of thought explains the true nature of reality.
Homer’s The Iliad is an extravagant account of the Trojan War which describes many behavioral similarities between the gods and people. The name of Book 14: “Hera Outflanks Zeus” epitomizes the disparity between the gods; Hera first slyly convinces Aphrodite, Zeus’ daughter, to make her irresistible. “Quick with treachery noble Hera answered, ‘Give me Love, give me Longing now, the powers you use to overwhelm all gods and mortal men!’ / Aphrodite, smiling her everlasting smile, replied, ‘Impossible—worse, it’s wrong to deny your warm request…’” (Homer, 376) Next, Hera allies with Sleep to deceive Zeus so that Poseidon can help the Achaeans. With the power of Aphrodite, she plans to seduce Zeus and have him put to sleep as they make love. “’Sleep, master of all gods and all mortal men,… Put Zeus to sleep for me! Seal his shining eyes as soon as I’ve gone to bed with him, locked in love, and I will give you gifts…’” (Homer, 377) We observe here that Hera tempts Sleep with bribes as people often do when they know something they want is difficult to obtain. These envious, deceitful, and other humanistic qualities of the gods inevitably produce disagreement amongst them, which is in turn manifested in the lives of mortals.
In polytheistic Greek cultures such as that of the world of The Iliad, the gods affect the lives of mortals based primarily on the gods’ whims. Each people have their own contingent of gods who support them, but also other gods who dislike them and whom they do not worship. This conflict between the influences of one god’s favor and another’s menace on the Achaeans is portrayed in the death of Patroclus, Achilles’ brother-in-arms. Hera and Poseidon help enormously to keep the Trojans from burning the Achaeans’ ship. Patroclus, no longer able to sit by idly as his comrades die, ...
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... It would be unfair to assume that, however, because it is no more provable or disprovable than any of the other theories. The only conclusion we can draw from this discussion of the human condition, therefore, is that there is no solution to its problem for whole of humanity. If people are troubled by the problem, they must adopt a theory for their own belief from those independently suggested by the philosophies and religions of the world. Or, they could turn to another of their own construction. Under this system, each person is individually correct and, as a whole, we should be satisfied with our abilities to cope with the human condition.
1. Homer. The Iliad. Trans. Robert Fagles. New York: Penguin Books, 1990.
2. The Book of Job. Trans. Stephen Mitchell. New York: HarperCollins Publishers,
3. Plato. The Republic. Trans. Richard W. Sterling and William C. Scott. New York:
W.W. Norton & Company, 1996.
4. Holy Bible (New International Version). International Bible Society, 1973, 1978,
5. The Meaning of the Glorious Koran. Trans. Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall.
Chicago: KAZI Publications.
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