The Role of Ancient Gods Essay

The Role of Ancient Gods Essay

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When we study ancient Greek and Roman literature, we realize that the world perception in those times, among people, was much different from what it is now. It is especially obvious when we begin to analyze the role of mythical and religious elements in ancient literature. According to the classical Christian theological theory, people’s need for believing in supernatural beings is caused by their fear of nature. This concept strikingly resembles the Marxist explanation - it also names fear as the main factor.
If one reads Homer’s “Iliad” and “Odyssey,” and Virgil’s “Aeneid”, he gets to realize that the ancient concept of people’s interaction with Gods is totally deprived of fear in any form. In all three masterpieces, Gods are basically described as humans, with all their strengths and weaknesses, although being immortal. Humans often revere Gods, but not out of fear – they simply respect their superiority. Many historians suggest that one of the main reasons, which enabled Greek and Roman civilizations to reach extraordinary heights in the fields of culture and science, is the fact of their religious liberalism.
Let us to take a closer look at all three poems, so it’ll be easier for us to find common religious motives in all of them. Homer’s “Odyssey” is one of the finest examples of ancient Greek literature. Along with “Iliad” it represents an ultimate expression of ancient spirit, which we still use as a standard while assessing the cultural legacy of our own Western civilization.
Modern historians doubt whether the same author wrote these two epic masterpieces. The main reason for this is that “Odyssey”, stylistically and conceptually, is much different from “Iliad”. First one is a high tragedy, its storyline based on the events of Trojan War. The style of this poem is very noble and there is no place for petty human weaknesses.
The action takes place at the time when city of Troy was being besieged by Achaeans. Achaean leader Agamemnon takes Chrysies as his prize. She prays Apollo, who sends a plague on Achaeans. Achaean hero Achilles asks his mother sea-nymph Thetis to ask Zeus to punish Achaeans for being ignorant towards Achilles:
“God of the silver bow, thy ear incline,
Whose power encircles Cilla the divine;
Whose sacred eye thy Tenedos surveys,
And gilds fair Chrysa with distinguished rays!
If, fired to vengeance at thy priest's request,
Thy d...

... middle of paper ...

...iter favors Aeneas. The God of Sea Neptune is also on the side of Aeneas, who’s able to safely reach the shores of Carthage, after storm dies down as a result of Neptune’s involvement. Among other Roman Gods that interact with Aeneas, we can name Mercury, Aeolus, Cupid, Allecto, Vulcan, Saturn and Minerva.
The role of divine beings in all three poems can hardly be overestimated. What separates these poems from later Christian literature is the fact the Gods actively participate in people’s affairs and there is no judgment found on them…

1.     Homer. “The Odyssey”. Translated by Fitzgerald, R. Garden City, NY, Anchor/Doubleday, 1961
2.     Homer. “The Iliad”. Translated by Lattimore, R. University of Chicago. 1951.
3.     Vergil. “Aeneid”. Translated by Williams. T. Boston. Houghton Mifflin Co. 1910.

The Outline
1)     P. 1, Short introduction of the topic.
2)     Pp. 1 – 2, Homer’s “Iliad” analysis.
3)     Pp. 2 – 3, Homer’s “Odyssey” analysis.
4)     Pp. 3 – 4, Virgil’s “Aeneid” analysis.

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