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Essay/Term paper: The greek-trojan war in the iliad

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The Greek-Trojan War in The Iliad

The gods and goddesses that the Greek people believe in make up the
Greek mythology studied today. These divine characters represent a family
living on Mount Olympus who intervene frequently in the lives of the human
characters in Greek plays. They are omnipresent, for they are always observing
mans actions and working through human nature. The gods are a higher power, and
provide explanations for otherwise unexplainable events. The gods help humans
in trouble and give them guidance about the future. The Olympians influence men
on earth both psychologically and physically. In Homer's epic poem, The Iliad,
the intervention of such divine powers as Athena, Apollo, and Zeus play
significant roles in the lives of the characters and the events of the Greek-
Trojan War.
Athena plays a very influential role in the Greek-Trojan War. She is
the most constant divine supporter of the Greeks and divine enemy of the Trojans.
Athena's function is to be a goddess of pro-Greek warfare. She came to the aid
of the Greeks many times throughout the war. For instance, Athena came down
from the sky to stop Achilleus from attacking Agamemnon (Willcock). Andre
Michalopoulous confirms this action by quoting what Athena says to Achilles :

I came from heaven to stay thine anger, if perchance though wilt
hearken to me, being sent forth of the white-armed goddess Hera,
that loveth you twain alike and careth for you. Go to now, cense
from strife, and let not thine hand draw the sword.(65)

Achilles listens to Athena's request, and therefore he returns his sword
to its sheath, and withdraws from battle. Athena also assists Achilles in his
battle with Hektor. Malcolm Willcock quotes, "After deceiving Hektor into
fighting Achilles,she comes to his aid by returning his sword to him" (244).
This intervention is the greatest assist of a divine power to a human being in
The Iliad.
Athena also plays an influential role in the battles of Diomedes.
Martin Mueller reveals, "Athena is closest to Diomedes. " She is with him at
the beginning and end of his aristeia and she addresses him without disguise"
(136). Athena also urges Diomedes to fight Aphrodite. With this command, she
removes the cloud from his eyes which made him able to see the gods.
Furthermore, as Robert Graves states, "She put fresh strength into his legs and
arms," which allowed him to sustain in battle with Aphrodite (104). Athena
instructs Diomedes not to attack any other gods; but, Diomedes does not take her
advice, and fights against Apollo and other gods, which causes Diomedes to
retreat until he is saved by being reunited with Athena. This powerful goddess
assistsd Diomedes greatly as she does the other characters in The Iliad.
Another Greek warrior who is helped by Athena was Pandaros. Athena
encourages him to break the truce with Menelaos , but, as Willcock states, "
This does not lessen his own responsibility for his treachery - He is a fool to
be persuaded" (46). Then, she switches to Menelaos' side, to prevent any
serious harm from the arrow that was shot. Athena protects these warriors as
she protects the other Greeks. She usually protects the characters who were
natural winners. Athena supports those who have the potential to be successful
and therefore she assists many of the Greek heroes (Willcock).
In Addition to Athena, Apollo also plays an influental role in the
Greek-Trojan War. Apollo is the most important divine supporter of the Trojans.
Willcock tells us, "He is the archer god who strikes from afar, the god of
disease and healing" (4). Apollo's first intervention occurs after Agamemnon
had taken Apollo's priest daughter as a war prize. Apollo sends a nine day
pestilence upon the Greeks. "Pack animals were his first target, and dogs, /
but soldiers, too, soon felt transfixing pain from his hard shots and pyres
burned night and day" (Iliad I. 23-24). Apollo also intervenes in the Greek-
Trojan War to assist the human characters. One of the warriors Apollo assists
is Pandaros. In fact, Apollo is the one who gave Pandaros his bow after he
broke the truce with Menelaos by shooting an arrow at him. But, this passage
does not truly refer to the actual action of Apollo handing Pandaros his bow,
but rather that, as Seth Schein believes, "Pandaros was a specifically good
archer" (57). Because he is a good archer, it is believed that Pandaros is
blessed by the god of archery.
Agenor, Hektor's half brother, is another Trojan warrior that Apollo
aids. Agenor is debating on whether or not to run into the city of Troy to save
the Trojan people, because if he does he probably will be caught and killed by
Achilles. Finally, he decides to run into the city and stand and face Achilles.
He hit Achilles with a spear cast, and Achilles begins to fight back. But,
before Achilles could do anything, Apollo intervenes by taking the form of
Agenor, and removing him from the battle. Then, runs away to lure Achilles
apart from the rest of the Trojans. Mark Edwards believes "Because of Apollo's
intervention, both Agenor and the Trojans are saved from Achilles' wrath (290).
An additional god that intervenes in the Greek-Trojan War is Zeus. Zeus
is not only the most powerful god in The Iliad, but he also plays the most
influential role of any of the other gods. As Willcock states, "Zeus is the
supreme god without whose will nothing important happens in the world below"
(14). This will, or plan, of Zeus is central to the plot of The Iliad and plays
a decisive role in the main events of the play. Perhaps the reason Zeus is such
an influential god is because he intervenes in both the affairs of the Greeks
and the Trojans. He is a neutral god, who is a "tandom dispenser of good and
evil" throughout the play (Mueller 147). Zeus' neutrality is expressed by
Willcock , as he states "Zeus, king of the gods, is impartial but knows that
Troy is in doom" (283). Zeus remains neutral throughout the play by coming to
the aid of both the Greeks and the Trojans whenever he deems it necessary.
Zeus assists the Greeks during the war in many ways. One of the ways in
which he comes to the aid of the Greeks is by sending an omen. Agamemnon prays
to Zeus that his army might not perish. In response to his prayer, Zeus sends
an eagle as a sign that he had granted his wish. This prayer is demonstrated
as John Scott says :

Just at the moment when the Trojans seemed on the point of
victory an eagle appeared on the left with a live snake in its
talons. The snake kept striking at the neck and breast of
its captor until the eagle was forced to drop it and fly away,
while the snake fell and squirmed within the ranks of
the Trojans.(215)

Because of this affirmation, the Greeks rejoice and rally. The Trojans
decide that this is the a sign from Zeus to end the battle, even though it
seemed it was going to be a success for the Trojans. In addition to Agamemnons
prayer, Zeus receives a prayer from Thetis. Thetis, the mother of Achilles
prays to Zeus : Father Zeus, if ever before in word or action I did you favor
among immortals, now grant what I ask for. Now give honor to my son short -
lived beyond all other mortals. So long put strength in the Trojans, until
the Achaians give my son his rights and his honor is increased
among them. (Iliad 256-64) Zeus decides to grant Thetis' wish and help
the Trojan army. This action is an answer to Thetis' prayer because she wanted
the Trojans to start winning battles to bet back at the Acheans and Agamemnon
for dishonoring Achilles by taking his war prize. Therefore, Thetis is granted
the wish that she wanted through the mighty power of Zeus. Answering the
prayers of the Greeks such as Achilles and Thetis is just one of the ways in
which Zeus helps the Greeks. Although Zeus is essentially a neutral god
sometimes he shows favortism to one side or the other. In many instances, he
aides and intervenes in the Greek-Trojan war in favor of the Greeks.
Not only did Zeus assist the Greeks in the Greek-Trojan War, but he also
aides the Trojans. For instance, Zeus is tempted by Hera before the battle that
destroys the city of Troy. In return for this destruction, Hera would give Zeus
the cities that she loved the most - Argos, Sparta, and Mycena. Edwards
confirms this temptation as he states :

Before the battle really begins there is a prelude in which Zeus
speaks of his love for Troy and Hera offers to sacrifice her own
favorite cities in return for Troy's destruction; the traditional
reasons for her hatred - the judgement of Paris and Zues' love
for the Trojan boy Ganymede are left unmentioned, perhaps to make
her anger more irrational. (128)

Zeus' decision to avoid destructing the city of Troy immensly aggrivates Hera.
His decision also shows that he was protecting the city of Troy, thus helping
the Trojans in the Greek-Trojan War.
Zeus assists the Trojans in another instance by directly intervening in
a battle. Mueller says, "After a general account of indecisive fighting, the
turning point in the second day's battle comes when Zeus intervened on the side
of the Trojans (103). Zeus aids the Trojans by sending down a lightening bolt to
make Diomedes, the Greek warrior, retreat. Because of Diomedes' retreat,
Hektor is able to push the Acheans back on their ships that are now threatened
with fire. Zeus gives the Trojans another victory later in the war when the
Greeks and the Trojans begin fighting over Patroklos' body, a battle arises
between the two enemies. At this time, Zeus intervenes in the battle and once
again comes to the Trojans aid. Mueller states, " At length Zeus gives victory
to the Trojans, and in a passage richly studded with similies the poet describes
the retreat of the Acheans, with Meriones and Menelaos carrying the body while
the two Aiantes provide cover" (107). Zeus plays an important part in the
victories of the Trojans. He "inspires terror into the Greeks" (Willcock 98)
and enables the Trojans to overcome the Greeks many times throughout the Greek-
-Trojan War.
The Greek-Trojan War in The Iliad is not only a War between human
characters, but it is also a battle between divine characters. While the
Olympians' immortality separates them from man and leaves them free from death
and suffering, there power brings them closer to humans because it is constantly
being used to either aid or hamper mans progress. These gods are central to the
poem because they are actually responsible for the war's beginnings, and every
event that occurs has been affected by a god in some way. The gods have the
power to control the outcome of the events on earth because man can be persuaded
so easily. Therefore, the divine intervention in the war is frequent and
significant to the war's outcome. The power of the gods such as Athena, Apollo
and Zeus is crucial to the events in The Iliad, for the Greek-Trojan War is a
battle between not only the heroic human warriors, but also the mighty dine gods.


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