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A Comparison of Iliad and Odyssey

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Although both works are credited

to Homer, The Iliad and The Odyssey provide two remarkably different views

on the nature of the Olympian Gods, their relationship to humanity, and the

general lot of mortals throughout their all too brief lives. As a result of these

differences, both stories end up sending contrasting messages about life in

general. In the Iliad, the supernatural denizens of Olympus are depicted as

treacherous, power-hungry, and above all temperamental beings that are

always at each other's throats. Factionalism abounds, and neither the bonds

of marriage, nor the ties of kinship can contain keep it under control. A perfect

example is when Ares betrays his mother, Hera, and his sister, Athene, by

aiding the Trojans instead of the Greeks. When he is discovered, Athena

strikes him down in battle through Diomedes. In the Odyssey, however, the

Gods of Olympus display far more unity and civility toward each other. They

argue and disagree, but their disagreements are never carried out to the

extremes found in the Iliad. When Poseidon punishes Odysseys for blinding

the Cyclopes, Athena does not take revenge. Even though Odyssey's is her

favorite mortal, she respects Poseidon's right to punish him. Also, the

treachery among the Gods that is so prevalent in the Iliad, is nowhere to be

found in the Odyssey.

In Iliad, Hera, enters into a conspiracy with Poseidon, Aphrodite, and Morpheus to aid the Greeks by putting Zeus to sleepÐ"‰ thus

rendering him unable to help his beloved Trojans. Nothing like this incident

can be found in the Odyssey. References to past disagreements and

arguments between the Gods (such as in the Poet's tale of Ares and

Aphrodite) are scattered throughout the book, however, so the views between

the Iliad and the Odyssey are not exactly diametrically opposed. The role of

the Gods in the affairs of humanity is much greater in the Iliad then in the

Odyssey. In the Iliad, the Olympians are constantly meddling in the conflict

between the Greeks and the Trojans. At best, they view mortals as amusing

petsÐ"‰ to be cared for, played with, and loved. At worst, humans are just

pawns to be shuffled around, sacrificed, and set against each other in order to

resolve inter-Olympian ego-clashes. When Zeus wants the Trojans to win, he'll

turn nature against the Greeks, slay one of their heroes, or send one of their

loyal immortals down to turn the tide of battle. If Hera wants to get back at him,

she will do the same thing against Zeus's people, the Trojans. In the Odyssey,

things are very different. The Gods of Olympus generally will not intervene

unless they are asked toÐ"‰ such as when the Cyclopes invokes the wrath of

Poseidon after he is blinded by Odysseys. The Gods do not necessarily view

all humans as mere as supplicant whelps, either. Athena's conversations with

Odysseys are remarkably free of the condescension and authoritarian

posturing that so pervades the discourse between the Gods of the Iliad. They

do not have a greater respect for human life in general (witness the casual

slaying of Odysseys companions, and the Athena backed bloodbath which

occurs when Odysseys returns home)Ð"‰ but they have a greater respect for

the humans they do like. Athena never kills one of Odyssey's loved ones in

order to spur him on, unlike Zeus's slaying of Patroclus to incite Achilles.

As a result of these differing portrayals of the Olympians in both works, the Iliad

and the Odyssesy come off as having very different worldviews. In the Iliad

struggles of man are the result of constant meddling from the Gods, who often

use hapless mortals to obtain revenge on each other for sleights, insults, and




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