Divine Intervention in The Iliad

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  • 0:04 'The Iliad'
  • 0:47 Divine Intervention in…
  • 1:28 The Good
  • 3:20 The Bad
  • 5:12 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amanda Wiesner-Groff

Amanda has created and taught English/ESL curricula worldwide, has an M.Ed, and is the current ESOL Coordinator for the Saint Louis Public School District.

This lesson discusses divine intervention in Homer's 'The Iliad'. Focus is placed on both good and bad interventions and how they shaped the plot of this epic poem.

The Iliad

Homer's The Iliad is an epic poem written in 800 B.C.E. and based upon the battle of Troy that took place between the Trojans and the Achaeans. Throughout the poem, the gods and goddesses spend a lot of time manipulating, plotting, and working against the humans they dislike. Despite all of their cunning behavior, however, their actions always end up putting fate back on its proper course. Destiny and fate are paramount in Greek culture. No matter what outcome the gods and goddesses want, the end result is already predetermined. This lesson will focus on their moments of divine intervention, so you can see how both the good and bad interventions helped shape The Iliad.

Divine Intervention in The Iliad

As with most Greek tragedies, this epic poem would be nothing if it weren't for the gods, since their cunning actions help seal the fate, or outcomes, of the humans. Divine intervention is present from the very beginning, when Apollo curses the Achaeans with a lovely bout of the plague, thus cementing the immortals' significance in the poem.

There is never a moment where the immortals are not showing their presence in some form or another. They're like a nagging sibling who always wants to make sure he gets the last word, just to be sure no one forgets he is there. Let's take a look at some examples of divine intervention and how they propelled the good and bad moments of the poem.

The Good

First, we'll explore divine intervention that was intended to do good by the mortals. While these divine acts are open to interpretation, consider whether the gods were helping to benefit the mortals or if they were helping for the benefit of their own tastes.

Example 1: Athena, Zeus' daughter and goddess of purposeful battle, favors the Achaeans. She wishes to see the Trojans lose in battle; therefore, when Achilles is about to draw his sword upon his leader, Agamemnon, she steps in to stop him.

Example2: Zeus, king of all the gods, men, and universe, helps Hector by giving him strength and protection during battle.

Example 3: Aphrodite, the goddess of love, favors Paris because he once chose her as the fairest of the goddesses. As he is about to lose in combat against Menelaus, Aphrodite rescues him by concealing him in a thick mist. She then whisks him away so he can be with his love, Helen, in his chambers.

Example 4: Athena provides extra strength to Achilles, after the death of Patroclus, so he can rejoin the battle and continue to fight despite his heartache.

Example 5: Aphrodite and Apollo, the god of the sun and the stars, protect Hector's body from the dishonor placed upon it by the Achaeans. They ensure it can still be properly honored by his family.

Example 6: Zeus commands Achilles to release the body of Hector to Priam; Hermes, Zeus' messenger, provides safe passage for Priam to collect the body.

Example 7: During Patroclus' funeral, Iris, god of the rainbow, helps bring winds so the pyre fire will blaze. This allows for a proper funeral ceremony.

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