Divine Intervention in ‘the Iliad’

‘The Iliad’ is the greatest epic poem of classical Greece, attributed to Homer. The use of divine machinery is a prominent feature of many epics. The ‘Iliad’ is a story in which the gods and goddesses plays a vital role. Throughout the poem, the gods play an important role in the action of the plot and its outcome. In this poem we find so many Devine interventions in human activities . The interventions of the gods also serve to magnify the significance of human action. Infect, the epic begins with one of the divine intervention.

In book I,which is named as PLAGUE AND WRATH, Apollo’s intervention on Chryses’ behalf begins the series of events that continue throughout the epic. When Chryses come to Greek’s swift ship to recover his captured daughter Chryseis . Chryses offers a ransom for his daughter which Agamemnon brutally rejects. Chryses appeal to Apollo causes the god to attack the Greek armies with plague. Achilles then calls an assembly , at which Agamemnon agrees to return Chryseis ,but demands immediate compensation. Achilles and Agamemnon quarrel over compensation.

This intervention leads to the angering of Agamemnon at Calchas’ prophecy and Achilles’ withdrawal for battle. In this book we find another divine intervention where it serves in an inspirational capacity to alter mortal character’s mental or physical abilities. The goddess ATHENE prevents Achilles killing Agamemnon. Because white –armed HERA sent her because HERA was concerned for both of the Greeks. She prevents Achilles from losing his temper and attacking Agamemnon, promising him greater glory if he waits. ATHENE’s intervention alters the course of the story line.

If Achilles had attacked Agamemnon, by winning he would have disrupted the chain of command and by losing he would have ended the story line. Without Agamemnon there is no war, without Achilles there is no hero and no rage. Here another divine intervention occured when Achilles appeals for help to his divine mother THETIS. He laments to his divine mother,who is a sea nymph, that Agamemnon has dishonored him . Achilles asks her to seek aid from ZEUS. At THETIS’ request, Zeus pledges that the Greeks will suffer defeat without Achilles in their ranks.

THETIS, by interfering on her son’s behalf, prompts Zeus to dictate the next seventeen books of the epic. Until the death of Patroclus the story that is told is that of a Trojan resurgence and the fulfillment of Achilles’ request. Book II,A DREAM, A TESTING AND THE CATALOGUE OF SHIPS , a dream was sent to Agamemnon in order to reinforce his subconcius beliefs. ZEUS sends a dream that makes Agamemnon think the Greeks are about to win. Zeus’ dream causes Agamemnon to mount an attack that he would have otherwise not mounted.

This is the beginning of a series of divine actions that support Zeus’ pledge to Thetis. Agamemnon’s preemptive attack opens the Greeks up to an eventual Trojan offensive and undermines their confidence. Another intervention took place here. Iris, Zeus’ messenger, calls the Trojan captains to order so that they might meet the coming Greek assault. As the dream inspires Agamemnon to attack, Iris prompts the Trojan captains to make a timely assault. This intervention reinvigorates the Trojan line and overturns a stalemate that has lasted for nine years.

In Book III,which is entitled as A DUEL AND A TROJAN VIEW Of THE GREEKS, Menelaus was cheated of victory when APHRODITE rescues Paris from an almost certain death and returns him the side of his lover, Helen. This action not only enrages the Greek captains but it also effectively renders the Trojans as ‘oath-breakers’. By Greek terms a violation of a truce or agreement sworn to the Gods should result in death or some sort of retribution. Priam, the King of Troy, swears on the behalf of his sons. By not fulfilling their end of the agreement and depriving Menelaus, the Trojans seal their own demise.

In the same book we find APHRODITE forces a reluctant Helen to go to Paris and make love to him. In book IV,THE OATH IS BROKEN AND BATTLE JOINED,we find the inspiarational capacity of to alter mortal character’s mental or physical abilities again as we found in Book I and Book II. here ATHENE appears to the foolish Pandarus and persuades him to reactive hostilities. ATHENE, ordered by ZEUS, prompts Pandarus to shoot at Menelaus, restarting the battle. Once again, even though the tide of battle favors the Trojans, they are forced by divine powers to break a truce that they might not otherwise break.

This intervention not only reinstates the battle, but it also further seals the demise of the Trojan city. In book V,DIODEMEDES’ HEROICS, ATHENE inspires Diomedes with the strength and the daring he needs to sustain his rampage. ATHENE’s aid fills Diomedes with rage and produces carnage. This rampage directs the course of the battle for this entire book as Diomedes leads the Greek offensive and Trojan captains attempt to stand up to him. APHRODITE saves her son Aeneas from death at the hands of Diomedes. This intervention is more indicative of gods struggling with gods than gods manipulating men.

Aeneas is threatened only because Diomedes has been made stronger by the influence of ATHENE. APHRODITE rescues her son from danger as she continues to struggling with hostile gods. ARES inspires Hector to lead the Trojans and defend their line against Diomedes’ attack. Once again, in response to the action of ATHENE, a god aides a Trojan captain. ARES raises Hector’s strength and fills him with rage so that he can rally the Trojan warriors and defend against the rampaging Greeks. In Book VII, AJAX FIGHTS HECTOR, Apollo and Athena decide that they want a battle between champions.

Hector is inspired to challenge a Greek warrior. The two opposed deities have tired of the chaos of battle and would rather see one champion die than many. Hector, foremost of the Trojans, is chosen for his talent in war and his stature. The Greeks must be shamed by Nestor before they volunteer to face the Trojan. By drawing lots, Ajax is selected to fight. In Book IIX,HECTOR’S TRIUMPHANT, ZEUS has decreed to the rest of the gods that he should be the only deity to interfere in the war. In order to turn the battle in the war he wants it, the king of the gods must resort to excessive force.

ZEUS throws thunder bolts to cause a Greek rout. Nestor loses his grip on his reigns. ZEUS continues to throw bolts of lightning as the Greeks are pushed into their camp and the Trojans crowd against their walls. In Book XII,HECTOR STORMS THE WALL,ZEUS send an omen-the egle and the snake. Polydamas says it means the Trojan should retreat,but Hector rejectc his advice. ZEUS gives Hector the strength to storm the Trojan walls and break down the doors. With this act,ZEUS continues his commitment to a Greek rout allowing the Trojans to breach the walls and threaten the ships themselves.

Hector hefts a giant rock and smashed the gate allowing the Trojan masses to flow into the camp. In Book XIII,THE BATTLE AT THE SHIPS, ZEUS has decreed to the rest of the gods that he should be the only deity to interfere in the war. In order to turn the battle in the war he wants it, the king of the gods must resort to excessive force. ZEUS throws thunder bolts to cause a Greek rout. Nestor loses his grip on his reigns. ZEUS continues to throw bolts of lightning as the Greeks are pushed into their camp and the Trojans crowd against their walls.

The wills of ZEUS and POSEIDON struggle as ZEUS tries to sustain the Trojan storming of the Greek camps and POSEIDON tries to repulse it. The divine brothers ply their abilities on the mortals. POSEIDON challenges his bother’s authority as he inspires the Greek leaders with the strength to return to battle. As ZEUS turns away, the Trojans continue to attack and POSEIDON intensifies his involvement. In Book XIV,ZEUS OUTMANOEUVRED, POSEIDON takes the form of a mortal Greek and encourages Agamemnon to reenter battle.

In the form of a Greek veteran, POSEIDON gives Agamemnon the confidence he needs to return to battle and raise a significant defense against the Trojans. The group of wounded captains return to visibility and rally their warriors. POSEIDON reenters the battle and encourages the Greeks, resulting in the wounding of Hector. Because HERA has guaranteed that ZEUS will be sleeping, POSEIDON is brave enough to take a greater part in the battle. Under his inspiration, Hector receives a head wound and is forced to withdraw from battle.

This loss undermines the Trojan confidence and advances the Greek rally. POSEIDON intervenes against his brother and continues to struggle for his own interests. It can be concluded that the divine interventions in this poem make the narrative outline clear. If there were too few of them,the overall structure of events might not be clear. Such use of devine machinery may be said to fulfill two related functions. In first place artistic cohesion is given to the poem,and in the second,the Greek sense fate and its working are giving dramatic expression.