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Compare the treatment of the Gods in the Iliad and the Odyssey.

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Introduction

Compare the treatment of the Gods in the Iliad and the Odyssey The Gods in both the Iliad and the Odyssey are important figures. This essay will concentrate on Zeus, Poseidon and Athene who feature in both texts. Reasons of space prevent full exploration of the whole divine machinery. The role of Zeus in the Iliad is of the all-powerful figure, the king of all the gods. The other Gods give him the uttermost respect and fear making him angry. So when he returns to his house "all the gods rose up from their chairs"(I.533-534). Zeus has the power to drive the action forward. It is his agreement with Thetis that creates that catalyst for the climactic battles. His plan to bring about the redemption of Achilleus creates the plot structure. He sends the false dream to Agamemnon in which a figure in the form of Nestor persuades him that he can take Troy. Although he is neutral in the mortals conflict he is often brought into mediate matters, as he has the final say. Zeus in the Odyssey plays less of a role in the actual direction of the events. He resumes his role as a mediator of disputes between the gods on Mount Olympus. The notion of Zeus's supreme will is also a feature of the Odyssey.

Middle

A "terrible gust of stormwinds whirling together"(V.316-317) smashes his raft. He nearly gets dragged under sea. Although the Goddess Ino saves him and Athene appears to rescue him, Poseidon demonstrates that he poses a threat equal to that of the suitors. Poseidon is a divine antagonist, whereas the Suitors are mere mortal enemies. Poseidon here is presented as determined to torment Odysseus and do all in his power to hamper his homeward bound journey. Poseidon in book thirteen, becomes furious, when he sees that Odysseus has reached Ithaca with the help of the Phaiakians. His anger directed at Odysseus is taken out on the Phaiakians. However, this time before creating havoc, he asks the permission of Zeus. This serves as a reminder to the audience that even though Poseidon is very powerful, he is still subordinate to the will of Zeus. Referring to his brother as "Father Zeus"(XIII.128), he formally addresses the king of the gods. He feels that his honour has been slighted and he will not be honoured among the gods if mere mortals are irreverent towards him. He decides to turn the Phaiakians' ship to stone and punish them. This episode gives the impression of Poseidon as paranoid and irrational. The Phaiakians are of his lineage and his is their patron.

Conclusion

The physical disguise necessary for narrative purposes in the literary sense and survival in the actual sense is Athene's initiative but Odysseus's used of the disguise and assuming a different identity proves himself worthy of the Goddesses attention. Athene's role in the Odyssey is also to protect Odysseus from any bodily harm, which may arise on his journey. This role also extends to the protection of Odysseus's son Telemachos. The measures that Athene takes to protects Odysseus is most prominently shown in Book five. When he is caught in the storm created by Poseidon, Athene orders the winds "to go to sleep and give over"(V.384). This enables Odysseus to find land and be saved from drowning. When the battle is being fought against the suitors in the twenty-second book, Athene also intervenes. Although in the beginning disguised as Mentor, she is only able to dispense encouragement and advice; she does protects Odysseus and his allies, so they are subjected to superficial wounds, "Athene made vain all their [suitors] casts"(XXII.256). This indicates that Athene has a personal interest in Odysseus finding glory largely on his own. This allows the victory at the end to be portrayed as the effort of Odysseus and "his glorious son"(238) Telemachos, rather than the work of a divine being. In relation to Telemachos, Athene warns the young hero about the Suitors' plan to kill him upon his return to Ithaca. Dr Amanda Holden Epic Traditions

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