The gods in Homer

These pages from Gareth Hinds’ impactful graphic novelization of the Iliad depict Hephaestus’ workshop as he forges new armor for Achilles.

The gods can be a malevolent presence in the Iliad, feeding conflict and animosity, saving favorites at the expense of many lives, tricking heroes into making bad decisions. Further, the gods’ divided loyalties cause conflict among themselves as well, and they do battle with each other directly and by proxy through Greek and Trojan warriors. This is quite different from the Odyssey, where not even Zeus is willing to offend Poseidon’s sense of honor by contradicting his feelings. In both Homeric poems, the gods grudgingly accept Fate—that Troy must fall, that Odysseus will return to Ithaca—but what that looks like differs strikingly.

Barbara Graziosi and Johannes Haubold offer an interesting explanation for why the gods’ presence and relationships are so different in the two poems, and it’s tied to Hesiod. According to Hesiod, Zeus devised the Trojan war to end the age of heroes. Because they are sons of gods and goddesses, heroes can become a source of strife and competition among the Olympians, as seen in the Iliad. Graziosi and Haubold argue that the Odyssey represents a post-heroic age in which gods and goddesses do not argue or compete with each other over human favorites, thus ensuring the Olympian order’s stability.

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