Free Essay

Role of Gods and Goddesses in Homer's Iliad


Submitted By neogi
Words 845
Pages 4
In his famous "Poetics," the philosopher Aristotle laid the foundations for literary criticism of Greek tragedy. His famous connection between "pity and fear" and "catharsis" developed into one of Western philosophy's greatest questions: why is it that people are drawn to watching tragic heroes suffer horrible fates? Aristotle's ideas revolve around three crucial effects: First, the audience develops an emotional attachment to the tragic hero; second, the audience fears what may befall the hero; and finally (after misfortune strikes) the audience pities the suffering hero. Through these attachments the individual members of the audience go through a catharsis, a term which Aristotle borrowed from the medical writers of his day, which means a "refining" -- the viewer of a tragedy refines his or her sense of difficult ethical issues through a vicarious experious of such thorny problems. Clearly, for Aristotle's theory to work, the tragic hero must be a complex and well-constructed character, as in Sophocles' Oedipus the King. As a tragic hero, Oedipus elicits the three needed responses from the audience far better than most; indeed, Aristotle and subsequent critics have labeled Oedipus the ideal tragic hero. A careful examination of Oedipus and how he meets and exceeds the parameters of the tragic hero reveals that he legitimately deserves this title. Oedipus' nobility and virtue provide his first key to success as a tragic hero. Following Aristotle, the audience must respect the tragic hero as a "larger and better" version of themselves. The dynamic nature of Oedipus' nobility earns him this respect. First, as any Greek audience member would know, Oedipus is actually the son of Laius and Jocasta, the King and Queen of Thebes. Thus, he is a noble in the simplest sense; that is, his parents were themselves royalty. Second, Oedipus himself believes he is the son of Polybus and Merope, the King and Queen of Corinth. Again, Oedipus attains a second kind of nobility, albeit a false one. Finally, Oedipus earns royal respect at Thebes when he solves the riddle of the Sphinx. As a gift for freeing the city, Creon gives Oedipus dominion over the city. Thus, Oedipus' nobility derives from many and diverse sources, and the audience develops a great respect and emotional attachment to him. The complex nature of Oedipus' "hamartia," is also important. The Greek term "hamartia," typically translated as "tragic flaw," actually is closer in meaning to a "mistake" or an "error," "failing," rather than an innate flaw. In Aristotle's understanding, all tragic heroes have a "hamartia," but this is not inherent in their characters, for then the audience would lose respect for them and be unable to pity them; likewise, if the hero's failing were entirely accidental and involuntary, the audience would not fear for the hero. Instead, the character's flaw must result from something that is also a central part of their virtue, which goes somewhat arwry, usually due to a lack of knowledge. By defining the notion this way, Aristotle indicates that a truly tragic hero must have a failing that is neither idiosyncratic nor arbitrary, but is somehow more deeply imbedded -- a kind of human failing and human weakness. Oedipus fits this precisely, for his basic flaw is his lack of knowledge about his own identity. Moreover, no amount of foresight or preemptive action could remedy Oedipus' hamartia; unlike other tragic heroes, Oedipus bears no responsibility for his flaw. The audience fears for Oedipus because nothing he does can change the tragedy's outcome. Finally, Oedipus' downfall elicits a great sense of pity from the audience. First, by blinding himself, as opposed to committing suicide, Oedipus achieves a kind of surrogate death that intensifies his suffering. He comments on the darkness - not just the literal inability to see, but also religious and intellectual darkness - that he faces after becoming blind. In effect, Oedipus is dead, for he receives none of the benefits of the living; at the same time, he is not dead by definition, and so his suffering cannot end. Oedipus receives the worst of both worlds between life and death, and he elicits greater pity from the audience. Second, Oedipus himself and the Chorus both note that Oedipus will continue after the tragedy's conclusion. Unlike, for example Agamemnon, Clytemnestra, and Orestes (the heroes in the Orestia trilogy), Oedipus' suffering does not end with the play; even so, the conclusion also presents a sense of closure to the play. This odd amalgam of continued suffering and closure make the audience feel as if Oedipus' suffering is his proper and natural state. Clearly, Oedipus' unique downfall demands greater pity from the audience. Oedipus fulfills the three parameters that define the tragic hero. His dynamic and multifaceted character emotionally bonds the audience; his tragic flaw forces the audience to fear for him, without losing any respect; and his horrific punishment elicits a great sense of pity from the audience. Though Sophocles crafted Oedipus long before Aristotle developed his ideas, Oedipus fits Aristotle's definition with startling accuracy. He is the tragic hero par excellence and richly deserves the title as "the ideal tragic hero."

Similar Documents

Premium Essay

The Essential Role of Goddess in Homer’s the Iliad and the Odyssey

...The Essential Role of Goddess in Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey Just as women were viewed as inferior to men during Homer’s era, a first glance at Homer’s epics The Iliad and The Odyssey portrays goddesses as inferiors to gods. Despite the era’s bias to men, the goddesses are of equal importance to the plot of his stories as the gods. The goddesses play vital roles as either helpers or nightmares to men by often determining the results of an action. Homer did not establish the goddesses in his epics merely as minor structures to blend in the background. Rather, he established dynamic goddesses who were both powerful and intelligent. In fact, in many ways the goddesses controlled the gods by having an influence in their decisions and actions through manipulation, persuasion and guidance. By influencing the gods, the goddesses also played a large role as shepherds for human fate. The goddess’s constant intervention in the mortals’ lives was driven by favoritism, love or sexual desires, and their pity for the weak. Although the goddesses are often restricted from doing as they wish by the gods, they have proven, in many occasions, to overpower the gods through manipulation. Goddesses were often told what to do by the gods. Tasks such as delivering messages from Zeus were often carried out by Athena. Just as Hector told his wife, “Go home, attend to your own handiwork at loom and spindle, and command the maids to busy themselves, too. As for war, that is for men, all we...

Words: 1970 - Pages: 8

Premium Essay


...June 7, 2012 Epic Poetry and the Great Goddess Hera Homer’s work The Iliad is an ideal example of epic poetry. Throughout The Iliad Homer uses Hera, the Queen of the gods and goddesses, to show three major characteristics of Epic Poetry; stock epithets, the supernatural and the use of similes. The use of stock epithets or descriptive adjectives is the most common characteristic of epic poetry used by Homer. Hera is considered the “white-armed goddess” and “golden-throned”. These epithets describe Hera’s perfect ivory complexion and her role as the “queen of the gods. The use of supernatural phenomena can be seen on several different occasions throughout Homer’s works, particularly, the goddess Hera interacts with mortals many times. One of the first occasions is the contest between Aphrodite, Athena, and Hera to be awarded the golden apple and to be considered the “fairest” goddess. Paris, the son of the King of Troy is asked to pick the winner, and he chooses Aphrodite. Losing the contest causes Hera to despise the Trojans. A second interaction with a mortal is in the midst of a fight between Achilles, and Agamemnon when Hera comes down to send Athena to stop Achilles from killing Agamemnon. Since Hera hates the Trojans and rather than watch Agamemnon be killed by Achilles she decides to intervene and offer Achilles gifts to calm him down. In The Iliad Homer finds great use of similes. Homer uses these similes to help the ordinary people of Ancient Greece better understand...

Words: 358 - Pages: 2

Premium Essay

Emotions In The Iliad

...The concerns and importance of basic human needs and emotions is deeply explored in Homer’s epic poem “The Iliad Book XXIV”, the key concerns shows the similarity between all people, and how humanity is the same at its roots no matter the difference of culture and time. The conflicts that arise in “The Iliad” all come back to the notion of honour and pride and how people want to be perceived; honour is an idea woven throughout personal, social and cultural beliefs. War is the motif of honour, it is celebrated in “The Iliad” and in Petersen’s film “Troy”; the men are measured by their bravery and honour towards their King’s and their country in war. The Imagery used in “The Iliad” and “Troy” is constantly made up of war related concepts; “battlefield”,...

Words: 876 - Pages: 4

Premium Essay

Greek Gods In The Iliad

...In Homer’s, The Iliad, the Greek gods of ancient times play a crucial role in the lives of the people they serve. These immortals decide who lives and who dies; who to help and who to ignore; who will win the war and who will lose it. Unfortunately for the Greeks, the gods are portrayed as selfish beings that make their decisions based on their emotions. Their idea of love is warped to fit their needs and wants. Having one’s fate entrusted to such a being would cause those individuals to be fearful of displeasing or angering the gods. When making decisions, the Greeks must always consider if their decisions will please the gods, or even more importantly, if their decisions will anger the gods. Due to their impulsive behavioral patterns, selfish...

Words: 1853 - Pages: 8

Premium Essay

Women's Roles In The Iliad Essay

... Ms. Sterling 6 November 2015 The Role of Women in the Iliad Since the beginning of time, women have been considered inferior to men. In The Iliad, it seems that the society is dominated by men. Women make few appearances in the book, but are crucial to the plot. When referring to the aspect of war, it’s obvious that men are the ones that participate, with the exception of some female goddesses. Some are used mainly for a comparison to the male characters. Though the women play very small roles, they play a big part in humanizing the men affecting their actions. Women are overshadowed throughout the course of The Iliad, but still...

Words: 863 - Pages: 4

Premium Essay

How to Make Floor Wax Out of Banana Peel

... (Subject teacher) Trojan War . In Greek mythology, the Trojan War was waged against the city of Troy by the Achaeans (Greeks) after Paris of Troy took Helen from her husband Menelaus king of Sparta. The war is one of the most important events in Greek mythology and has been narrated through many works of Greek literature, most notably through Homer's Iliad. The Iliad relates a part of the last year of the siege of Troy; the Odyssey describes the journey home of Odysseus, one of the war's heroes. Other parts of the war are described in a cycle of epic poems, which have survived through fragments. Episodes from the war provided material for Greek tragedy and other works of Greek literature, and for Roman poets including Virgil and Ovid. The war originated from a quarrel between the goddesses Athena, Hera, and Aphrodite, after Eris, the goddess of strife and discord, gave them a golden apple, sometimes known as the Apple of Discord, marked "for the fairest". Zeus sent the goddesses to Paris, who judged that Aphrodite, as the "fairest", should receive the apple. In exchange, Aphrodite made Helen, the most beautiful of all women and wife of Menelaus, fall in love with Paris, who took her to Troy. Agamemnon, king of Mycenae and the brother of Helen's husband Menelaus, led an expedition of Achaean troops to Troy and besieged the city for ten years because of Paris' insult. After the deaths of many heroes...

Words: 2701 - Pages: 11

Premium Essay


...ILIAD The gods and goddesses took a huge place in the lives of Greek people. The gods were a great power, and provided clear explanations for all events. The Greeks thought that the gods help people in trouble and influence on all mans actions and thoughts working through human nature. Although Homer in The Iliad attached significant meaning to the gods intervention in the lives of the human characters I think that “If the gods were removed from the Iliad, the events would be largely the same”. The events, that were happened in the lives of main characters of the Iliad, basically were depended on their own particular traits of characters and behavior. Patroklos’s death is the plot moment in the Iliad. From this moment the events are on the move very quickly and getting fatal for the main characters of the poem - Achilleus and Hector. After Patroklos’s death Achilleus forgets about his offences , pride and speculations about fair actions. Now the most important thing in his life is to avenge Patroklos’s death. Hector is becoming the worst enemy for Achilleus , although he never wanted to fight against Hector and the Trojan as well. “...I am unwilling to fight against brilliant Hector...”(9.356). Now Achilleus is ready to fight in spite of threats of Apollo, who always stands behind Hector. Nobody and nothing can change his decision to take revenge. The deep human sorrow displays in his behavior. Achilleus wants to deaden his pain by means of killing his...

Words: 1558 - Pages: 7

Premium Essay


...the gods and heroes of the Greek religion, the nature of the world in which they lived, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. The myths that these Greeks came up with were the answers to everything ( The times were much simpler and they did not have real explanations for anything that happened around them. They could not answer questions about the weather, or why things happen in the way that they do. The myths and the ideas of immortal beings, being in control of everything around them gave them a sense of understanding. The idea of gods and goddesses helped to justify the social system in which they lived and gave some meaning to the world people saw around them ( In Greek Mythology, perhaps one of the most rudimental yet one of the most important elements are the Greek Gods and Goddesses. Unlike religious gods today, though, the Greek gods resembled human being in their form and their emotions, and suffered from the same dilemmas humans throughout time have faced ranging from love triangles to the loss of a child and even in plenty of cases, childish fights. The ancient Greeks believed in a numerous amount of gods and depicted them to be very much like people. The gods were said to have both supernatural powers as well as human weaknesses. The gods would fight, play with each other, get angry or jealous, and steal from each other (Kerenyi, 21). According to writings the Olympian Gods lived...

Words: 1770 - Pages: 8

Premium Essay

Aphrodite: The Well-Known Greek Goddess Of Love

...numerous myths telling of her proclaiming love and beauty. Aphrodite is not only the most powerful above both mortals and immortals, but she also represents the love between the two. According to Homer's Iliad, Aphrodite was the daughter of Zeus, god of the sky and Olympian of all the gods. Her mother, Dione, was known as the mother of the Roman goddess of love (By Dione He [Zeus] Had Aphrodite). However, in Myths Encyclopedia, it is said that Aphrodite was, “Born from the foam of the sea”. This myth is believed by many, because her name, Aphrodite or Aphros, is the Greek word which means foam. As oddly as it seems, legends say that Titan Cronus castrated Uranus, his father, throwing his genitals into...

Words: 712 - Pages: 3

Free Essay

Compare and Contrast the Character Traits of Jason and Medea in the Argonautica

...The Voyage of Argo was written in the middle of the third century BC by Apollonius of Rhodes who was the pupil of Callimachus, another great poet. There are many reasons why an epic is written, as a history like Homer’s Iliad tells of the Trojan War or as a way a poet can demonstrate his intricate literary abilities. The reason why Apollonius of Rhodes wrote the Argonautica is not clearly known but many scholars say it was closely associated with Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad. As a librarian Apollonius may have come across works by other epic poets and picked up some elements of epic which he used as a guide for his poem. Such elements include the use of similes, digression, epithets and exceptional characters. The importance of these characters is reflected in the roles and traits that are assigned to them. This is because the plot is developed by the distinctive character traits displayed. In the poem Jason and Medea turn out to be the main characters whose roles are very crucial to the development of the plot. This write-up would therefore try to bring out the distinctive similarities and differences in character traits of Jason and Medea both in deeds and words of Apollonius Voyage of Argo. Typical of all mythical heroes, both Jason and Medea are of royal blood. Jason is a prince whose father, Aeson is the rightful king of Iolcus until the usurpation of his power by Pelias, Aeson’s half-brother a very power-hungry man who wishes to gain dominion over all of Thessaly. Jason is...

Words: 2206 - Pages: 9

Premium Essay

Mythology Lesson Plan

...the twelve Olympians (primarily due to the influence of the Eleusinian Mysteries), although in general Hades was excluded, because he resided permanently in the underworld and never visited Olympus. Contents 1 Concept 2 Membership 3 List 3.1 The major Olympians 3.2 Other Olympians 3.3 Minor residents of Mount Olympus 4 Genealogy 5 See also 6 Notes 7 References Concept The Twelve Olympians, also known as the Dodekatheon (Greek: Δωδεκάθεον from δώδεκα,[3][4] dōdeka, "twelve" and θεοί, theoi, "gods"), were the principal deities of the Greek pantheon, said to reside atop Mount Olympus. The Olympians gained their supremacy in a war of gods in which Zeus led his siblings to victory over the Titans. Fragment of a Hellenistic relief (1st century BC – 1st century AD) The concept of the "Twelve Gods" is older than depicting the Twelve Olympians carrying their attributes in any extant Greek or Roman sources.[5] The procession; from left to right, Hestia (scepter), Hermes (winged cap gods meet in council in the Homeric epics, but and staff), Aphrodite (veiled), Ares (helmet and spear), Demeter the first ancient reference to religious (scepter and wheat sheaf), Hephaestus (staff), Hera (scepter), ceremonies for the Olympians collectively is Poseidon (trident), Athena (owl and helmet), Zeus (thunderbolt and found in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes. The staff), Artemis (bow and quiver), Apollo (lyre),...

Words: 3807 - Pages: 16

Free Essay


...EXAMINATION OF DUTY AND SELF CONTROL IN THE ODYSSEY Aashna Jamal INTRODUCTION Under the rule of Zeus, events did not occur in isolation but in interdependence causing there to be a flux in the totality of events and the whole drama being played on a cosmic plane. The central theme of Zeus’s rule is the preservation of his “ oikos” or household management where the prevalence of order over Chaos is of utmost importance. In this paper, using the Odyssey as a case study, I will examine the thematic importance of the decisions taken by a hero in accordance to or defiance of self control and pietas and the consequences they lead to. These expectations are clearly marked out for the reader who waits in anticipation to garner the fate of the hero. I will analyse the themes of self control and pietas or duty in the Odyssey and discuss their special significance in this epic. I will then briefly talk about the Hindu concept of duty or Dharma with reference to the Ramayana. I however do not intend to use the concept of monomyth coined by Joseph Campbell also referred to as the hero's journey(which is a basic pattern that its proponents argue is found in many narratives from around the world.) in comparing these epics. The example of the Ramayana will only serve my purpose of highlighting the theme of duty in mythologies across the world. Lastly, I will conclude with the importance of inspecting these themes because of their significance to the plotline. Georg Wissowa notes that pietas was...

Words: 3587 - Pages: 15

Free Essay


...Modern Greek Professor Themis Aravossitas Wednesday, April 15th 2015 What is Greece?: Significance of Music within the Ancient Greek Culture Abstract: What is Greece? This questions can be answered in a variety of areas. The history of music in Greece plays a significant role in the history of the country. Because music played a integral role in the daily lives of the Ancient Greek citizens, it is evident that music has played a role in shaping the culture into what it is today. We live in a society where we are completely devoted and immersed in music. Whether it be a simple tune we hear on a radio or the hustle of city life, music is all around us. The way we react to music, is very similar to how music was in the ancient Greek times. Music allowed the citizens to express emotion, to worship, to prepare for sporting events, to mourn, to celebrate, and in essence to be happy. Music was their special gift from the gods, and they did everything in their power to make sure the gods understood their appreciation. They honored music and created an artistry that stands as a guiding role in, not only the history of the Greek culture, but also a significant role in the history of music in general. What is Greece? This question can be explored in many different areas. From a political aspect to the beautiful geography, Greece offers a wide range of history and culture that one cannot pass on learning about. The music of Greece is as diverse and celebrated...

Words: 2103 - Pages: 9

Premium Essay

Modern Education vs Ancient Greece

...MODERN EDUCATION SYSTEM VS. ANCIENT GREECE EDUCATION SYSTEM Greece was known for its ancient cultures, Greek gods & goddesses, mythology, religious beliefs, classical and historical architectures, and significantly their primitive style of education. Without a doubt, the ancient Greeks influenced our world today because of their wide knowledge in different fields of study like Mathematics, Literature and Astronomy. The Ancient Athenians was considered as the brightest intellectual people because they introduced us some major accomplishments. These accomplishments consist of the introduction of Democracy, Sports, Architecture, Drama, and Philosophy. Through their wide contribution of learning, Education played an important role in our modern society today. Although Education was considered as one of the most important achievement that we can attain, our modern Education system was different from the early ancient times in Greece in many ways. In Ancient Athens, only the boys were allowed to attend school and at least received an elementary education. Pottery shards called ostraka, bearing the names of individuals to be exiled from the city, attest to basic literacy among Athenian citizens. They were taught gymnastics and physical fitness in wrestling school called palaistra for their preparation for war. Music was also a part of their education which consisted of lyric poetry and lyre playing. Music was included in both poetry and dance, with a strong emphasis on...

Words: 1767 - Pages: 8

Premium Essay

God and Goddesses

...Aphrodite (Ἀφροδίτη, Aphroditē) Goddess of love, beauty and desire. She was married to Hephaestus, but she had many lovers, including Ares, Adonis and Anchises. She was depicted as a beautiful woman and often naked. Her symbols include roses and other flowers, the scallop shell, and myrtlewreath. Her sacred animals are doves and sparrows. The Roman version of Aphrodite was Venus. Apollo (Ἀπόλλων, Apóllōn) God of light, healing, music, poetry, plague, prophecy, and more. He is the son of Zeus and Leto, and the twin brother of Artemis. Apollo was associated with the Sun; while Artemis was the Moon. Both use a bow and arrow. In the earliest myths, Apollo fights with his half-brother Hermes. In sculpture, Apollo was depicted as a handsome young man with long hair and a perfect physique. His attributes include the laurel wreath and lyre. He often appears in the company of the Muses. Animals sacred to Apollo include roe deer, swans, cicadas, hawks, ravens, crows, foxes, mice and snakes. Ares (Ἄρης, Árēs) God of war and bloodshed. He was the son of Zeus and Hera. He was depicted as a young man, either naked with a helmet and spear or sword, or as an armed warrior. Ares generally represents the chaos of war in contrast to Athena, who represented strategy and skill. Ares' sacred animals are the vulture, venomous snakes, dogs and boars. The Roman version of Ares is Mars. Artemis (Ἄρτεμις, Ártemis) Goddess of hunting, wilderness, animals and childbirth. In later times she became...

Words: 9340 - Pages: 38