Zeus plays a vital role in Homer’s Iliad. As the king of the gods, he is the one who sets the story in motion by sending Apollo to punish the Greeks for disrespecting his priest, Chryses. Zeus also intervenes on behalf of the Trojans when they are losing the war, and he even goes so far as to risk his own safety to save Hector’s body from being desecrated by Achilles.
In this way, Zeus serves as both a protector of the Trojans and a force for balance in the conflict. Without Zeus, it is likely that either the Greeks or the Trojans would have triumphed over the other, leading to a very different outcome of the Trojan War.
In ancient Greece, divine intervention was considered normal, and one of Homer’s greatest works, The Iliad, reflects this. Almost all of the Greek gods are concerned in the end of the Trojan War, which is the epic poem’s backdrop story. Homer utilizes the gods to provide twists to a plot that isn’t remarkable.
Zeus, being the king of gods, naturally plays a significant role. Zeus is first introduced in The Iliad as the one who gave orders to Apollo that started the conflict between Achilles and Agamemnon. Zeus wants the Greeks to be punished for not returning Zeus’ daughter, Zeus’ priest Chryses, when she was first taken as a war prize by Agamemnon. Zeus sends a plague on the Greeks as retribution.
Although Zeus does settle the conflict later on, he takes no responsibility for it. In fact, Zeus claims that Apollo is at fault and threatens Apollo with punishment (Homer 1.47-50). This begins a trend in which Zeus washes his hands of any consequences his actions have caused throughout The Iliad. Zeus is shown as a fickle god who does not always follow through on his threats.
This is seen again when Zeus meets Thetis, Achilles’ mother. Zeus had previously decreed that Achilles was fated to die in battle at Troy. Thetis begs Zeus to change this fate, and Zeus agrees to do so. However, he goes back on his word when he realizes that the other gods will make fun of him. As a result, Zeus allows Achilles to die as prophesied (Homer 18.90-107).
Zeus also plays favorites among the Olympian gods and shows bias towards the Greeks over the Trojans. For example, Zeus becomes enraged with Hera when she sides with the Trojans and threatens to destroy her city if she does not stop. Zeus also sends Iris, his messenger, to tell Apollo to stop helping the Trojans since Zeus wants the Greeks to win (Homer 5.715-725). By favoring the Greeks, Zeus is essentially ensuring their victory in the Trojan War.
While Zeus may be a fickle and biased god, he is still presented as the most powerful god. He is able to control the other gods and make them do his bidding. This is seen when Hera tries to help the Trojans and Zeus orders her to stop. Zeus also punishes Apollo for disobeying him by making Zeus’ wife, Aphrodite, suffer in battle (Homer 5.715-725). Zeus’ power is absolute among the Olympian gods.
In The Iliad, Zeus is shown as a complicated god who is often contradictory. He is fickle, biased, and doesn’t always follow through on his threats. However, he is also the most powerful god who can make the other gods do his bidding. Zeus is a complex character whose actions have a significant impact on the Trojan War.
I shall concentrate on Zeus and analyze his actions during the Trojan War, as well as their outcomes. It is more important, however, to reflect upon how these events are portrayed in The Iliad. Compared to other Greek gods, Zeus was lacking in selfishness and instead represented fairness between both sides of the war. By remaining impartial throughout the conflict, he ensured that each god’s involvement was appropriate.
Zeus essentially controls the gods and their level of involvement in the war. Zeus’ Zeus-given role during the Trojan War is to make sure that the divine intervention remains at a minimum, so as not to disrupt the natural course of human history.
Zeus is first mentioned in The Iliad in Book One, Line 5ff Zeus has two concerns during the Trojan War. First, he does not want any of his children to intervene on behalf of either side because he does not want a favorite to emerge. Second, Zeus does not want any god to kill a human because that would undermine Zeus’ authority. In other words, Zeus does not want anything that would upset the natural order of things.
Zeus’ first concern is evident when he forbids Apollo from interfering on behalf of the Greeks. Zeus says that if Apollo intervenes, Zeus will intervene as well. Zeus’ second concern is evident when Zeus prevents Ares from killing Diomedes. Zeus believes that if a god were to kill a human, it would disrupt the natural order and give humans a reason to no longer worship the gods.
While Zeus does have concerns about divine intervention in the Trojan War, he does allow some intervention to take place. For example, Zeus allows Athena to help the Greeks and Poseidon to help the Trojans. Zeus also allows Hera, Apollo, and Aphrodite to interfere on behalf of their favorite side. However, Zeus always intervening when one of his children gets too involved in the war. Zeus’ intervention usually takes the form of sending a messenger to stop the god from interfering.
Zeus’ role during the Trojan War is to make sure that the divine intervention remains at a minimum so as not to disrupt the natural course of human history. Zeus essentially controls the gods and their level of involvement in the war.
Zeus allows some gods to intervene on behalf of their favorite side, but he always steps in when one of his children gets too involved in the war. Zeus’ intervention usually takes the form of sending a messenger to stop the god from interfering. This helps Zeus maintain his impartiality and keep the war under control.