One desires, preferring justice and the right course of

One must now start to consider the
question of whether the gods are the most prominent in the Iliad or not,
and the best way to do so is by examining Zeus in particular. As the king of
the gods, he is the most powerful and is responsible for keeping the other gods
in line: he forbids them from fighting for their favourites when he deems it
suitable, and he sacrifices his own interests (such as in Book Sixteen, where
he allows his son Sarpedon to die) so that the other gods do not demand that he
saves their offspring (p. 363). This, alongside the use of epithets such as
‘Father Zeus’ and ‘the Father of Gods and Men’, shows Zeus to be a fatherly
figure who keeps his divine and indeed mortal (as shown by the fact that
despite having previously shown favour to Diomedes, Zeus does not allow
Diomedes to kill Hektor in Book Eight, as it is not his destiny) ‘children’ in
line despite his own desires, preferring justice and the right course of action
instead. As Peter J. Ahrensdorf writes: ‘the simple, pious belief that the
gods, led by Zeus, are wise, just, and providential … is widely expressed by
the human characters of the poem’,1
with Achilleus’ declaration to Athene being a good example: ‘If any man obeys
the gods, they listen to him also’ (Iliad, p. 81). In fact, this idea about Zeus and the other gods is present
at the beginning (when Apollo answers Chryses’ prayer for his daughter’s
return) and the end (when Zeus helps Priam to recover Hektor’s body) of the
poem, which can be seen as Homer ensuring that we understand this message from
the beginning and that we leave with it at the end (cite?). It has therefore been clearly
established that Zeus, as well as the other gods, is an enforcer of justice,
something which is extremely important to understand when considering the
extent of the gods’ prominence in the Iliad.


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