Human and god Relationships
The first thing any human does is to be curious and doubtful of preexisting ideas or myths. A myth is something our predecessors made to justify why certain things had happened. It is a justification of all things man does not have an answer for. There were some questions over centuries since earth was created which are answered by stories called mythologies. Mythology in other words can be the interpretation of everything a man knows about the structures surrounding his life.
The relationship between mortals and gods in the readings is interesting because of the many ways that gods interact with humans which you would not typically expect. One thing that all gods are invested in is conflict and that is something they share with humans who would wage many wars for their gods. In the Iliad, many gods joined in on the Trojan war and chose to support either side of the conflict when gods like Aphrodite and Apollo favored the Trojans while others like Athena went with the Greeks. In this illustration, the gods are taking part in a war that would not inherently affect them but they each have something to gain from their side winning the conflict. Some gods would get satisfaction from the chaos unfolding in the Trojan War and their lust for blood will be fulfilled; however, Aphrodite was supporting the Trojans because of her favoring Paris.
The actions of these gods are contradictory to each other with each one wanting to do something for different reasons, and I think that this shows that they are alike to humans because of how each god is unique. While mortals think of gods as their superiors who influence their lives, gods may think of humans as pawns for personal gain like when choosing sides during the war to satisfy their love of conflict. In other instances, gods may take favor in mortals and feel compelled to help them, for example when Zeus does not want to choose between his three daughters, he brought Paris to judge, and when he chose Aphrodite she made Helen fall in love with Paris in return which shows her favoring of Paris because he helped her win the contest. In the Iliad, gods are dominating figures who have a lot of control over the lives of the mortals in the story, but they would sometimes get mixed up in situations involving humans like the Trojan War, so there is a strange relationship where the gods would toy with humans for fun at times, and would help them for personal reasons at other times like how Aphrodite wanted to help Paris.
The Odyssey presents a different idea on the god-mortal relationship than Homer’s Iliad because in this situation I can see that there is a mutual respect between the two. The mortals revere the gods and do what they can to please them with ceremonies and sacrifices so the gods would sometimes reward the humans for paying their respects. During Odysseus’ journey, he received help from gods so that he could return to Ithaca like when Athena begged her father, Zeus, to help Odysseus escape Calypso because she found similarities between herself and Odysseus’ and admired him. Odysseus also received help from Circe when she gave him the information he needed to go home and tells him about Tiresias. In the Odyssey, gods are more respectful of the humans who worship them and are more open to friendly relationships with mortals which is why they try to help humans.
Another interesting myth about human and gods is the story of Hermes from the Homeric hymn to Hermes, where Hermes is born through Zeus and mala in a secret cave. Hermes was known as a trickster and had an appetite.
“But I will take and carry you within: you shall help me 35 and I will do you no disgrace, though first of all you must profit me. It is better to be at home: harm may come out of doors. Living, you shall be a spell against mischievous witchcraft1; but if you die, then you shall make sweetest song” (Hymn 4 to Hermes. 34-37).
In this example Hermes is on the way to trick his brother Apollo and he meets this turtle and immediately realizes the potential of making a lyre using the turtles shell. He tricks the turtle and immorally kills it , which questioned mankind’s relationship and makes us question if he was right to kill a harmless creature for his delight ? Yes, he showed his talents but also shows the ambivalent nature of the luck and profit for one can be bad luck and loss for another.
After this he leaves to steal cattle from his brother Apollo because he wants to be in the same ranks of the Olympians like his brother is. In this event you can see how smart Hermes is has he makes the cattle walk backwards so Apollo cannot trace them through their footprints. Apollo is deceived and is angry and takes Hermes to Zeus. Hermes knows he cannot confront or fight Apollo on a one on one combat because he is not strong enough and he uses his father’s sympathy to help protect himself, Zeus knowing well that Hermes is lying does not punish him but tells him to guide Apollo back to the cattle. On the way back he lets Apollo try his lyre and Apollo is so impressed with it he accepts the lyre as the payment for the stolen cattle and promises to raise Hermes to the rank of Olympians. This also shows Hermes’s intelligence and his way of tricking people to get what he wants and shows that intelligence allied with trickery cannot be judged. In conclusion this hymn does not show how Hermes wanted to raise above Apollo but how he wanted to stand in equal grounds with him and how he used his cunningness and craftsmanship to let Apollo agree to his terms, the sweet music produced by the lyre reduced Apollo’s anger and he gave 50 cattle to Hermes and started a new bond of friendship from an old rivalry. These myths help define humanity’s flaws and how it can be turned to something good, this is known as the human condition.
Another example of the relationship of human and gods can be seen in the Metamorphoses which explains about pleasure and lust. The royal virgin Europa is fooled by Zeus when he takes away from the sea shores and rapes her. They call it the divine rape but Zeus did this for his own pleasure, which shows God’s can take whatever they want with no regard to human life. This event shows that bad things can happen to people who have no idea about evil in this world. The blind innocence can bring up false trust. Human condition suffers from drive for lust but also suffers due to the lack of knowledge.
Since the beginning of life, mythical stories provide us with answers to questions about existence. These myths define human characteristics and other attributes which are known as human reactions. The lessons we learn from classic myths have helped us understand many of the reasons for why people behave a certain way and how relationships are formed between us.