Wednesday, October 3, 2012

TFBT: No God May Thwart

“The most startling silence in the voluble divine community of the Iliad is the absence of any reproach made to Thetis for her drastic intervention in the war.”  
       Laura Slatkin in
                      The Power of Thetis

I argued in Most Dangerous Sea and Beauteous Scarf  that Thetis’ influence on the gods and events of the Iliad might have to do with the gods mutual respect of the honors and privileges divided among the victorious gods at Mecone. 

But, with my continual re-reading of Tobias Anthony Myers dissertation Homer’s Divine Audience: The Iliad’s Reception on Mount Olympus  I have come away with an additional reason for Thetis gracious reception on Olympus.  (I should mention that Thetis was Hera’s foster daughter that might help insure a pleasant reception.)  Myers suggests that the gods “hold in common that a god's wrath against mortals takes precedence over a god's protection of those same mortals”.  He bases this on, among other things I’m sure, the ready agreement of Hera and Zeus in the Iliad to destroy one another’s favorite cities, just to appease Hera’s “bestial” wrath.  Of which Zeus says “Strange queen, wherein do Priam and the sons of Priam work thee ills so many, that thou ragest unceasingly to lay waste the well-built citadel of Ilios? If thou wert to enter within the gates and the high walls, and to devour Priam raw and the sons of Priam and all the Trojans besides, then perchance mightest thou heal thine anger.  (Iliad 4:30)

Likewise Artemis says in Hippolytus 1456 (Euripides) “Hath Zeus ordained in heaven, no god may thwart a god’s fixed will; we grieve but stand apart.”  Although the virgin-goddess refers to her friend Hippolytus dying at the machinations of the jealous Aphrodite, her behavior seems to follow the example set down by the King and Queen of the Olympians above. 

And finally, Bruce Louden[i]  observes the opposing deities; the protector of the hero and the god antagonistic to the hero never confront one another in epic.  His example being Athena and Apollo during the Theomachy, but the same trend can be recognized in the Hippolytus where Aphrodite and Artemis never confront one another.   Artemis seems to summarize it best “No god may thwart a god’s will.”

[i] The Gods in Epic or the Divine Economy  page 95 in Companion to Ancient Epic

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