The Iliad Fate and Free Will Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Book.Line). We used Richmond Lattimore's translation.
and its devastation, which put pains thousandfold upon the Achaians,
hurled in their multitudes to the house of Hades strong souls
of heroes, but gave their bodies to be the delicate feasting
of dogs, of all birds, and the will of Zeus was accomplished […]. (1.1-5)
These are the very first lines of the Iliad, and they function sort of like a modern movie preview. The art of the movie preview is to give a flavor of what's to come, but not give everything away. Do you think that Homer hits the nail on the head? Does it make the story more or less interesting to know that everything in it happens according to the "the will of Zeus"?
[…] among them stood up
Kalchas, Thestor's son, far the best of the bird interpreters,
who knew all things that were, the things to come and the things past,
who guided into the land of Ilion the ships of the Achaians
through that seercraft of his own that Phoibos Apollo gave him. (1.68-72)
To us, the whole idea of a "seer" – somebody who watches birds and looks for other signs of the will of the gods – might seem a little strange. And yet, what about weather forecasts, or economic forecasts in the modern world? Do you think it makes sense for us to rely on these forecasts, or are they just as strange as ancient prophecy?
Thetis answered him then letting the tears fall: 'Ah me,
my child, your birth was bitterness. Why did I raise you?
If only you could sit by your ships untroubled, not weeping,
since indeed your lifetime is to be short, of no length.
Now it has befallen that your life must be brief and bitter
beyond all men's. To a bad destiny I bore you in my chambers.' (1.413-418)
Thetis seems to think that Achilleus's destiny is so bad that she wishes she never even raised him. Her feeling here will be echoed by Achilleus in Book 18, lines 86-87, when he wishes he had never been born. That said, do you agree with this? Do you think it is better to live with a bad destiny or never be born at all?