Study Guide

The Iliad Religion

By Homer

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In the world of the Iliad, gods and goddesses are a daily presence in people's lives. In fact, many of the book's characters are either children of divinities and mortals – like Achilleus, Aineias, Sarpedon, and Helen – or descended from gods a few generations back – like Tlepolemos. (No one with any mortal blood inherits immortality, however.)

The form of worship that this gives rise to is usually less about following a code of morality than about maintaining contracts: the mortals honor the gods with sacrifices, but they expect favors in return. That said, the gods do preserve certain basic standards of human conduct, such as hospitality, the keeping of oaths, and the proper treatment of the dead.

Questions About Religion

  1. Does the Iliad portray the gods in a favorable or unfavorable light?
  2. How would the story of the Iliad be different if the gods were not involved?
  3. Some scholars have argued that the gods in the Iliad are metaphors for the processes of thought (e.g. Athene stopping Achilleus from killing Agamemnon is a metaphor for Achilleus's better judgment). Can this be true, and, if so, to what extent?

Chew on This

In the Iliad, honoring the gods pays off more often than not.

In the Iliad, the gods usually provide comic relief.

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