Homer 's view of war is suitably ambiguous. He's unstinting in his praise for individual acts of courage and valor on both sides. But at the same time, we are left in no doubt that war is a terrible business, one that causes immense human suffering. It's interesting that for...
Homer's view of war is suitably ambiguous. He's unstinting in his praise for individual acts of courage and valor on both sides. But at the same time, we are left in no doubt that war is a terrible business, one that causes immense human suffering. It's interesting that for Homer the gods are often much more warlike than the mortals. Each god or goddess takes sides in the conflict, and has his or her own favorite warrior, whom they frequently intervene to protect. The gods are not so much immoral, as amoral. They look upon war as a gigantic game: an endless source of amusement to relieve them of the boredom of immortality.
The Trojans and the Greeks are both tired after years of bloody conflict. Paris seeks to break the deadlock by challenging any Achaean warrior to a duel that will end the war once and for all. Menelaus comes forward to accept Paris' brash, impetuous challenge. In the ensuing duel, Menelaus is the undoubted victor, a fact acknowledged by Father Zeus himself. Yet Hera and Athena aren't satisfied. Hera, for one, has a bitter enmity towards Troy. She doesn't want war to end in a truce; she wants Troy to be wiped from the face of the earth. Reluctantly, Zeus gives in and allows Athena to descend upon the Trojan camp to stir things up. She encourages the Trojan warrior Pandaros to kill Menelaus, an act which will give him great renown. He attempts to do so, and fails, but the damage has been done. The Achaeans are enraged at the breaking of the truce, this shameful breach of trust, so they begin to prepare for battle once more. The words of Gloucester in King Lear are particularly apt in this case:
"As flies to wanton boys are we to th' gods.
They kill us for their sport."
Greek and Trojan societies may be based on war and conquest, but ultimately it's the gods who call the shots, in this or in any other form of human endeavor.