How does the behavior of the gods reflect human qualities?

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jimwillisca eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Vergil's "Aeneid," as well as in Homer's "Illiad" and his "Odyssey" and in the great Greek tragedies by Aeschylus, Euripides, and Sophocles, the gods are, at best "superhuman." They have powers far surpassing human powers, but they also exemplify all the weaknesses seen in humans as well. Plus, they tend to "perfect" those weaknesses.

They are jealous, petty, cruel, possessive, irrational, demanding, quarrelsome - everything I don't want to see in a wife, a friend, or myself.

They take sides in human conflicts, and watch out if one of them is angry! Oedipus, for instance, ends up killing his own father and mating with his own mother because the Oracle at Delphi (under the influence of the god Apollo) predicted he would do so. It was his fate! And because he tried to defy that fate, it came true. The ancient Greeks see that as Oedipus' great sin - trying to escape his fate. We, a modern audience, see him as a brave man whose "sins" were to defend himself from six or seven people who attacked him on the road (one being his own father) and marrying an older woman - hardly heinous actions in our eyes. But the gods had decreed his fate! Free will plays no role in our lives according to this view.

I prefer to think of God as a being who is, yes, all-powerful, but who uses that power ultimately for good. He is all-wise, all-knowing, and, most importantly, all loving.

The gods of many great ancient stories are very entertaining but surely not models we should strive to imitate.