How would you describe the relationship between mankind and the gods?

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One of Homer's themes in both the Iliad and Odyssey is the complicated and often destructive relationship between the gods and mankind. In both poems, we often see the gods treating mankind as chess pieces on a chess board, giving no thought to the effect of the game on its unwilling participants. In the Iliad, for example, the winning of individual battles often has nothing to do with the skill of the warriors but instead is based on the whim of a particular god. The Trojan War mirrors a war of personalities going on among the gods themselves, who use the Greeks and Trojans as their soldiers. In the Odyssey, Odysseus is tormented by Poseidon at every point in his voyage home but succeeds because he has the help of Athena and because of his own intelligence, strength, ability to endure. In addition, the gods tend to punish mankind brutally for any kind of disobedience—Odysseus's original crew is killed because they eat some of the sun-god's cattle while they face starvation. Ultimately, mankind has power to act only to the extent that its actions stay within the gods' plans and don't offend a particular god.

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