Discuss the dynamic of fate vs. free will in the Iliad.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Like so much in Homer, there is no easy answer here.  The dynamic of fate vs. free will is something that defines consciousness in the Trojan War.  Everyone understands its presence, but few, if any, have a full grasp of it or has the answers that can solve its mystery.  It is evident that Homer believes in a fated element.  The idea of the "will of the Gods" or the notion that the Gods are "displeased" helps to define being in the work.  Homer recognizes fully that human beings are mere mortals and do not possess the overwhelming and real power to alter their fate or their destiny.  It is for this reason that characters like Hektor are so very tragic in the work.  He recognizes the futility of his own actions to avert what he knows in his heart is true.  He must face Achilles and he must die.  Part of this rests in Homer's construction of an ancient definition of tragedy where individuals are poised between equally desirable, but ultimately incompatible course of action.  Some of this formulate rests in the role of fate.  At the same time, though, Homer suggests that human beings are not automatons who are powerless to activate their freedom.  The characters in the work seek to display their greatness through their own free will and autonomy.  Free will is seen as something that defines arete, or greatness, at the highest of levels.  No character resigns himself to being denied freedom.  The results not withstanding, each character understands that they have freedom and can do with it what is best suited to display this form of arete.  It is here where Homer might be suggesting that mortality is defined by having freedom, but understanding its natural ends of futility in terms of exercising power that matters and is relevant to being in the ancient setting.