How much of a role do the gods play in human affairs in The Odyssey?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The role of Greek deities is something that is very worthy of further analysis in this epic classic, as it is in other Greek Epics. Even though this classic features less divine intervention than The Iliad, the one exception is Athena, who features throughout as the guide and mentor of Odysseus. Poseidon puts in a brief appearance, but apart from this the gods are curiously absent. This seems to reinforce the theme of independent self-determination, rather than the gods controlling destiny. The story shows that fate relies on human action or inaction rather than divine will. The major characters of this epic are therefore not cast as mere unthinking puppets of the gods but have to rely on their own abilities and intelligence to triumph over adversary. The only thing the gods do is to give them instruction and guidance to facilitate this process. The story of this epic, therefore, is not one where humans have no control over their destiny; on the contrary, again and again, Odysseus is tested, and his happy ending is shown to be the result of primarily his own efforts, strength and cunning.

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