What is the relationship between gods and mortals in Homer's Iliad?

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The relationship between gods and mortals is crucial in the Iliad. Achilles, the ill-fated protagonist, is the product of a relationship between a mortal man, Peleus, and a sea-goddess, Thetis, making Achilles a demi-god. As a result, Achilles becomes mortal beloved by the gods, adding to the conflict and complexity of the Trojan War, the setting for this Greek epic.

The war itself builds and destroys relationships between mortals and gods, as both chose sides after Helen was abducted by the Trojan prince, Paris. Athena, the warrior goddess, remains loyal to Achilles, while Hektor, the Trojan...

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The Iliad came out of a pagan warrior culture in which the gods were conceived of as very similar to mortals, only bigger and better.  They may have special powers and live in a different realm, but their behavior, emotions, loyalties, and so on are very similar to those of the people of the day.  That is why we often find the gods doing things that we would find objectionable, such as rape.  This is very different from the Judeo/Christian conception of God as holy, sinless and completely "other" than people.

The Iliad was written in an aristocratic culture.  There were kings (landowners/warlords), warriors, commoners, and slaves.  So, you find the gods behaving like a bunch of aristocrats relative to the mortals.  For example, they take people under their patronage, and then will protect and help that person and seek to harm his or her enemies.  You will even find a god becoming the patron of an entire city and fighting for it.  In return for their patronage, the gods expect respect, honor, and various gifts and sacrifices.

You also find the gods fighting among themselves (like petty kings), and also pouting and taking petty revenge, as when Apollo cursed Cassandra because she wouldn't sleep with him. 

The gods are very directly involved in the Trojan War in the Iliad.  You can find examples of them deflecting spear points and so on during battles.  However, because there are many gods and they are actually fighting against each other, the gods' involvement does not improve the lives of people as a whole but, if anything, contributes to the chaos, danger, and uncertainty of the world of the Iliad. 

In fact, you could argue that it's a major theme of the Iliad that the involvement of the gods and of fate tends to make people's lives tragic.