How does the behavior of the gods in Aeneid reflect human qualities?

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The gods in Greek and Roman mythology are petty, vengeful, and jealous of one another. Their behavior is often quite human, and they often show characteristics more common to humans than to gods. The ancient Greeks believed that the world was ruled by a pantheon of twelve main gods (including the three goddesses). These were: Zeus (the king), Hera (his wife), Athena (their daughter), Apollo, Demeter, Hermes, Aphrodite, Ares, Hephaestus, Poseidon and Artemis. The most powerful god was Zeus who ruled over all creation from his throne at Olympus.

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The myths of the ancient Greek and Roman gods portray them as powerful but petty. They meddle in human affairs and interact with one another like members of a particularly dysfunctional family: fighting and falling in love, placing bets and playing pranks. They are ruled by emotions and appetites which...

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would seem to be thoroughly human.

The behavior of the Gods is no different in Virgil's Aeneid, an epic poem about the voyage of the hero Aeneas from the wreckage of Troy to Italy where he helped to found Rome. The epic begins in medias res in the middle of the Trojan War. According to legend, this war was itself the result of the gods behaving like humans: the goddesses Juno, Venus, and Minerva had a contest about who was most beautiful and allowed the mortal Paris to judge. He chose Venus, the goddess of love, because she promised him the most beautiful woman in the world in exchange for naming her the victor. The fulfillment of this promise, Paris's marriage to Helen, was the motivation behind the war. At the beginning of the Aeneid, Juno is wrathful and meddling in the war because she still resents not being chosen.

Other gods also succumb to human emotions throughout the narrative. The gods repeatedly intervene in Aeneas's journey, in ways both small and large. Neptune, the god of the sea, calms the waters so the hero's boat can proceed safely, Venus, Aeneas's mother, appears to him in the form of a mortal huntress to give him advice and directs him to Carthage and sends her other son Cupid to plant seeds of love in the heart of Dido, the queen of Carthage. Is there anything more human than a mother playing matchmaker for her son?

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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.

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