What is the implication of "The Trojan women have gone to Athena's temple to make supplications" in Iliad, book 6?

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The implication of this statement is that the ultimate fate of both sides in the Trojan War lies in the hands of the gods. The Trojan women know this, which is why they've gone to the temple of the goddess Athena to make supplications. Unbeknownst to them, however, the gods have already decided that Troy will be destroyed, and so their supplications will have no effect.

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To offer supplications to a god is to pray to them and ask for favors. The Trojan women are terrified and turning to Athena, the goddess of wisdom, for protection against the invading Greeks. In both Greek and Trojan societies, women cannot fight, so they do their best to get whatever aid they can through divine intervention. Even in many parts of the modern world, where religious influence has largely waned, a good many people still pray when the bad events in their lives have gotten beyond their own control.

Ironically in the Iliad, the women's prayers are in vain because Athena is firmly on the side of the Greeks. Even though they come to her on behalf of the most vulnerable Trojans—themselves and their young children—their pleas fall on deaf ears. In the world of The Iliad, the gods are not motivated by justice or compassion, but by pettier matters. Though divine, they are as flawed as any human being. The Trojan women assume Athena is just as good as she is powerful, but no matter how much both the priestesses and laywomen beg Athena to spare them, her support is already on the side of the people invading their homeland.

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There are several implications in the statement that the Trojan women went to the temple of Athena to make supplications.

For one, Troy and Greece are culturally quite similar. Since the publication of Edward Said's Orientalism, there have been some scholarly attempts to portray the Trojans as quite different from the Greeks, with a culture reflecting Western stereotypes about "the East" in its luxury and decadence. However, Homer makes Greek and Trojan customs very much the same, particularly in religious matters. Both sides worship the same gods in the same way, and ask them for the same things.

Another implication is that the Trojans do not know that Athena favors the Greeks. Athena is the goddess of wisdom, and the particular patron of Odysseus, the cleverest of the Greek warriors at Troy. She is implacably opposed to the Trojans, so their supplications will fall on deaf ears. An alternative explanation here is that the women think their prayers may change Athena's mind.

This quote also implies that women played an important part in formal religion. Aside from the central mission performed by these women, Chryseis, Briseis, and Cassandra are all priestesses.

Finally, this implies both sides expect the gods to intervene in the war. In fact, despite the frequent interventions of the gods, they do not have much effect in the long run. Zeus, the most powerful of the gods, supports Troy, but allows it to be destroyed anyway. Nonetheless, the participants expect divine intervention and believe it to be of great importance.

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The gods play a very important role in the Iliad. They constantly intervene at crucial stages in the battle, sometimes turning the tide in favor of the Trojans, sometimes in favor of the Argives or Greeks. It all depends on which god happens to be intervening at the time and why.

All of the gods have skin in the game, so to speak; they all support one side or another. Athena, for example, like most of the gods, firmly supports the Greeks. This makes the supplications of the Trojan women at the temple of Athena somewhat ironic, to say the least. The women are completely unaware of the fact that Athena actively supports their bitter enemies.

But in any case, the Trojans worship the same gods as the Greeks, and so instinctively turn towards the immortals in times of trouble. And this most certainly is a time of trouble for the Trojans as they reel under a lengthy siege by the Argives.

For the reasons just mentioned, the Trojan women's prayers are largely futile. But that they should seek the assistance of Athena is nonetheless significant as it shows how mortals expect the gods to intervene on their behalf and how their fates are completely at the mercy of Athena and her fellow immortals.

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The women went to the temple to pray for protection and for their city to be spared. They were in fear because their town was being overrun and their best warriors were being killed.  The implications are that when all else seems lost, it is time to pray.  The women could not go and fight in the battle, but they could go to the temple and offer prayers for the success of their soldiers.

Hector arrives in Troy and meets his mother Hecuba. Hector tells his mother to pray to Athena (Minerva) for the defeat of Diomedes. Since Hector wanted to pray to Athena, he should have offered the sacrifices himself and gone to the temple himself, but he was dirty from battle and would have had to bathe and clean up, so he sends his mother in his place. Hecuba offers a fancy dress or robe to Athena and the sacrifice of twelve heifers, but the goddess meets this with deaf ears. (http://www.enotes.com/iliad-text/book-vi)

The women lifted up their

hands to the goddess with a loud cry, and Theano took the robe to lay it upon the knees of Minerva, praying the while to the daughter of great Jove. "Holy Minerva," she cried, "protectress of our city, mighty goddess, break the spear of Diomed and lay him low before the Scaean gates. Do this, and we will sacrifice twelve heifers that have never yet known the goad, in your temple, if you will have pity upon the town, with the wives and little ones of the Trojans."  (http://www.enotes.com/iliad-text/book-vi)



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