Like man, the Greek gods as portrayed in the Greek mythologies had faults and were subject to emotions such as anger, which contributed to the destruction of mortals. Long ago during the ancient Greek, some of the gods and goddesses influenced events more than others. Two classic examples of instances where gods hurt humankind would be Helios’ plea for Zeus to punish the men of Odysseus, and Cyclops’ request for his father Poseidon to never let Odysseus reach his home. It is hard to imagine that the Greek gods in all their might and splendor would be capable of subjective feelings to the point of bringing harm to mankind, especially because it was believed that the gods were neither evil nor good. Hard as it might be to believe it, these stories tell of how the gods let their anger drive them to use their powers against man.
The Greek godswielded ultimate power and had the last word over matters relating to mortals, nature and destiny.By sending messages through dreams, the Greek gods would influence the actions of the humans and in certain instances, these messages would be reassuring to the mortals but more often than not, the messages would be misleading and would result in destruction and devastation. This implies thathow the gods used their powers was their prerogative and the subjective feelings of the mortals would be inconsequential to the intentions, decisions and actions of the gods.In the story of Helios, according to the author of The Odyssey, Eurylochos had the idea to sacrifice Helios’ cattle to the gods. Eurylochos says, “Come along, let us drive off the best of these cattle, and sacrifice them to the immortal gods who rule the broad heavens” (Homer 157). As described by the author in Notes on the essay “What is Myth?” (1), “Here the companions of Odysseus helped themselves with sacred animals.” Unfortunately, when the companions of Odysseus arrived in other places where Helios was worshipped such as on the island of Thrinacia they helped themselves to the sacred animals that were dedicated to the Sun god; Helios. Since Helios as the Sun god saw everything and knew everything as is evident from this quote “Helios sees and knows all,” (Notes on the essay “What is Myth?” 1), he knew who was responsible and became extremely angry towards Odysseus’ men. Helios’ rage caused him to call on his father Zeus and other gods for help. Helios prays, “Father Zeus and all of ye gods that live forever! Punish those men of Odysseus Laertiades!” (Homer 158). In response to the prayers from Helios, Zeus responds by promising him that soon he would smash it in the middle of the sea by striking the ship with a thunderbolt. Helios kept watch always to make sure these men were punished. According to Homer (158) that is why the Sun god; Helios, rises at dawn each morning from the ocean in the East and rides in his chariots, through the sky to descend in the West at night.As a result of Helios’ anger and his call for Zeus’s assistance, great harm came by way of the gods to Odysseus’ men, just as harm would soon find Odysseus himself.
Similar to the harm faced by Odysseus’ men under the wrath of the Greek gods Helios and Zeus, Odysseus finds himself under grave danger from the Cyclops who threatens to enlist the help of Poseidon; the god of the sea. Poseidon’s single greatest power is that he has total and complete rule over the sea. The threats by the Cyclops were as a result of a fight between Odysseus and his men against the Cyclops, which left the Cyclops severely injured and blind.Unable to see, the Cyclops threatened Odysseus by saying that he will call on Poseidon for help, “Come to me, dear Odysseus and let me beseech the worshipful Earth shaker grant you a happy voyage” (Homer 118).Because of Poseidon’s power over the sea, the Cyclops called on his father for help, asking him to ensure that Odysseus the conqueror of Troy would not reach his home. As defined by Bowra (58), “The distinguishing quality of the [Greek] god is, above everything, power. ” This sentiment is further echoed by the writer of Gods and Men in Greek Religion (1), “Power defines god.”
In response to his son’s request, Poseidon saw to it that Odysseus and his crew suffered greatly. This point to the rank of men compared to that of the gods, where men are destined to suffer whatever the gods send them and they must die for their fate is more complex and tragic than those of the gods.From these actions and others similar to this, it becomes clear why despite being feared and admired; the Greek gods were not beloved. To the Greek gods, power in the form of a force or an action was a quality exalted over goodness.It is clear from this story that Greek gods ultimately hurt mankind through their powers.
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