The Odyssey

Gods, Fate, and Free Will in Homer and Modern Times College

Considering divinity, destiny, and the existence of free will is not a concept that is exclusive to Greek Literature; in fact, whenever there are predetermined, all-powerful entities that guide the actions of lesser beings, it is quite natural to question the agency of those being guided. For instance, those that subscribe to any particular religion might ask themselves, ‘if my deities have a plan for me, does everything I do fall in line with that plan? Are the choices I make my own choices, or are they steps that have been predetermined before my creation?’ But given the rather distant nature of contemporary deities, a follower might find it relatively easy to believe in free will since there are often no concrete manifestations of their deities’ guidance. However, in the Homeric epic poems the Iliad and the Odyssey, the gods’ involvement in mortal lives is much more concrete, forceful, and apparent because they are often bluntly guiding the course of events on earth. So, when their deities are so actively imposing their will on the lives of mortals, how do the characters of both Homeric epics maintain the illusion of free will? By analyzing the complex relationships between gods, fate, and human agency in both the Iliad...

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