HOMER: The Iliad [Book II]

In Book II of Homer’s Iliad, Jove begins to fulfill his promise to Achilles’ mother, Thetis. He appears to Agamemnon in a dream and persuades him to attack the Trojans. Unbeknownst to Agamemnon, Jove intends to aid the Trojans and thwart Agamemnon’s attack.

Agamemnon awakens from his dream and decides to test his troops’ resolve before issuing orders to attack the Trojans. He assembles his troops and asks whether they wish to return to Greece or continue to fight the Trojans. The troops unanimously agree to return to Greece and rush to the shore in order to prepare the ships. Fortunately for Agamemnon, Ulysses chastises the troops’ cowardice and manages to reassemble them before Agamemnon and the other generals.

During the second assembly, the old and wise general Nestor persuades the Grecian army to prepare for battle and arrange themselves according to their several nations. This gives Homer the opportunity to list all the forces of the Greeks and Trojans. This part of the epic is now known as the catalogue of ships, which is a convention adopted by many later epics.

In Book II, the reader learns that the Ancient Greek gods differ significantly from the Christian God of modernity. Jove, the king of the Ancient Greek gods, employs a stratagem to deceive Agamemnon. The “lying dream” persuades Agamemnon that the Achaeans will defeat the Trojans that very day. Jove desires Agamemnon to attack the Trojans and suffer many defeats because it will convince Agamemnon that he needs Achilles to win the war. Jove’s treachery and vengefulness is remarkably different from the Christian God’s honesty and benevolence.

Throughout the epic, Homer portrays the gods as beings that behave like men and women. The gods quarrel with others, lust after others, and delight in feasts and entertainment. The gods are vindictive, prone to anger, and ambitious. This representation of the gods renders the gods more accessible and understandable to mankind because they are similar to mankind. The Christian portrayal of God as an infinitely good, infinitely knowledgeable, and infinitely powerful being is very difficult for many people to grasp; and therefore, the connection between Christians and their God is likely not as strong as the connection between the Ancient Greeks and their gods.

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