HOMER: The Iliad [Book XIV]

In Book XIV of Homer’s Iliad, Jove oversees the war from the top of Mt. Ida. Recall that Jove forbade all other gods from interfering in the war. To get around Jove’s prohibition, Juno contrives a plan by which she will seduce Jove in order to distract him from the war just long enough for Neptune to aid the Greeks. “She deemed that it would be best for her to go to Ida and array herself in rich attire, in the hope that Jove might become enamoured of her, and wish to embrace her. While he was thus engaged a sweet and careless sleep might be made to steal over his eyes and senses.”

Juno first anoints herself with olive oil, puts up her hair, and puts on her finest clothes. Then she goes to Venus and asks the goddess of Love for her magic girdle that can seduce any man. Because Venus favors the Trojans, Juno lies about her true intentions regarding the girdle. Juno tells Venus that she needs the girdle in order to fix the relationship between Oceanus and Tethys, the parents of all the gods. Venus happily gives Juno the girdle.

After visiting Venus, Juno goes to the god of Sleep. She tells him her plan and begs him to put Jove asleep after she has successfully seduced him. Sleep is initially reluctant because he fears retaliation from Jove whenever he awakens. Juno reassures Sleep that she will protect him and that she will also give Sleep one of the young and beautiful Graces as his wife in exchange for his assistance. Sleep agrees to the bargain, and they both set out for Mt. Ida, where Jove is watching the war.

Juno arrives at Mt. Ida, and Jove is immediately captivated by her beauty. He takes Juno to his couch, where they embrace, and Sleep, in the form of a bird, seals Jove’s eyes in a deep slumber.

While Jove is incapacitated, Neptune rallies the Greeks, encouraging them to fiercely defend their ships against the Trojan onslaught. During the ensuing battle, Ajax strikes Hector in the chest with a boulder, forcing him to retire from the battle. After Hector retreats, the Trojans lose heart and are easily repelled by the Greeks.

Love is the main theme of Book XIV. Juno mentions the omnipotence of Love when she asks Venus for her magic girdle. “I want you to endow me with some of those fascinating charms, the spells of which bring all things mortal and immortal to your feet. Love, desire, and that sweet flattery which steals the judgment even of the most prudent.” Thus, Homer demonstrates that even the King of the Gods, Jove, is powerless in the face of Love.

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