Mythology: Zeus and Achilles

11 November 2016

However, despite all their strength and authority, neither Zeus nor Achilles appears capable of eschewing or defying the omnipresent power that holds more sway than them: fate. Sans doubt, once a human is dealt his hand, there is nothing that he can humanly do in order to prevent his fate. As for the gods, with all their power and independence, they are still undeniably bound by the hands of fate. Fate is a peculiar phenomenon in that it has no limitations, yet it is a fixed occurrence that does not change over time or through the progression of different events that may influence it.

Powerful men and gods such as Achilles and Zeus may do as their hearts and minds desire, because there is no one who can stop or defy them. Thus, the role of fate becomes clear, since fate is without desire or mind; its existence is to curb the ridiculous and emotional wishes of powerful beings who cannot be stopped otherwise. Fundamentally, there is no god or man stronger or more powerful than Zeus; he is capable of doing whatever he wants, whenever he pleases.

Mythology: Zeus and Achilles Essay Example

Given this omnipotent ability, all his desires should become immediate manifestations, yet this would only lead to chaos due to the lack of limitations on freedom. There are multiple times during the events of The Iliad that begin with Zeus seriously contemplating using his unlimited power to fulfill his desires yet ultimately ends in his freedom being restricted by fate. In one scene, Patroclus in a blaze of raw magnificence and strength is battling Sarpedon, the son of Zeus. It becomes apparent that the mightier and glory-driven Patroclus will overpower and kill Sarpedon.

Zeus is obviously most distressed and sorrowfully states, “My cruel fate…my Sarpedon, the man I love the most, my own son-doomed to die at the hands of Meoetius’ son Patroclus. My heart is torn in two as I try to weigh all this. Shall I pluck him up, now, while he’s still alive and set him down in the rich green land of Lycia, far from the war at Troy and all its tears? ” (Iliad 16. 514-520) It is apparent than Zeus could have easily saved Sarpedon in numerous ways, yet he cannot defy the fate of the doomed Sarpedon.

In another scene, almost identical to the first, Zeus laments the ill-fate of Hector as he is chased by the vengeful Achilles: “Unbearable-a man I love, hunted round his own city walls and right before my eyes. My heart grieves for Hector…Come, you immortals, think this through. Decide. Either we pluck the man from death and save his life or strike him down at last, here at Achilles’ hands-for all his fighting heart” (Iliad 22. 201-209). Once again, Zeus begins with the desire to save Hector from the enraged Achilles, but he is reminded by Athena of the hand of fate that has been drawn for Hector.

In order to remind Zeus of Hector’s fate, Athena protests, “Father! Lord of the lightning, king of the black cloud, what are you saying? A man, a mere mortal, his doom sealed long ago? ” (Iliad 22. 211-214) Upon hearing her objections, Zeus halts his urge to save Hector and realizes that he cannot challenge fate, unless he wants to create total chaos among the gods of Olympus. On the human side, there is the swift runner Achilles who is revered as the greatest warrior amongst the Achaeans. In battle, he is fearless and unmatched; his presence alone sways the very tide of the war.

Granted that he is a match for any Trojan soldier and could simply win the war for the Achaeans, his freedom is still restricted by his destiny. When the Achaeans are being routed time and time again by the Trojans, Agamemnon sends an embassy of his finest men in order to persuade Achilles to rejoin the Achaeans in fighting the Trojans. Achilles adamantly refuses the offer and reveals his fate to the embassy: “Mother tells me, the immortal goddess Thetis with her glistening feet, that two fates bear me on the day of death.

If I hold out here and I lay siege to Troy, my journey home is gone, but my glory never dies. If I voyage back to the fatherland I love, my pride, my glory dies…true, but the life that’s left me will be long, the stroke of death will not come on me quickly” (Iliad 9. 498-505). Undoubtedly, the prophecy that Achilles receives from his mother weighs heavily upon him. Although he is given the unique opportunity in choosing his fortune, neither option is wholly desirable or undesirable. Consequently, for a large portion f The Iliad, his fickleness with his fates cripples him and renders him paralyzed from being the mighty, unconstrained warrior that he is known and meant to be. Moreover, when the death of his beloved friend Patroclus rouses Achilles to arms, he is deterred by fate from carrying out his impulse to sack the city of Troy. Zeus plots with the other gods to prevent the enraged Achilles from annihilating Troy and rationalizes his decision by stating, “If Achilles fights the Trojans-unopposed by us-not for a moment will they hold his breakneck force. Even before now they’d shake to see him coming.

Now, with his rage inflamed for his friend’s death, I fear he’ll raze the walls against the will of fate” (Iliad 20. 32-36). It is not fated for Achilles to sack the city of Troy; therefore, the gods convened to prevent him from opposing his fate. Moreover, this fate coincides with the original prophecy that his mother told him: if he stayed in Troy and fought, he would gain eternal glory but would die in the battlefields of Troy. In my own opinion, I believe Homer wisely uses the device of fate as a regulator of the limitless power of Zeus and Achilles.

Without fate to check their sometimes emotional desires or impulses, the epic of The Iliad would be a ridiculous story that tells of nothing more than the infinite power of two men who do whatever they please and cause chaos in the trail of their emotional whims. Luckily, there is the aspect of fate which adds a sense of organization to the plot. The fact that the two powerful men are constrained by fate does not make them any less powerful, but rather, exemplifies their determination to carry out their desires despite the fate they have been handed. -Paper by LucSilverz

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