The Gods in the Iliad

The gods take sides in the Iliad.
The gods help their favorite mortals both directly and indirectly. Mortals fight gods and gods fight each other. The world of the Iliad is a world of cosmic conflict. For images of the gods, see The Olympian Gods: Images and Texts.

On the side of the Greeks are: On the side of the Trojans are:
Athena Aphrodite
Hera Apollo
Poseidon Artemis
Hermes Leto

Zeus tries to stay above the fray and stand for justice and fate. He uses the scales of fate and justice to determine his actions, but he can also be persuaded by personal petitions from the gods. Also look for the gods' role in scenes highlighting their functions. For example:

Oath or swearing scenes: Zeus
Guest friendship or xenia: Zeus
Prophecy: Apollo
Message bearing: Iris or Hermes

Divine Epithets:
Homer does not always refer to characters by their names. He can also refer to them via epithets or nicknames. For example:

Atreides = Agamemnon and Menelaus
Son of Menoitios = Patroklos
Gerenian horseman = Nestor

The same is true for the gods. See how many gods you can recognize here:

Which god is “father of gods and men”?
Which goddess is owl-eyed?
Which goddess is ox-eyed?
Which god is the Lord of Hera?
Which god is Argeiphontes or “the Guide”?
Which god is “lord of the shining bolt”?
Which god is “he who strikes from afar”?
Which god is “lord of the silver bow”?
Which god is “god of the dragging feet”?
Which goddess is “goddess of the white arms”?
Which goddess is Tritongeneia?
Which god is the Son of Kronos?
Which goddess is the Kyprian or the Lady of Kypros?
Which god is “Worker from Afar”?
Which god is the earth-shaker?
Which god is Phoibos?
Which goddess is Pallas?

The Gods in the Plot
Here are some noteworthy scenes in which the gods play a significant role:

Book 1
Apollo and the plague
Athena restrains Achilles
Zeus, Thetis, and Hera
Hephaistos and his Parents

Book 2
Zeus sends Agamemnon a dream
Iris, the messenger goddess

Book 3
Aphrodite rescues Paris from duel with Menelaus
Aphrodite and Helen

Book 4
Assembly of the Gods
Hera gets Zeus to promise the defeat of Troy
Athena persuades Pandaros to break the truce

Book 5
Aphrodite rescues Aineias
Diomedes wounds Aphrodite
Aphrodite and Dione
Arming of Athene
Diomedes wounds Ares
Wounded Ares on Mt. Olympus

Book 6
Trojan Women Pray to Athena

Book 7
Conference between Athena and Apollo
Athena and Apollo agree to a single combat (leads to contest between Hector and Ajax)
Zeus and Poseidon

Book 8
Assembly of the Gods
Zeus forbids the gods from fighting and goes to Mt. Ida where he weighs the fates of the Greeks and the Trojans in a scale and the Greeks lose.
Hera and Poseidon
Hera and Athena
Zeus Returns to Mt. Olympus

Book 11
Zeus sends down Hate
Zeus sends Iris to Hektor

Book 13
Arrival of Poseidon who secretly helps the Greeks

Book 14
Hera seduces Zeus to distract him and help the Greeks

Book 15
Zeus wakes from sleep to find Poseidon helping the Greeks.
Gods on Olympus
Athena calms Ares down
Zeus sends message to Poseidon
Zeus sends Apollo to Hektor to help the Trojans but reaffirms the ultimate fate of Troy.

Book 16
Zeus weeps for Sarpedon

Book 17
Zeus laments fate of Hektor

Book 18
Thetis laments death of Patroklos with Achilles
Thetis persuades Hephaistos to make new armor for Achilles.

Book 19
Athena restores the strength of mourning Achilles

Book 20
Assembly of the Gods
Zeus releases the gods to act as they will.
Apollo talks to Aineias
Hera and Poseidon plot
Poseidon rescues Trojan Aeneas.

Book 21
Achilles fights the river god with help of Hera and Poseidon.
Hera encourages Hephaistos to help
The gods in hand to hand combat:
Ares, Aphrodite--Athena; Apollo--Poseidon; Hera--Artemis; Hermes--Leto
Ares vs. Athena

Book 22
Zeus weighs fate of Hector and he loses.

Book 24
Assembly of the Gods
Thetis is summoned to Olympus
Zeus, through Thetis, commands Achilles to release the body of Hector.
Hermes Psychopompos guides Priam to Achilles' tent.

This material has been published on the web by Prof. Tom Sienkewicz for his students at Monmouth College. If you have any questions, you can contact him at

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