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3. The Gods

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about the role of the gods in the Iliad, focusing in particular on: (i) the views of ancient scholars on the depiction of the gods in the Iliad, including Xenophanes and Longinus; (ii) the different ways in which the gods interact with the world of men, including: (1) explanations of natural phenomena; (2) personifications of abstract concepts, e.g. Aphrodite as sexual desire; (3) as recipients of sacrifices and other offerings; (4) as fathers, mothers to human characters; (5) providing assistance to human warriors on the battlefield, e.g. giving them strength, guiding their weapons, lifting them out of harm’s way, etc.; (6) providing characters with false information; (7) assigning characters ‘gifts’, e.g. strength, size, good looks, etc.; (iii) the similarities and differences between gods and men in the poem; (iv) the gods as an internal audience; (v) the sheer range of the behaviour of the gods, from the completely ordinary (e.g. laughing at Hephaestus bustling round the palace) to the sublime (e.g. Apollo descending on the Greek camp, “and his coming was like night”); (vi) the extent to which the gods care about events on the mortal plane; (vii) the idea of ‘fate’ in the poem – is this simply ‘what Zeus decides would happen’ or is it an external force that Zeus himself is subject to?; and (vii) the range of questions that the poem leaves unanswered.


In this course, Dr Emily Hauser (University of Exeter) provides a comprehensive introduction to Homer. In the first module, we think about the Iliad and Odyssey as ‘oral poems’ and consider this should impact how we read them. The following four modules (2-5) focus in the Iliad, with discussions of: (i) the narrative structure of the poem; (ii) the role of the gods; (iii) the nature of heroism; and (iv) the presentation of war and warfare. The five modules after that (6-10) focus on the Odyssey, with discussions of: (i) the theme of ‘nostos’; (ii) the theme of ‘xenia’; (iii) the nature of heroism; (iv) the role of women; and (v) the related themes of disguise and recognition. Finally, in the eleventh model, we think about the reception of Homer from antiquity to the twenty-first century, and how – if at all – it is possible to escape ‘the shadow of Homer’.

Note: Translations from the Iliad are taken from Martin Hammond (Penguin Classics, 1987) and those from the Odyssey from E. V. Rieu (Penguin Classics, 1946), unless otherwise noted.


Dr Emily Hauser is a Lecturer in the Department of Classics at the University of Exeter. Her research centres on the intersection between gender and poetics in the ancient world, with a particular focus on authorship and gender in antiquity, women in Homeric epic and classical reception in contemporary women's writing. Her recent publications include (as co-editor) Reading Poetry, Writing Genre English Poetry and Literary Criticism in Dialogue with Classical Scholarship. (2018).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Hauser, E. (2020, September 10). Homer - The Gods [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Hauser, E. "Homer – The Gods." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 10 Sep 2020,