The Iliad: A Very Brief Ethical Consideration Márcio Padilha College of Southern Idaho ENGL 257 – Carpenter Fall/2012

The Iliad The Iliad: A Very Brief Ethical Consideration


In his account of events pertaining to the Trojan War, Homer’s The Iliad (James, Lawall et al., 2005) exposes readers to an archetype wherein immortals, demigods and mortals coexist. In a construct of conceptual relativism (Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia), present day readers are confronted with dogmatic reports of fantastic events and interactions between the parties. Thus, it seems only consequential that readers start perceiving peculiar ethical issues as the narrative develops. As an example of such structural feature, Hera is credited to have addressed Zeus at a moment when he contemplated interfering in the outcome of the mortal combat to be waged between Sarpedon and Patroclus by saying: “Son of Cronus, what a thing to say! A mortal man, whose fate has long been fixed, And you want to save him from rattling death? Do it. But don’t expect all of us to approve.” (Homer, Iliad 16.477-480) Thus, while Hera’s irreverence towards Zeus’s ethos (Homer, Iliad 16.477) may, from a normative perspective (Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia), be allusive of a state of anarchy within The Iliad’s construct, it is the continuance of her speech (Homer, Iliad 16.478-480) that, under meta-ethical scrutiny (Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia), seems to provide greater indication of The Iliad’s paradoxical reality wherein boundaries between the physical and the metaphysical seem inexistent. As such, by referring to Sarpedon as a “mortal man,” Hera explicitly exposes readers to an attitudinal postulate which dictates that mortals are to be held at a lower status. Hence, one’s status of mortal, demigod or immortal becomes an important factor which dictates that the degree of one’s mortality determines the direct preponderance of one’s status before the gods. Thus, regarding the

The Iliad


meta-ethical issues, the reader may wonder why the degree of one’s mortality should play a role in the quantifying one’s degree of merit. In addition, one may wonder how such judgment may impact the epic as a whole. Next, Hera, opposing Zeus, further states that this man’s “fate has long been fixed” (Homer, Iliad 16.478), thus causing a conundrum to emerge. Considering that “Zeus is contemplating to intervene in the outcome of a man’s fate” and considering that “fate is defined as ‘a predetermined state or end’” (MerriamWebster), Zeus’ suggestion would necessarily seem to compel an existential nihilism against fate’s very essence. Next, with no seeming interruption of thought, Hera further censures Zeus’ judgment by declaring that Sarpedon’s mortal status does not, or should not, render him meritorious of such a reprieve (Homer, Iliad 16.479); leading to a slight variance within the same meta-ethical issue: what confers Hera the right to judge? And how does her judging affect the story, Zeus and ultimately herself? Furthermore, while Hera’s defiant attitude strengthens The Iliad’s anarchical hierarchy precepts which exist between mortals, demigods and immortals, it further reasserts the nihilistically existential imposition against fate’s essence in that, by stating “Do it!” (Homer, Iliad 16.480), she corroborates the very possibility that Zeus has the power to intervene and, consequently, change someone’s fate; in turn, making fate devoid of its essence. The philosophical construct of The Iliad is a complex one that leads the reader into what seems like an infinity of circular thoughts that ultimately lead the reader to try and assert what the normative behavior of the depicted construct is, or should be, if there is one and what lack of perceived boundaries between the different realms the players are in might mean.

The Iliad Works Cited James, H., Lawall, S., Patterson, L., Spacks, P. M., & Thalmann, W. G. (Eds.). (2005). The Norton Anthology of Western Literature (8 ed., Vol. 1). New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved from Fate:[1] Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (n.d.). Retrieved from Normative ethics: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (n.d.). Conceptualism. Retrieved from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (n.d.). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved from Meta-ethics: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (n.d.). Zeus. Retrieved from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:


Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful