that many Achaeans be slaughtered in order that glory be brought to Achilles. Hephaestus intervenes and persuades the two of them to cease their argument in case 'you two are to quarrel this way over mortal men, and set the gods to wrangling: and we shall have no pleasure in the excellent feast' (1.574- 6). Similarly, in Book 21.462-7, Apollo suggests to Poseidon that they refrain from fighting each other, for 'you would not say I was in my right mind if I do battle with you for the sake of wretched mortals'. In both cases, and elsewhere in the poem, we are shown that, for the gods, the mortal conflict is of less importance than maintaining harmony among themselves. This fact is given its ultimate expression in the compromise made between Zeus and Hera in Book 4. Hera expresses her desire to destroy Troy and Zeus accedes to her wish, on condition that, in the future, he may destroy one of her favourite cities. She agrees and names Argos, Sparta and Mycenae as three from which he may choose. The light- hearted nature in which the discussion takes place is a testament to the fundamental difference between gods and mortals. The whole poem encapsulates the suffering of mortals on both sides that accompanies the fall of a great city, while on Olympus the gods make frivolous decisions that mean little to themselves, but which will bring great troubles to the people whose lives they govern.

The awesome power that the gods exercise over mortals and the lack of any moral code to which they adhere is emphasised by Homer's suppression of the Judgement of Paris. The traditional myth concerning the start of the Trojan War detailed how Paris had been forced to judge who was the most beautiful goddess - Hera, Athena or Aphrodite. Each had offered him a prize in return for his showing them favour. Hera offered him the kingship of all the world, Athena offered to make him the greatest of all warriors, while Aphrodite offered to give him the most beautiful woman. He chose Aphrodite, who consequently granted him Helen and her abduction saw the start of the war. This story was traditionally seen as the reason for Hera's and Athena's antipathy towards Troy. In the Iliad, however, the Judgement of Paris is only suggested. It is never stated as the cause of their opposition. As a result, the hostility of the two goddesses takes on an irrational, mysterious and frightening quality. For it implies that the gods do not need justification for their actions. Their destructive powers can be brought to bear simply on a whim or due to unfounded antagonism. In the face of such arbitrary justice, mortals are impotent.

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