Greek gods are part of the remarkable Greek mythology that forms part of the heritage of humanity. The gods had a life of their own and they preceded humans. In fact, the gods are responsible for the creation of humanity.
The multiplicity of gods in Greek mythology, coupled with their diverse personalities and capabilities created a very rich set of characters for explaining natural occurrences and for teaching moral lessons. This is why the relationships between the Greek gods and human beings was complex. This paper explores the complexities.
Greek gods demanded worship from human beings, which usually included the offering of sacrifices. In the Homeric hymn, one of Greek gods called Demeter, expressly directs people to build a temple and an altar in her honor. Demeter was the god associated with agriculture hence worshiping her assured people of good harvests.
Other gods also demanded human beings to worship them for various favors. For instance, soldiers paid tribute to Athena who was the goddess of battle strategy, military skill, and wisdom. Humans worshipped these gods depending on personal or community needs based on the attributes of the god.
The second aspect of the relationship between the Greek gods and humans is that the gods sought to influence human action to achieve their own “divine” ends. Part of this influence was meting out punishment to human beings who defied divine orders. A famous case in point is the demise of the Odysseus crew that came about after the crew ignored warnings from the gods.
In the same vein, the gods played out the role of rulers of the cosmos, ensuring that the earth worked, as it should have. The gods ensured that justice ensued and that humans related with each other well.
An interesting question relating to the activities of the gods is whether they allowed human beings to operate using free will. The gods gave humans free will, but at various times, they sought to direct the course of history. Usually the gods sought to convince human agents to do their bidding.
For instance, Athena went to Ithaca to convince Telemachus to go on a journey to find his father. Their interaction did not include any coercion or force from Athena. Telemachus took the trip on his own volition. However, the gods had the power to take action when they pleased. Consequently they had the ability to enforce their wishes.
The Greek gods seem to represent various projections of human experiences. Just like all ancient societies, the Greeks used these gods to develop a sense of eternity. The multiplicity of gods reflects not just the social realities of the Greeks but their philosophy on the creation of the world, and their perception of divine order.
According to Greek mythology, first there was chaos, then Gaea (earth), and Eros (desire). Gaea brought Uranus (heaven) and Puntus (The Sea) to the world. This was the attempt by the Greeks to explain the origin of the earth and later the human race. In addition, the myths are full of the passions humans deal with. Each God seems to have a weakness such as jealousy which is a human trait.
Uranus feared competition from his children hence he killed them. In essence, all the gods had times of vulnerability and times of triumph. The detail on the level of development of the personalities of the gods in the myths, gives them human-like appearances, complete with humanoid representation in their sculptures.