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The Iliad: Religion and Beliefs Essay

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Updated: Sep 6th, 2022


The Greek poem The Iliad written by Homer is one of the most outstanding poems of ancient literature and may be considered a background for many other works of later eras. Since the narration of this epic is closely connected with the gods, the topic of religion and beliefs is often touched upon and is one of the key ones. Homer offers a variety of shades of religious consciousness, and many of the plot elements used by the author indicate a social interpretation of the divine cult and the introduction of human beliefs into the narrative.

Examples of Religious References

Despite the fact that the considered Homeric poem is filled with prayers in honor of the gods, the poet’s civilized experience is felt throughout the whole story. For instance, the author proposes the thesis that the gods are always merciful, although they are superior to mere mortals and can express their virtue constantly (Homer 168). In The Iliad, Homer writes as follows: “Even gods will bend, they who have more honor and might than you” (168).

In this phrase, the author notes the favor of the gods as one of the qualities that makes them superior to ordinary people. Another example that the Homer mentions in the context of divine qualities is “the mortal virtue of shame,” which allows higher beings to not only choose and coordinate people’s fates but also make fair decisions (450). Based on the unquestioned authority of the gods of Olympus, one can argue that human beliefs were a natural phenomenon, and worship was part of ancient Greeks’ life. As a result, this storyline is traced throughout the narrative openly and clearly.

Role of Religion and Beliefs

Associating the gods with grace and favor was an indispensable element of worship during Homer. When analyzing The Iliad, one can assume that although the images of those who lived “on deep-furrowed Olympus topmost peak” were invented by people, a clear structure was traced in that epic (Homer 137). As Sani and Sadreddini argue, the hierarchy of gods proposed by Homer was utilized by subsequent authors, and the significance of beliefs was largely determined by the influence of literature (4).

Since people needed to explain the origin of many phenomena and laws of nature that they did not understand, arguments from a religious standpoint became widespread. Therefore, in the poem in question, the importance of beliefs is undeniable in view of the divine plots as one of the main elements of the narrative.

The events of The Iliad convince readers of the gods’ rightness and prove that ignoring messages from Olympus is fraught with dangerous consequences. For instance, Homer cites a situation when Zeus checks the spirit of the Trojans and forbids them to go through the moat (146). The Greeks who took such signs seriously were confident that their faith could help them overcome any difficulties and obstacles. Religion was closely intertwined with ordinary life and was an integral attribute of literary works, as confirmed in The Iliad. Therefore, the significance of human beliefs in numerous deities is a natural feature of the poem in question.


The variety of the descriptions of the gods offered by Homer in The Iliad proves the cult of beliefs in the poem. This also explains the inextricable connection of divine essences with the world of mere mortals. By using the example of individual storylines, one can assess the significance of religion in the work that has become a background for many subsequent epics of ancient Greek authors. The gods are presented as gracious creatures, and their strength and grandeur are integral components of the narrative in The Iliad.


Homer. The Iliad. Translated by Herbert Jordan, University of Oklahoma Press, 2008.

Sani, Mojtaba Rezaei, and Fariba Sadreddini. “The Impact of Religion and Spirituality on Literature: A Systematic Review.” Asian Journal of Language, Literature and Culture Studies, vol. 1, no. 1, 2018, pp. 1-8.

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