Mortal Life Under Chains

Composition and Literature

February 17, 2004

“Beings of supernatural powers or attributes, believed in and worshipped by a people”. The single most important aspect of Greek mythology is the gods involved in each story. Gods are immortal, anamorphic beings with divine powers that none other than the gods themselves possess. The relationship between the Greek Gods and humankind throughout Greek mythology seems to be a give-and-take relationship. The Greeks believed that if they gave to the gods, through prayer and sacrifices, that the gods would help better their lives and the lives of their families. However, this equal exchange between humankind and the Greek Gods did not always work to plan. Just because humans worship the gods does not mean that they have any obligations to help humans in any given way. Because of this lack of obligation to repay humans, any reader of Greek mythology will see the despair suffered by many of the Greek mortals.

The Greek Gods are all powerful and immortal, whereas humans are mere mortals at the expense of the gods. There are many stories in ancient mythology that reflect the tragedies and sufferings of men and women and in many of these stories, the anguish and misery are a result of the gods’ doing. Moreover, the gods do not feel sorrow at all for their wrongdoings. They are arrogant and proud of their commanding power as shown by Athena’s statement, “Do you see, Odysseus, how great the gods’ power is?” (118). To the gods, humans are simply that, humans, “What are you afraid of? He was only a man before” (76). The reader can see the complete disregard that Athena holds for humans. This opinion is not held only to Athena though, almost all Greek Gods regard to humans in this manner of disrespect and feebleness. They are mortals with no powers close to measurable to those of the gods, and possess no absolute control over their own lives. Greek Gods like Athena know of the immeasurable level of power they hold, and let humans know of it everyday, “Look well at this, and speak no towering word/ Yourself against the gods, nor walk too grandly…One short day/ Inclines the balance of all human things/ To sink or rise again” (127-133). The gods have absolute power over human beings and let them know that within an instant, their life can go from riches to rubble; and this is shown through the damage that Athena inflicts on Ajax. She destroys his dignity and the respect that he has for himself. She is just one of many Greek Gods that ruin the lives of courageous and commendable human beings.

One of Sophocles’ four stories, Ajax, proves to be a great illustration of the pain and sufferings experienced by Greek mortals as a result of a god’s doing. Ajax is a highly revered soldier who is, disputably, one of the greatest soldiers that the Greek army has ever possessed. However, he is outraged because of his loss of Achilles’ armor to Odysseus, so he plans to go on a killing spree of Odysseus and his soldiers. However, the Goddess Athena prevents Ajax from killing Odysseus and his men by temporarily making him mad and making him think that he is killing humans, when in actuality he is killing animals, “I checked him; I threw before his eyes/ Obsessive notions, thoughts of insane joy,/ To fall on the mingled droves of captured livestock” (51-53). Athena is simply toying with Ajax’s mind without hesitation. Athena’s mind trick has turned a heroic and noble soldier into a pathetic man who has lost his pride, “What countenance can I show my father Telamon?/ How will he ever stand the sight of me/ If I come before him naked, armed with no glory,…” (463-465). Ajax is ashamed of himself and feels as if he is a disgrace to his father, regardless of all the triumph he has had on the battlefield. The embarrassment that Athena has caused him is an example of how the gods treat mortals. They show now remorse or respect for their lives and emotions. This incident of Athena freely taking control of Ajax’s mind is not something over the top or out of the ordinary when regarding gods messing with