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In Homers Iliad, Priam, the human King of Troy, and Zeus, the divine King of the gods, are only separated by the gift of immortality. Homer compares and contrasts these great kings to show the results of this gift. Zeus is less invincible and imperturbable than he should be for his divine status. Both the divine King of the gods and the human King of Troy have a weakness for their children, which brings the mighty immortal god to the down to level of the lowly human. Homer draws these similarities between the divinity and the human in order to heighten the crucial difference in their lives and the lives of all other immortals and mortals like them. Throughout his life, Priam suffers; then he dies.
Zeus on the other hand has never felt an ounce of true regret or pain because his life never ends; it is simply a game with no winner. Through Priam's suffering, Homer shows the nobility of a tortured life as opposed to a life lived as a game. Zeus, King of the gods, has a weakness with regards to his children. When Sarpedon, Zeus son, is in the war path of Patroclus, Zeus ponders whether [he] should snatch [Sarpedon] out of the sorrowful battle to save him from certain death and set him down alive somewhere safe (Iliad, 16. 436 - 437). If [he] bring[s] Sarpedon back to his home, still living the other gods will all want to save their favorites (Iliad, 16. 445). Zeus follows the advice of his wife; he makes a decision that is best for the gods.
It is best because the half-god children would all want to be saved by their respective divine parents. As a result of Zeus allowing his beloved son to die, Zeus shows that he can make difficult decisions against will of his aching heart in order to do what is best for his kingdom. Homer shows that Zeus can be levelheaded and wigmore so than Priam. He can always have another son, but the death of this beloved child affects him deeply. This loss of this one pawn cannot affect the outcome of his game of battle.
Zeus displays human-like emotions by wanting to save the child he loves, but he does not blatantly disregard the consequences of his actions as Priam does. With the decay of his body and mind, Kind Priam's judgment has suffered; he no longer exemplifies the great king that has earned the respect of his people and even the Achaeans by virtue of his levelheaded, wise, and benevolent rule. When Priam is faced with telling Paris, his vain, foolish child, no, Homer shows the weak, weary being King Priam has become as a result of the ten long years spent fighting the Trojan War. While Paris is on an overseas voyage Paris [carries] away Helen, the most beautiful woman in the ancient world, because they develop eros for one another (Iliad, pg 12). King Priam allows Paris, the child once expelled from his house and cast into the fields, to violate Zeus law of xenia. The elders of the people[the] chief men of the Trojans who are men of good counsel and excellent speakers admit they are wrong (Iliad, 3. 148 - 153).
The king wants his way despite implicating the whole city. He is mortal. His actions have direct influence on the lives of his comrades. The war wages for ten long years because King Priam does not believe Helen is at fault. He believes the gods are playing a game, and his actions cannot influence the winner or loser of this game.
Countless loyal warriors, innocent women, and blameless children die; cities are destroyed. Though it is Paris that initiates the turn of events that causes the onslaughts, Priam has chosen to send his men into the game taking place on the battlefield to defend Paris. Priam is like the immortal gods, who control the game, because he concedes to Paris whims and rules his kingdom in such a way that it suits his purposes for the moment. He can take the loss of several lowly pawns to obtain a queen.
In other words, Priam cares more about Paris honor than he does about his majestic city and the thousands and thousands of subjects that have willingly given their lives to please their mortal king. Homer intends for the reader to draw parallels between the Zeus and the Priam in this epic that can be expanded upon to encompass all gods and mortals. It is important to understand that the consequence for the gods can never be death; as a result of this the gods have no real punishment for any action or attitudes, so they view each passing day as a new game. Homer wants the reader to understand that the gods have children and hurt for them when they die just as humans do. Even though the gods sometimes make better decisions, the humans are nobler because life has meaning for them.
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