The next time I have an urge to smash a city where people dear to you live, / don’t oppose me, but let me act as I want to, / because I have given in to you on this matter, / not under compulsion, but sorely against my will.


Zeus keeps a record of his actions weighed against the actions of the other gods and mortals. In this quote, he makes sure Hera knows as much. He tells her he will do what she asks, but only under the assumption that she will return the favor later. This is a common pattern among the gods, but Zeus is in a place of particular power that allows him to make good on his threats. He poses higher stakes for the gods and for the mortals affected by his decisions.

Go hang a golden cord from heaven and pull it, / you gods and you goddesses; pull as hard as you can, / you will never drag Zeus down from heaven to Earth, however / hard you may try.

A host of immortals involve themselves in the Trojan War throughout the poem, with and without Zeus’s permission. For most of the war, Zeus wants to be the only god influencing the outcome of the human struggle, and so he forbids other gods from getting involved. He is quick to remind his fellow immortals that he is more powerful than they are. Throughout the poem, we are reminded that Zeus ultimately pulls the strings. Other gods may have their favorite humans and be able to make small influences, but they cannot overpower Zeus.

But now I will sit here at ease on a ridge of Olympus / where I can watch, to my heart’s delight, as you others / go down to join the Trojan or Argive forces / and help the side that you favor, whichever it is.

Despite initially forbidding other gods to interfere in the human war, Zeus finally gives them permission to help whoever they want as the conflict drags on. Notably, Zeus claims he will pull his own influence out of the war so that the winner can be determined by the humans and the rest of the gods. Zeus makes this decision because he worries about how many of the humans are dying in the drawn-out conflict. The gods’ interference does not necessarily cut down on casualties, but it does mark a change in how the mortals are able to fight each other. Zeus seems to be content to simply watch the carnage play out, but it does not happen as quickly as he wants, and so he eventually resupplies his own influence.