We are wont to think that the gods of a polytheistic religion are regularly brought into a system similar to that which we find in the Greek mythology, but on close consideration it soon appears that there is nothing in all the religions of the world which really resembles the Greek State of the Gods. I need not dwell upon the polytheism of barbarian peoples, for their gods have hardly been brought into a fixed system, but I ought to say a few words of some ancient peoples who are thought to have had a somewhat similar systematization of their gods; namely, the Egyptians and the Babylonians.
The systems of gods in Egyptian religion are, however, essentially dissimilar to the Greek State of the Gods. Their origin is theological and cosmological speculation which tried to bring the local and nature gods into a coherent scheme in spite of their reluctance to fit into it. This attempt was favored by political considerations, because the independence of the local gods involved a certain peril for the unity of the state. The earliest system, the origins of which probably go back into the predynastic age, is the solar theology of Heliopolis, in which the Sun-god was made the chief figure. When at last Thebes became the capital of Egypt, its local god Amon, whose origin is rather obscure, became the
chief god of the Egyptian empire and was identified with the Sun-god. His position was due to the fact that Thebes had become the capital of the empire.
In Babylonia a similar situation arose. Theological and cosmological speculation, and the systematization of religion were not wanting, but the creation of a chief god depended even more closely on political circumstances. In old Sumer the god of a city was its supreme ruler and the other gods surrounded him as his court. The god of the heavens, Anu; had the supreme place only in so far as cosmology was concerned; elsewhere Enlil was the chief god, probably owing his position to the power of his city, Nippur. When a city was subdued by another, its god became a vassal of the god of the conquering city; and this relation was expressed by a genealogy. This process appears still more clearly during the power of the Amorites. When Babylon conquered the country and became its capital, the god of Babylon, Marduk, who up to this time was very little known, became the supreme god. When the Assyrians became the dominating people, his rôle was taken up by the god Assur.
The position of Zeus, the supreme Greek god, is due neither to theological speculation nor to the fact that a local cult developed into the cult of an empire, the city of the god becoming the capital of the empire. From the beginning Zeus was venerated by all Greeks and in many places. The Greek State of the Gods was not created to correspond to political conditions, under which one city subjugated other cities and the gods of the conquered cities became subordinate to the god of the victorious city. On
the contrary, the god whose character best fitted him for a supreme position became the head of the gods. While in other countries the supreme position of the chief god corresponded to well-known political circumstances, the situation was very different in Greece. In the heavens there was a monarchical rule; on the earth it vanished very early in the historical age.
Ancient writers have said that Homer created the Greek gods. There is a certain amount of truth in this contention, and it is still more true if it is applied to the Greek State of the Gods. For the form in which Homer describes this State was impressed upon the ideas of all coming ages. The problem which is to be treated in this chapter is consequently how the Homeric State of the Gods was created, and especially where its model is to be found. For it is evident and has always been recognized that this model was taken from human life.
This fact is accepted by Dr. Finsler, one of the best Homeric scholars who has treated the question, but as his view is neatly opposed to that which I think well founded, and furthermore is complicated with an analysis of the poems, I am obliged first to discuss his opinions and reasons briefly. In the Homeric poems as they are known to us Dr. Finsler sees a thorough-going remodeling of the conception of the State of the Gods; in fact, he thinks it possible to find and to demonstrate the origin of this idea in our Homeric corpus. In his exposition of the Homeric religion 1 he makes a distinction based on differing
conceptions of the gods between the earlier and later parts of Homer. Thus he detaches the battle of the gods and the scenes enacted on Olympus. Disregarding these parts, as being of later origin, he thinks that in the remaining parts of the poems the gods are far more independent of one another, although the supreme god, Zeus, controls fate. He says that divine genealogies already existed in this stage but that the family of gods was not developed fully.
Thus he gives voice to the opinion that toward the end of the eighth century B.C. a great poet arose who undertook the task of forming the great epos of our Iliad, using the epical poems which existed at that time as materials for his poem. In forming the plot he introduced the idea of a supreme guidance of events by the gods. The detailed descriptions of the family and the state of the gods are due to this poet; he introduced the Olympian scenes. Whilst in the earlier poems the idea prevailed that the gods dwell in the heavens, with which Olympus is here identical, this poet, says Dr. Finsler, recurred to an older, almost forgotten conception of Olympus on the northern confines of Thessaly, as the mountain of the gods, and pictured this dwelling place of the gods with great fantasy.
What is of importance for my purpose is not the detailed description of the life of the gods on Olympus, for this may very well be due to a later remodeling; the salient point is the assertion that the gods are more independent of one another in the earlier parts of the Homeric poems. For on this opinion the contention depends that the State of the
[paragraph continues] Gods is a poetical fiction created toward the end of the eighth century B.C.
Dr. Finsler is a pupil of Professor Wilamowitz and has in this as in some other cases taken up ideas suggested by this great scholar. Professor Wilamowitz points to the different conceptions of the gods in different parts of Homer and emphasizes the value of this difference for the analysis of the poems. 2 He says, e.g., that the poet of the first book and the parts connected with this book depicts "an ideal world of immortal men, fond of enjoyments and not troubled by moral considerations, with the magical colors of a brilliant fantasy and sensual play." As a contrast to this picture he points to the very old-fashioned manner of the fifth and even of the fourth book.
Space forbids a full discussion and I am only able to select some important and characteristic instances. Such instances are offered especially by the lay of Diomedes; i.e., the fifth book, which Professor Wilamowitz thinks to be the oldest in our Iliad. 3 Our first observation is that the Olympian scenes fill a large part of this very book. And Dr. Finsler must according to his principles detach precisely these as being due to a late poet. The fifth book begins by telling that Athena, alleging the wrath of Zeus, removes Ares from the scene. 4 When Diomedes inflicts a wound on Aphrodite, we hear that the Charites wove her mantle and that her blood is called ichor; and an explanation is added that
the gods are immortal, not eating bread and drinking wine like mortal men. 5 Then the scene follows in which Aphrodite asks Ares to bring her to Olympus, the seat of the Immortal ones. Iris unharnesses the horses and gives them ambrosia as food. Then Dione comforts her daughter and in her speech the most amazing details occur: Heracles once wounded Hera with an arrow and likewise the God of the Underworld, Hades, who had to go to Olympus in order to be healed by the doctor of the gods, Paieon. After this, Aphrodite is compelled to hear the derisory words of Hera and Athena and the somewhat kinder exhortations of Zeus. 6 The next Olympian scene is that in which Iris harnesses the horses for Hera, and Athena takes the weapons "on the threshold of her father Zeus." The Horae open the gates of Olympus when she drives off in her chariot. The two goddesses first make a visit to Zeus, who is seated on the highest peak of Olympus, in order to ask leave to partake in the fight against Ares. 7 At last Ares is wounded by Diomedes with the help of Athena, and goes to "the wide heavens" or to "the steep Olympus," and has to listen to the reproofs of Zeus before he is healed by Paieon. Hebe washes him and he takes his place at the side of Zeus. Finally Hera and Athena make their return to the house of Zeus. 8
There are in this book passages which seem to be late because older conceptions are remodeled so as to be misunderstood. Ares leans his spear against a cloud, 9 while a cloud elsewhere appears as a means
of concealing gods and men; and Apollo creates an image of the wounded Aeneas around which the battle goes on while Aeneas himself is carried to Pergamon by the god. 10 But on the whole the scenes referred to above are too numerous and too extensive to be considered, generally speaking, as later additions, as Dr. Finsler thinks them. If they are taken away, not much remains. In fact, one comes near the opinion proffered by another Homeric scholar, Professor Bethe, according to whom the fifth book is not old. He thinks that the scene in which Hera and Athena take weapons is an interpolation and in conformity with his principles he is of the opinion that the old kernel is the duels between Diomedes and the two heroes Pandarus and Aeneas respectively.
Professor Wilamowitz has still another opinion. 11 He deprecates the idea that the conception of the gods conspicuous in the fifth book should be in general ascribed to Homer and explains its peculiarity as due to the national antagonism between the Ionians and the Asiatics in the eighth century B.C.; it does not appear clearly whether he is of the opinion that the Olympian scenes are due to a later remodeling. But according to him the fifth book is the oldest book of the Iliad and he thinks that it was composed in Ionia in the eighth century B.C. with the aid of a Theban epos which probably was composed on the mainland. This same book is, according to Dr. Finsler, profoundly remodeled, and according to Professor Bethe in it nothing is old except the duels between Diomedes and Aeneas and Pandarus.
I make no attempt at a criticism. I have reported the opinions of the most prominent adherents of the analytical school in order to emphasize the subjectiveness of this method. Their widely differing results cannot be considered reliable. I shall merely add one remark concerning Dr. Finsler's method, because it is of most importance for my purpose. His premiss is that certain descriptions of the gods are later than others and he judges the age of various passages according to this presumption. If this premiss is questionable, he is working with a petitio principii. I fear that for others the old-fashioned appearance of this book depends on this very point, on the manners of the gods.
Clearly no certain result will be attained in this way, and we are obliged to try to find another method. I begin with the very well-known fact that Olympus appears in Homer as the mountain of the gods and as their dwelling place. If we go through all the Homeric passages where Olympus is mentioned, we shall make the following observations. There are only two passages in which Olympus is the dwelling place of Zeus alone; in all other passages it appears that other gods also dwell there together with Zeus. In the two passages referred to 12 it is said that Zeus hurls the thunderbolt or sends a storm. The passages mentioning Olympus as the seat of the gods are, except for the scenes actually enacted on Olympus, distributed rather uniformly; they do not occur in the sixth, ninth, twelfth, seventeenth, and twenty-third books, which are not among the earliest, and their absence is of course
accidental. The conception has taken form in fixed, often repeated phrases and verses: "the seat of Olympus," "he went downward from the peaks of Olympus," "so many gods as there are on Olympus," "the gods, or the immortal ones who possess the Olympian houses." 13 Four times as introduction to an important section the verse occurs:
It is also to be observed that the phrase "the Olympians" occurs twice in the sense of "the gods." Somewhat more frequently the gods are called "the Heavenly ones" (Οὐρανίωνες) or the "Heavenly Gods" (δεοὶ Οὐρανίωνες). These phrases belong to the elements of Greek mythology, and on them the very common opinion is founded which distinguishes sharply between the Olympian and the Chthonian gods and forgets that in the Iliad Hades himself once is reckoned among the Olympian gods. Olympus and the Heavens appear as identical. It is, e.g., said of Athena that she arose to the great heavens and Olympus. 15 It is, however, more important that this identity appears in the cult; that is, in prayer. People pray to Zeus looking upward toward the heavens. 16 Nestor prays to the Olympian Zeus stretching his hand toward the starry heavens. 17 Of course a man who prays may also turn toward
the place where the god invoked is venerated, but it ought to be observed that it is never said of one who prays that he turns himself toward Olympus.
We see that the gods are in general and as a collective body the Olympians or the Heavenly ones; consequently they dwell on Olympus or in the heavens, but no single god is called an Olympian except Zeus. To this rule there is only one exception; namely, that the Muses in the introduction to the Catalogue of Ships are called the Olympian Muses, 18 a condensation of the verse quoted above in which they are said to possess the Olympian houses.
This difference is not accidental. For the gods, other than Zeus, really dwell originally neither on Olympus nor in the Heavens. Poseidon dwells in the sea and in the rivers, Artemis in the dark forests and on the green meadows. Athena is of course settled on a hill, but that is the acropolis of a city on which the dwellings of men also are erected. Only Zeus dwells originally on Olympus, because he is the weather-god, the cloud-gatherer, the sender of rain and lightning. He hurls the thunderbolt from Olympus. 19 When he sends a squall, a cloud sails from Olympus, from the radiant aether upward into the heavens. 20 This concrete conception of the mountain peak surrounded by clouds from which rainstorm and thunder come shows the nature of Zeus, the weather-god, and in this quality he dwells on Mount Olympus; he is the Olympian one. This same conception of the clouded mountain peak gave also an important contribution to the picture of the City of the Gods. The gates are clouds which are
opened and shut by the Horae. 21 Hence the other gods, as well as Zeus himself, are often concealed beneath clouds. 22 But mountain peak and heavens are identical because lightning and rain come down from the heavens as well as from the mountain peak around which the clouds gather.
Zeus dwells on the mountain peak or in the heavens--these are the same--because he is the weather-god; and similarly the other gods dwell wherever their work is visible. If the other gods are Olympian or heavenly gods, if they dwell on Olympus, this is due to the fact that Zeus, the one who alone was originally the Olympian, has lifted them up to his dwelling place. That the gods dwell on Olympus is so firmly fixed and thorough-going a conception that the fact that it is much earlier than the composition of our Iliad cannot possibly be questioned. It follows, and this is the salient point, that the other gods were from of old subordinated to Zeus. Because they were joined to him as subordinates they had to dwell in the same place as he. It will be impossible to find another reason why they have been separated from their natural working and dwelling places and lifted up to Olympus or into the Heavens. Zeus is the Olympian, the ruler; the other gods, the Olympians, are in a certain sense his court. In this subordination of the gods under Zeus, the Olympian State of the Gods is contained in nuce, and this conception is in no wise due to the development of epics by Ionian minstrels. It is an ill-founded hypothesis that the gods are more independent in the
earlier parts of the Iliad; Dr. Finsler himself confesses that Zeus rules events even in these parts.
We reach the same result if we turn to historical considerations. The world of the gods is subject to monarchical rule, a supreme god is at its head. In Ionia there was nothing but political lack of unity; there were quite a number of kings and princes, one in each town. The Ionians knew of course a Great King, but he was a foreigner, the Phrygian monarch. The Ionians with their lack of political unity and unified government would never have been able to conceive the idea of concentrating all the gods under a monarchical rule, under one supreme god.
It is recognized that the model of the State of the Gods is to be found in human conditions. We do not find the necessary conditions in Ionia and must turn elsewhere. The current answer is: turn to Thessaly. Mount Olympus is situated in Thessaly, and we find there in historical times an aristocratic state with one ruler, over the whole country. These facts have contributed largely to the popularity of the opinion that epical poetry originated in Thessaly and from there was carried to Asia Minor. It is impossible to discuss this extensive problem in this place; moreover the popularity of this view has vanished to a certain extent. The reasons supporting it have been proved to be more specious than founded on facts. That the chief hero of the Iliad, Achilles, is localized at Spercheus or in Phthia in no way proves that Greek epic poetry, generally speaking, originated in these districts. If the Aeolic dialect was, as seems certain, much more widely spread on
the mainland in earlier than in later times, the argument that the epics were Thessalian in origin, because their language was originally Aeolic, is fallacious.
The two arguments referred to, by which the origin of the State of the Gods is explained from Thessalian conditions, have always been considered as almost self-evident, but even they ought to be subjected to an inquiry. I commence with the political conditions of Thessaly. Our knowledge of these is regrettably slight and opinions differ markedly. Professor Hiller von Gaertringen published long ago a valuable paper 23 in which he proved that in the sixth and fifth centuries B.C. there were at the same time several kingly houses in Thessaly, each possessing a limited district. This fact is recognized, but he proceeds to assume that neither a ruler of all Thessaly nor a state comprising all Thessaly existed before the year 460 B.C., that common enterprises brought about only an occasional union; and that the tradition of the overlordship, the tageia, goes back only to the rule of Iason of Pherae in the fourth century B.C. 24 These conclusions are, however, hardly warranted, and the tageia, the overlordship over all Thessaly, is probably of older origin; 25 but it was no kingship in the real sense and has evidently nothing to do with that kingship which was inherited from olden times. The name is not that always carried by Greek kings whose kingship was handed
down from olden times, basileus, 26 but another, tagos. If the list of the tagoi is made up, we see that these rulers were taken from different families belonging to different towns. 27 Their position was not due to any hereditary principle but to election and they were elected only in case of need. A tagos was elected for his lifetime; although there were periods without any tagos.
This institution of an overlord elected occasionally resembles very little the Olympian State of the Gods ruled by Zeus. The Thessalian tagos had not at all the same full power as the King of the Gods, nor did he inherit his throne as did Zeus. The Thessalian states were more oligarchic than monarchical in character. Of course it may be contended that the power of the Thessalian tagos was once hereditary. That can neither be proved nor refuted. As far as we can see, the model of the Greek State of the Gods cannot have been the Thessalian institutions.
The most valuable and the strongest argument for its Thessalian origin is, however, the fact that the mountain of the gods, Olympus, the mightiest mountain of Greece, the peaks of which rise high into the sky, is situated on the northern boundary of that province. It is certain that Homer has the Thessalian Olympus in mind. This appears clearly in a passage 28 where Hera, in order to entice Zeus
into love, leaves Mount Olympus, enters Pieria and the beautiful Emathia, hurries over the snow-clad peaks of the Thracian mountains, and from Mount Athos goes over the sea to Lemnos, where she encounters Hypnus. Here the poet obviously refers to the Thessalian Olympus. But if argument on such minute points is permissible, there is at least one passage in which this mountain cannot be referred to, even if we except the two passages where Olympus may be whatever mountain you like. 29 At the beginning of the second book of the Iliad 30 we hear that Eos ascended the great Olympus in order to let the light appear for Zeus and the other gods. If we in these words should recognize the concrete view of the rosy dawn breaking forth over the peaks of Mount Olympus, the poet's viewpoint must be west of the mountain and that is not suitable for the Thessalian Olympus. But I think that it would be hasty to draw a conclusion from such a minute point. It is certain at least in one case and perhaps probable in more that Homer refers to the Thessalian Olympus, but the last-mentioned passage may raise the question whether this was so always and originally.
There exist a fair number of mountains called Olympus. 31 Mount Lykaion in Arcadia and a hill near Sellasia had this name; Pisa was situated between two hills, Olympus and Ossa, and there was another Olympus in Elis. 32 It is not clear which
[paragraph continues] Olympus Diodor has in mind. 33 I pass over the mountains which in modern times have this name, on Euboea, near Laurium, and on the island of Scyros. The name is still more frequent in Asia Minor, where Mount Olympus is found in Lydia, Mysia, Bithynia, Galatia, Lycia, and on Cyprus. In view of the fame of the Thessalian Olympus it may perhaps be contended and believed that all these mountains are named after that celebrated mountain. A borrowing took place, it seems to be certain, when the two hills between which Pisa was situated were called Olympus and Ossa, but borrowing cannot be the general rule. For the name of the famous sanctuary in Elis, Olympia, is of course old and cannot etymologically be separated from the name of the mountain. If a borrowing were supposed in this case, it would involve us in unsurmountable difficulties, and these are complicated by the fact that Hera seems to be older in this place than Zeus.
The name Olympus is certainly one of the many pre-Greek words which the Greek language took over from the earlier inhabitants of the country. 34 All attempts to find a probable etymology in connection with Greek words or stems have been vain. Its very form seems to make its pre-Greek origin probable and its widespread occurrence in western Asia Minor fits in admirably with this opinion. The conclusion is warranted that Olympus is a pre-Greek word signifying "mountain," just as Ida, another mountain name occurring in Asia Minor and on Crete, has the significance of a forest-clad mountain.
[paragraph continues] Both words were taken over by the Greeks who took possession of the country and were used by them as names of various mountains.
If this is so, it coincides perfectly with the original character of Zeus who, being the weather-god, the cloud-gatherer, the rain-giver, and the thrower of the thunderbolt, always dwells on the loftiest mountain peak in the neighborhood, around which the clouds gather and from which rain and thunder break forth. Consequently it is to be assumed that there existed several mountains with the name of Olympus in Greece, and thus Zeus was called the Olympian. At last this name was given principally to the mightiest and loftiest of all, the Thessalian Olympus, and Homer completed its fame, to the exclusion of others.
Thus we are not compelled to ascribe the origin of the conception of the mountain of the gods to Thessaly. I cannot but think it to be extremely improbable that two creations of such a thorough-going importance for Greek literature and religion as the Homeric epics and the Olympian State of the Gods should have originated in a province which never had the least importance in the spiritual life of the Greeks nor was penetrated by either the Mycenaean or the historical Greek culture except at a late date and superficially. It seems to be much more likely on general grounds, and I have tried to prove it with specific arguments, that the conception of the mountain of the gods and of the subordination of the other gods under Zeus is an idea common to all Greeks, just as was the idea of the weather-god dwelling on a mountain in the neighborhood. From
this new starting point we recur to the question of the origin of this conception. For it is impossible to doubt that the subordination of the other gods under Zeus was modeled upon the social and historical conditions of a certain age. We must try to find out which age this is. Cosmological ideas can have contributed but slightly to its origin.
We have seen that the conception of Olympus, the mountain where the gods dwell, subject to Zeus, and to which, because of this subordination, they were lifted up from their natural working and dwelling places, is pre-Homeric. Thus it is very probable that the model ought to be sought in the Mycenaean age. Our knowledge of the dark age between the downfall of the Mycenaean civilization and the new rise of civilization in the developed Geometric period is very meager, but the poor quality and the scarcity of archaeological materials from this intermediate age make it extremely improbable that such a great conception as the coordination of the gods under a monarchical rule originated in this age.
In the Mycenaean age conditions were different. The great architectural monuments and the precious works of art testify to the power and the wealth of the princes of this age. In view of the stately bee-hive tombs of Mycenae a pharaonic power has been ascribed to the kings of Mycenae. This opinion is understandable but it is not correct. With the aid of Homer it is possible to get at a closer and better understanding of the Mycenaean kingship. I have tried to do that in another place. 35 It ought, however,
be observed that here we meet the difficulty which we always meet when we try to conceive a historical idea of the prehistoric age of Greece: arguments are not logically binding in the strict sense, we are always compelled to be content with probabilities and analogies. Whosoever refuses to believe in them is of course justified: but it is not justifiable to take up a negative standpoint only. A really historical mind cannot give up the attempt to form an idea of the social and political conditions of this age of the greatness of which the monuments give such an impressive and concrete picture.
I must explain my opinion briefly. The fundamental fact is that the Mycenaean age was a period of very extensive movements and migrations of the Greek tribes. Opinions differ as to the time when the Greeks first invaded Greece. At all events a long time must have elapsed before they completely possessed themselves of the country. The wandering tribes went still farther, following the old highway which, along the southern coast of Asia Minor, led toward the old civilized countries of the Near East. They colonized the island of Cyprus and appeared in the Delta of the Nile about 1200 B.C. With this series of events the great Achaean kingdom, comprising Greece and parts of Asia Minor, would fit in admirably. Although its existence, which Dr. Forrer believed he had discovered, is denied, it is but what we should expect under the given conditions. 36
Many scholars are inclined to think that these migrations were disconnected raids of small bands of
freebooters and adventurers, 37 but that is an idea in which I cannot possibly concur. Such disconnected raids and small bands would have been dissolved and have vanished without having such immense consequences as resulted, history proves, e.g. from the Greek colonization of Pamphylia and Cyprus. If an organization was wanting, the conditions of these migrations made it necessary to build one up. A comparison with the migrations of the Teutonic tribes at the end of the classical period and the beginning of the Middle Ages and with the expeditions of the Vikings is very valuable and illuminating. Even the expeditions of the Vikings were not merely disconnected raids; behind them was the well developed military organization of the Scandinavian kingdoms, an organization which has been for the most part unnoticed. The Danish king, Canute the Great, conquered England, and Swedish chiefs founded the Russian empire of Kieff. The eastern Teutonic tribes which undertook the most extensive wanderings developed a much stronger organization of the kingship than the tribes of western Germany which were more sedentary.
The Teutonic kingship offers a precious analogy to the Greek kingship. It was hereditary in a certain family. It preserved so much of its religious origin that the king was held responsible for the luck and good fortune of his people. (There is a trace of this same idea in Homer. 38) The king was in the first place a war-king, leader of the military expeditions; he had at his side a council of chiefs and the
assembly of the army, the earliest form of the popular assembly. The power of the king was small during peace but waxed greatly in war. The old hereditary Greek kingship is precisely of the same kind, as is proved by the institutions of Macedonia and Sparta, where it was preserved.
The Homeric kingship is of the same kind also. Agamemnon is in the first place a war-king; more over, his kingship is hereditary and invested with a rather full power. We see that especially in the famous passage in the second book which is generally recognized as reflecting early conditions. 39 The king appears in the popular assembly carrying the scepter which Zeus gave to his ancestor Pelops and which had been handed down through the generations of the kingly family until Thyestes gave it to Agamemnon to rule over all Argos and many islands. In view of this passage many scholars have recognized that Agamemnon was a Great King who held sway over many vassals. Although the vassals are very obstinate and inclined to quarrel and to extend their independence, this respect for the king is ingrained. Old Nestor gives the good counsel to avoid strife with the king who carries the scepter. 40
At the side of the king we find the assembly of the army, which is convoked to discuss important matters. The members give voice to their opinions in speeches or acclamations, but the decision depends on the king alone; he is able to make a decision which runs counter to the opinion of the assembly, as
[paragraph continues] Agamemnon does in refusing to let Chryses ransom his daughter in spite of the Achaeans' approval of Chryses' request. 41
The chiefs appear throughout as the king's vassals, although their stubbornness and endeavors to guard and to extend their independence are very prominent. How this state of affairs was fostered and promoted is shown by another consideration. The aim and at the same time the reward of the war was booty. The king received the lion's share; large parts were selected for the chiefs; and the men of the people were content to divide what remained. It is to be observed that in the period during which the Greeks were taking possession of the country, the booty consisted not only of implements, cattle, slaves, and so forth, but also of land and towns. The territory was divided; selected parts were given to the gods and to the king (they were called temenos), and parcels were divided among the men of the people by allotment; hence they were called lots (kleroi). Certain passages of the Iliad prove that the king possessed towns which he was able to give over to others. 42 These towns belonged of course to his part of the booty and he could dispose of them only by giving them to men whom he trusted and who possessed them as his vassals. The vassals strove to guard their interests and to enlarge their independence. The power of the king depended
on his energy, and its basis was his retainers, his personal followers.
As long as the wars and military expeditions went on, the duty of the vassals to follow the king was effective and they were obliged to obey him. The power of the king was correspondingly great. But when the military expeditions ceased and people stayed at home each in his town, the subordination of the vassals to the king was weakened and vanished; for the organization just sketched was good for war only. The king had no means of checking the striving of his vassals to assert their independence. The decay of the kingly power has progressed far in some parts of the Iliad and still farther in the Odyssey, but we recognize that this power was once very full.
The Mycenaean monuments teach us in what age kings with such power existed; witness the stately bee-hive tombs, especially those of Mycenae which are both imposing and well built; and the wealth of precious objects in the shaft-graves of Mycenae and in the recently discovered bee-hive tomb at Dendra near Midea. The large and stately halls of the palaces are illuminating in regard to daily life. On the floor of the hall in the palace at Tiryns a separate section is marked off by the floor painting; it cannot but be the place set apart for the throne of the king. Each of these princes governed his people but was subject to the Great King, with whom of course each strove to compete in splendor. The full power of the Great King of the Mycenaean age, which we recognize from a comparison between the traces of it left in Homer and the Mycenaean monuments, supplies precisely the wanted model,
which is sought in vain elsewhere, of the power of the King of the Gods.
We return to the State of the Gods. In regard to the Olympian scenes attention has been especially and unduly directed toward the strife between the gods, their refractoriness and stubbornness, their attempts to delude Zeus by ruse, the pride of Zeus in his strength, and the threats which he showers upon his adversaries. These descriptions are sometimes tainted with burlesque, a tone due to the Ionian minstrels, who were fundamentally irreligious. They remodeled earlier myths according to their taste; e.g. the holy wedding of Zeus and Hera is made a rather sensual love affair.
Much less has it been noticed that the gods many times show a very great veneration and respect for their king, and monarchical rule is an exception in Greece. Due regard ought to be given to these features also; they are earlier and were partly obliterated by later ideas. When Zeus enters among the gods gathered on Olympus, nobody dares to remain on his seat; but they all rise to greet him. 43 They recognize his rule as a self-evident fact, saying: "Thou rulest among the Immortal ones." 44 There are occasions where the gods obey his orders without any idea of opposition. Thetis does so when Zeus bids her go to Achilles and tell him to give over the corpse of Hector to Priam, 45 and Hera when she brings to Poseidon the order of Zeus to desist from fighting; that, however, was after she had enticed Zeus into love in order to divert his attention from
the battle. 46 Once when Athena and Hera are on their way to the battle they go back at the command of Zeus; 47 in another chant they make a visit to Zeus in order to gain permission to take the field against Ares; 48 and later they hold Ares back from throwing himself into the fight. 49 We hear often how highly the gods fear and respect Zeus.
It is frequently stated that the reason for this overwhelming power is the strength of Zeus, and Zeus himself illustrates this by coarse instances, e.g. the punishment of Hera 50 and the tug of war. 51 Poseidon tells in plain words why he obeys: Zeus is much stronger than he. 52 But this superior strength is not the only reason. When Zeus sends the command to Poseidon to desist from helping the Greeks, he claims not only superior strength but also his right as the elder brother. 53
The following passage is illuminating. We hear that the sons of Cronus took possession of their inheritance and divided it; each got his part, but the earth and Olympus remained, being common property. They were selected in the same way as was a temenos. Poseidon says, just as an obstinate vassal would, that Zeus ought to be content with the third part allotted to him; he is of the opinion that Zeus ought to allow the other gods to act as they please. But Iris reminds him that the Erinyes always follow
the eldest brother--and Poseidon obeys. Zeus has inherited the kingdom by virtue of his being the eldest brother; this is the moral ground of his position as ruler.
Close scrutiny shows that the power of Zeus is much greater than that of Agamemnon, not to speak of the historical Greek kings. He is much more impatient of opposition, and more veneration is shown to him. How came Zeus into possession of this full power which of course did not originally belong to the weather-god? Everyone repeats the phrase that the model must be sought in human conditions, but nobody has followed the idea to its logical conclusion. As attention was directed to the strife of the gods, the fundamental question was forgotten. Why was the supreme rule attributed to Zeus and why was he invested with such full kingly power?
This conception lent to the Greek, or more justly to the Homeric, World of Gods a strictly monarchical constitution, which became later even the starting point of a kind of monotheism. Nothing similar is found elsewhere among polytheistic peoples. It is a necessary assumption that a historical development is behind this conception; i.e., Zeus was not the supreme god in the beginning; and that he was not is corroborated by the fact that he does not possess a like supreme position in the Greek cult and popular belief of a later age. The monarchical constitution of the State of the Gods is specifically Homeric, and Homer impressed it upon later generations. These took over the idea but had not the right appreciation of it. The real ground of the supremacy of Zeus, the right of the eldest brother, was superseded
by a current folk-tale motif, which made Zeus the youngest son of Cronus, and Hesiod had already made the gods elect Zeus their king after the victory over the Titans. 54 The forms of Greek political life diverged ever more from those of the State of the Gods. In the Heavens monarchy prevailed, on the earth the republic. The attempt of Hesiod to make the State of the Gods follow the development. of earthly politics failed.
The supreme rule of Zeus is due to a historical development for which human life presented the model. We do not find the model in Ionia, which was not united by a monarch but split up into a number of petty cities ruled by the aristocracy. Nor do we find it in Thessaly, for the power of the tagos is a rather poor and late image of kingly power. Nothing remains but the mighty war-kings of the age of the great migrations of the Greek tribes, the Mycenaean age. Only here can such a full kingly power be presupposed as to correspond to the power of the King of the Heavens.
The partition of the world by the three sons of Cronus is thought to be an old cosmogonic myth. This may be true to a certain extent, but cosmogonic speculations do not explain the manner of the partition. The sons of Cronus divide the world among themselves in the same manner as the sons of Aristomachus divided the Peloponnese. It is characteristic that both the conquered country and the world are considered to be possessions of the ruling family and are divided among the heirs of the ruler. As far as we know Greek conditions, this is unthinkable,
but in the Mycenaean age, in which the king gave away towns at his pleasure, it is quite natural.
Other features of the myth will be better understood from this point of view, if the myth is taken not as free poetical fiction but as a reflection of life; it is so certainly to a great extent. In the stormy age of the great migrations of the peoples, there must have occurred frequently, in the ruling families, strife and contentions which often had a tragic and gloomy issue; heroic mythology is crowded with such tales. Zeus possessed himself of his kingship by an act of violence against his father, and other gods made the attempt to deprive him of it. The myth that Hera, Poseidon, and Athena tried to fetter him but that Thetis injected fear into them, fetching the hundred-armed Briareos, 55 resembles strikingly, if the mythical color is disregarded, a story telling of an attempted revolt in a kingly family, which was quelled by calling upon foreign aid.
The other gods appear as the retainers of Zeus whom he summons to counsel or to meals just as Agamemnon summons the elders. Just as the war-king summons the army assembly, Zeus summons twice an assembly of the gods in which even the lesser gods take part. 56 The rivers, and the nymphs of the springs and of the meadows are mentioned especially. This may be thought to be a later invention, but it is very noticeable that Poseidon once does his brother the service of unharnessing his horses; 57 i.e., his relation to Zeus is that of a "friend"
or "servant," as the Iliad calls the retainers of the king. On the other hand there are of course heralds and servants on Olympus also. The Horae harness and unharness the horses and give them food and open and shut the gates of Olympus.
The gods could be conceived as vassals of the supreme god, since they ruled each over his domain; this conception got the upper hand, since it corresponded to the subject of the Iliad, the war about Troy, in which the gods also took part. This conception agreed also with the inclination of epic poetry to favor the vassals in opposition to their suzerain. A very common motif of epic poetry is wrath or strife between two heroes. 58 The famous Olympian scenes are due to this predilection of the minstrels.
The Olympian scenes as they are depicted in detail wear of course partly the stamp of a later age, that in which nobility ruled the state, but it is doubtful if the conditions of this period were the model of the description of Olympus in its essential outlines. Zeus is seated on the highest peak when he desires to be alone. He has there a magnificent palace in which the gods assemble for meals and for taking counsel. It is surrounded by the dwellings of the other gods. The City of the Gods is surrounded by a wall the gates of which are watched by the Horae. This picture corresponds of course to the conditions at the beginning of the historical age of Greece, in which every city had a king whose house was situated on the acropolis, surrounded by the dwellings
of the noblemen; but it corresponds also to the conditions of the Mycenaean age, in which the stately palace of the king was also situated on an acropolis and was surrounded by the dwellings of his retainers. There are other houses than the palace on the acropolis at Mycenae and at Tiryns. The great number of graves with rich and precious funeral furniture is a proof of a numerous and well-to-do or even wealthy population. The picture of the City of the Gods on Olympus may go back into the Mycenaean age. The idea arose spontaneously as soon as the gods were transferred to Olympus as subjects of Zeus. A later age took the picture to be natural and embellished it further. In a well-known passage of the Odyssey the features of the description are taken from the Minoan idea of the fields of the Blest. 59
Opinions may differ in regard to this and other details, but that is unimportant if only the chief outlines are recognized. I conclude my argument by summarizing these outlines:
That a monarch was put at the head of the gods is in Greece as well as in other countries due to political conditions. This idea did not originate in Greece, as it did in other countries, from the fact that a city made other cities and their gods subject to its god. In Greece that god became supreme god who was fittest by virtue of his nature--the weather-god, the cloud-gatherer and sender of rain and thunder, who dwelt upon the mountain peaks; that is, upon Olympus. As the other gods were made his subjects, they were transferred to his dwelling place, Olympus
or the Heavens, from their natural working and dwelling places. The conception of Olympus as the common dwelling place of the gods originated in the pre-Homeric age and by the time of the Homeric poetry had been long established. The model of the monarchical institutions of the State of the Gods is not to be found in the social and political institutions of the historical age of Greece, which deviated ever more from this pattern. Such a full kingly power as that of the supreme god can be ascribed only to the mighty kings of the Mycenaean age who built stately palaces and imposing tombs for themselves, were surrounded by a retinue, and exercised their sovereignty over a number of vassals. In such conditions the models of the strife and the contentions between the gods are also to be found. On the whole the monarchical power of Zeus is such as is found in no other time than the Mycenaean age. The idea of Olympus and the State of the Gods under a strong monarchical rule originates in the Mycenaean age.
223:1 G. Finsler, Homer (ed. 3; 1924), p. 220 et seq., and "Die olympischen Szenen in der Ilias," Program, Bern (1906).
225:2 Wilamowitz, Die Ilias and Homer (1916), p. 316, cp. p. 284.
225:3 Loc. cit., p. 339.
225:4 Il. v. v. 29 et seq.
226:5 Il. v. v. 338 et seq.
226:6 Il. v. v. 355 et seq. 8
226:7 Il. v. v. 711 et seq.
226:8 Il. v. v. 850 et seq.
226:9 Il. v. v. 356.
227:10 Il. v. v. 449.
227:11 Wilamowitz, loc. cit., p. 339.
228:12 Il. xiii. v. 243, and xvi. v. 364.
229:13 ἕδος Οὐλύμποιο; βῆ δὲ κατ᾽ Οὐλύμποιο καρήνων; ὅσοι θεοί εἰσ᾽ ἑν Ὀλύμπῳ; θεοὶ, ἀθάνατοι Ὀλύμπια δώματ᾽ ἔχοντες.
229:14 ἔσπετε νύν μοι, Μοῦσαι Ὀλύμπια δώματ᾽ ἔχουσαι, Il. ii. v. 484; xi. v. 218; vi. v. 218; xiv. v. 508; xvi. v. 112. ii. v. 491 in the beginning the Catalogue of the Ships, Ὀλυμπιάδες Μοῦσαι.
229:15 Il. i. v. 497.
229:16 Il. iii. v. 364; vii. v. 178.
229:17 Il. xv. v. 371.
230:18 Il. ii. v. 491.
230:19 Il. xii. v. 240.
230:20 Il. xvi. v. 364.
231:21 Il. v. v.749.
231:22 Il. xiv. v. 350; xv. v. 153; xx. v. 150, etc., etc.
233:23 F. Hiller von Gaertringen, "Das Königtum bei den Thessalern" in the volume Aus der Anomia (1890), p. 1 et seq.
233:24 With this view O. Kern agrees in his paper "Die Landschaft Thessalien and die griechische Geschichte," Neue Jahrbücher für die klass. Altertumswissenschaft, XIII (1904), p. 219 et seq.
233:25 See Ed. Meyer, Theopomps Hellenika (1909), p. 12 et seq.
234:26 The gods are never called βασιλεύς, only ἄναξ. Βασιλεύςis probably a pre-Greek word, and this is of a certain importance in corroborating my view concerning the Mycenaean kingship. See J. Wackernagel, Sprachliche Untersuchungen zu Homer (1916), p. 211 et seq.
234:27 They are registered by K. J. Beloch, Griech. Geschichte, (ed. 2), I: 2, p. 197.
234:28 Il. xiv. v. 225 et seq.; cp. Od. v. v. 50.
235:29 Above p. 218, n. 12.
235:30 Il. ii. v. 48 et seq.
235:31 They are enumerated in Roscher's Lexikon der Mythologie, s.v. Olympus; and in A. B. Cook, Zeus, I, p. 100.
235:32 Schol. Apollon. Rhod. i. v. 599.
236:33 Diodorus, v. 80.
236:34 Theander in the periodical Eranos, XV (1916), p. 127 et seq.
238:35 In my paper "Das homerische Königtum," Sitzungsberichte der preuss. Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1927, p. 23 et seq.
239:36 Cp. above p. 60.
240:37 E.g. G. Murray, The Rise of the Greek Epics (ed. 3), p. 127 et seq.
240:38 Od. xix. v. 109 et seq.
241:39 Il. ii. v. 100 et seq.; cp. above p. 43 et seq.
241:40 Il. i. v. 277 et seq.; ix. v. 37 et seq.; cp. iv. v. 402.
242:41 Il. i. v. 22 et seq.
242:42 Agamemnon promises to give seven towns in Messenia to Achilles Il. ix. v. 144 et seq. (cp. above p. 84 et seq.). Menelaus expresses the wish to evacuate a town in order to settle Odysseus there with his people, Od. iv. v. 174 et seq. Peleus settles the fugitive Phoenix in the extremity of Phthia as ruler of the Dolopes, Il. ix. v. 480 et seq.
244:43 Il. i. v. 534.
244:44 Il. xviii. v. 366.
244:45 Il. xxiv. v. 90 et seq.
245:46 Il. xv. v. 78.
245:47 Il. viii. v. 432.
245:48 Il. v. v. 753 et seq.
245:49 Il. xvi. v.21.
245:50 Il. xv. v. 127.
245:51 Il. viii. v. 19 et seq.
245:52 Il viii v. 209:ἐπεὶ ἦ πολὺ φέρτερός ἐστι; cp. xv. v. 108.
245:53 Il. xv. v. 165: εὔ φημι βίῃ πολὺ φέρτερος καὶ γενεῇ πρότερος.
247:54 Hesiod, Theogony, v. 881.
248:55 Il. i. v. 400 et seq.
248:56 In the beginning of the eighth and the twentieth books.
248:57 Il. viii. v. 440.
249:58 Cp. my paper "Götter and Psychologie bei Homer," Archiv fur Religionswissenschaft, XXII (1923-24), p. 364.
250:59 Od. vi. v. 42 et seq.