In Homer’s The Iliad, Fate is shown as the driving force behind many of the major events in the story. Fate is mysteriously created by unknown sources, told by the fates and prophesized by many. Neither gods nor men can alter Fate once it has been set. It was considered heroic for one to accept his fate honorably, and shameful to try to avoid it. Fate is thought of as a powerful force and is used to describe many of the actions in the book.
Achilles’ revenge and eventual outcome at the end of the book is certain and is prophesized several times throughout the story. After Petroklos, Achilles’ very good friend, is killed by Hektor, Achilles vows revenge and decides to rejoin the fight against the Trojans. When Achilles’ mother, Thetis, gives Achilles a suit of armor made by Hephaistos for him, she warns him that if he executes his revenge and kills Hektor, he will die. To this Achilles replies that he must gain vengeance no matter what the consequence. As Achilles is mounting his chariot, one of his horses predicts his ultimate demise on the battlefield. Achilles, sure of the repercussions, continues on to slay countless Trojan men and confront Hektor. Achilles then, with the help of Athena, deals a fatal blow to Hektor with his spear. As Hektor is dying, with his last breaths he warns Achilles that he will soon die, again assuring Achilles of his fate. Even though Achilles knows that he will meet his death if he avenges Petroklos’ death, he accepts his fate by killing Hektor.
Hektor’s death was decided by fate and completed by the gods. After Hektor kills Achilles’ friend Petroklos, his is guaranteed to be slain by the vengeful Achilles. The final showdown is outside of the gates of Troy. All of the Trojan men are inside the gates except Hektor, who stands waiting for Achilles. At first he stands strong against desperate pleas from inside the walls, but as the invincible Achilles draws nearer, he runs in terror. At first Zeus considers saving Hektor, but is convinced otherwise by Athena, who reminds him that fate has decreed Hektor’s death and to defy fate would earn him disrespect from the gods. As Achilles chases Hektor in circles around the walls of Troy, Athena acts as a catalyst to Hektor’s fated death by appearing as the Trojan warrior Deiphobus beside Hektor. Hektor gains confidence from the appearance of assistance and turns to fight Achilles only to find himself alone. Hektor is then killed mercilessly by the mighty Achilles. By accepting and even speeding Hektor’s death, the gods show that even they respect the decrees of fate.
Many of the men and gods in the story use fate to explain their actions. When Achilles rejoins the Achaeans in a large battle, he is stopped from killing the Trojan prince Aeneas by the god Poseidon. Poseidon saves Aeneas because Aeneas is decreed by fate to be the last remaining survivor among the children of King Priam. Poseidon interfered when otherwise he would not have in order to preserve the truth of Fate. As Achilles is going on his vengeful killing spree, he encounters an unarmed, rather common Trojan named Lykaon who begs not to be killed. Achilles coldly rejects the man, saying that he accepts his fate and the man should accept his, and swiftly stabs him and throws his body into the sea. Achilles used the idea that it is all men’s fate to die to justify the slaughter of an innocent man. Many of the characters in this story either act to preserve fate or use fate as a reason for their actions.
The Grecian victory over the Trojans was prophesized many times in the story. Years before the beginning of the story, the Greek prophet Kalchas prophesized correctly that Troy would fall after ten years of battle. When the Achaeans all rush to their ships to leave Troy and return home, Diomedes reminds them of the prophecy and that the Achaeans are fighting in the name of the gods. When Hektor speaks to his wife during a brief visit to his home, he admits that he knows that Troy will be defeated and he will die eventually. Although the prophecy of a Grecian victory was often overlooked by most of the characters in the story, fate was proved correct and Troy was defeated.
The use of fate as a driving force of action is apparent throughout the book. The actions of the characters in the book are driven by fate, as shown by Athena’s appearance beside Hektor and Poseidon’s rescue of Aeneas. Fate is also used by the characters to justify their actions, such as when Achilles coldly kills an unarmed Trojan man. Many of the major events in the book are preset by fate and prophesized several times. Fate is seen as a force to be accepted; it is considered dishonorable to try to interfere with or avoid it and heroic to accept it. Fate, along with the gods and their actions, is used by the ancient Greeks to explain mysterious and chaotic phenomena.