I got distracted from my Iliad reading by Anne Ursu’s The Immortal Flame, last book of The Cronus Chronicles. Finishing that series and Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians in the past few months has, not surprisingly, bounced off my reading of the Iliad in interesting ways.
Ursu and Riordan both start from the basic principle that the Greek gods are at once real and deeply flawed, and that the whole system is pretty much in need of fixing. Both assume, too, that in the end you can’t defeat or get rid of these flawed gods, not really, because they’re just too powerful. What you can do is try to make the sort of bargains that fix things a little and maybe keep that power somewhat in check. Because if nothing else, the gods do keep their promises.
Anyway, I realized, as I was finishing The Immortal Flame today, that the interesting question to ask about the Greek gods is not, “Are they any better than us?”
The interesting question is, “Are we any better than them?”
It’s a question the ending of both Riordan and Ursu’s series depend on.
I suspect it’s also the question that made Hector and Andromache so appealing to me, when I first saw them together.
I wonder whether it’s a question the Greeks asked, too, and if not, at what point it began getting asked.