a1 University College, Oxford
This article examines the ethical and theological universe of the Homeric epics, and shows that the patterns of human and divine justice which they deploy are also to be found throughout the wider corpus of early Greek hexameter poetry. Although most scholars continue to stress the differences between the Iliad and Odyssey with regard to divine justice, these come not (as is often alleged) from any change in the gods themselves but from the Odyssey's peculiar narrative structure, with its focus on one hero and his main divine patron and foe. Indeed, the action of the Iliad embodies a system of norms and punishments that is no different from that of the Odyssey. Values such as justice are shown to be socially constituted in each epic on both the divine and human planes, and each level, it is argued, displays not only a hierarchy of power (and the resulting tensions), but also a structure of authority. In addition, the presentation of the gods in the wider hexameter corpus of Hesiod, the Epic Cycle and the Homeric Hymns is analysed, revealing a remarkably coherent tradition in which the possibility of divine conflict is combined with an underlying cosmic order. Finally, consideration of Near Eastern myths relating cosmic order to justice brings out the distinctiveness of the Greek system as a whole and, in particular, of the way it uses the divine society under Zeus's authority as a comprehensive explanatory model of the world.
* The Iliad and Odyssey are cited from the editions of M.L. West, Homerus: Ilias (2 vols, Stuttgart, Leipzig and Munich 1998–2000) and H. van Thiel, Homeri Odyssea (Hildesheim 1991). I am indebted to Douglas Cairns, Andrew Ford, Adrian Kelly, Mary Lefkowitz, Hugh Lloyd-Jones, Ruth Scodel and the journal's two anonymous referees for much helpful discussion and advice.