, Research Paper
Favoritism and the Powers of the Gods
In ancient times, people believed that their lives would be significantly better off if the gods favored them. In the Aeneid, gods were battling with each other over who would control fate. Even the Bible shows us incidences of favoritism. In a society where everything is governed by the gods, the favor of a god bestowed upon a person was extremely important. In the sources, The Aeneid and The Bible, favoritism and the powers of the gods play crucial roles in determining the outcome of the stories.
While reading the Bible, one cannot help but notice the obvious cases of favoritism. In the story of Cain and Abel, the Lord God is portrayed as a supreme being, who demands that the highest respect be paid to Him. In receiving offerings from Cain and Abel, God expects that they would bring Him only the best they could give. He took it for granted that each of the boys would sacrifice anything to please Him. However, this wasn t to be:
3 In the course of time
Cain brought an offering to the Lord
from the fruit of the soil, 4 while Abel,
for his part, brought one of the best first-
lings of his flock. The Lord looked with
favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on
Cain and his offering he did not.
This passage shows that by giving an offering that is deemed worthy, the favor of God will shine down. However, the opposite also holds true, that if one s offering is only sub-par, then God will not look down upon you with favor, as is the case with Cain.
This idea is also portrayed in the story of Noah. The Lord God has seen that his beautiful creation has been corrupted, and decides that he will destroy all living things on Earth. However, God spares Noah and all of Noah s descendants because, Noah found this favor with the Lord (Genesis 6:8). The Bible describes how Noah sought the approval of God. In the story it says he was, a good man and blameless in that age, for he walked with God (Genesis 6:9-10). God concludes to save Noah because he obeyed Him and became what God wanted him to be, without ever relinquishing his own convictions and personal identity.
The idea of favoritism in Roman literature is extremely popular. Never was this more apparent than in The Aeneid of Virgil. In the Aeneid, when the gods became angry they look down upon the world and try to upset the flow of life. In the case of Aeneas, a Trojan War hero, some gods are working to help him, while others are doing everything in their power to hinder his voyage. On his side was Venus, the goddess of love, who is also Aeneas mother. She provides all the assistance she can to aide Aeneus voyage, and she also works unceasingly to keep Juno s wrath from affecting Aeneus. A perfect showing of Venus assistance to guide Aeneas is when she prays for Aeneas to have a safe voyage to Italy:
Permit this remnant to entrust their sails
safely across the waters. Let them reach
Laurentine Tiber if what I beseech
Is just, if fate has given them those walls.
(The Aeneid, Book V: 1049-1054)
This is just one instance of Venus using her power to help Aeneas. She wants to ensure that Aeneas has protection from any outside force that could possibly make his voyage unsuccessful. Overall, Venus does not want to see any harm come to her son, and she will do anything to protect him from danger.
Regardless of all the help Aeneas receives, there are also many barriers standing in the way of his fated journey to Rome. Juno, who is the queen of the gods, does everything in her power to keep the Trojans, but especially Aeneas, from completing his journey to Italy and thus fulfilling his fate. Even when Juno realizes that she cannot stop Aeneas from reaching his final destination, she will not give in. She describes the payment that Aeneas will have to pay for peace, Then let the son- and father-in-law pay/for peace with their own peoples death (Aeneid, Book VII: 419-420). Juno s frustration finally comes to a boiling point and she decrees that Aeneas will have to fight a war to complete his journey and his fate. Juno decides to create tensions between the two sides, which leads to the battle over Rome. Here she requests the help of a furious monster, Allecto, who is described as, a monster, hated even by her father, Pluto (Aeneid, BookV: 433-435). Then Juno describes the terrible happenings that she demands her monster carry out:
You, virgin, born of Night, do me this service,
this fitting labor: do not let my honor
and fame be hurt or beaten; do not let
the Trojans have their way with King Latinus
by marriage or besiege Italian borders.
For you can arm for battle brothers, though
they feel at one, and ruin homes with hatred;
and you can carry firebrands and lashes
beneath their roofs; let sudden quarrels spur
young men to want, demand, and seize the sword.
(Aeneid, Book VII: 438-450)
It is here that Juno commands her beast to put rage in the hearts of the men, creating a driving force that will incite a war. She believes that even though she cannot change fate, she will do everything in her power to make sure Aeneas takes the longest possible route to finalizing his fate. Throughout the epic, Juno gives Aeneas nothing but trouble. Her power as a goddess has driven her to delay the eventual success that Aeneas should have as a ruler of Rome. Aeneas undoubtedly was unable to find favor with Juno, making his own life increasingly more difficult than it needed to be.
People were influenced heavily by the powers of their gods, resulting this their willingness to do almost anything to gain their favor. They continuously struggled to better themselves in the eyes of the gods. They had seen their powers and capabilities and feared being looking down upon by them. The Bible and the Aeneid provide ideal examples of this. Cain and Abel suffered a punishment because the Lord did not favor one of them. Noah was praised by the Lord and Aeneas was the recipient of both approval and disapproval of gods. The gods are very powerful beings that have the ability to provide and destroy. Satisfying these gods would be in ones best interest. On a whole, the gods were a force to be reckoned with and no one wanted to do anything to step on the toes of a god.