The Iliad

Zeus Character Analysis

The king of the gods, Zeus’ power greatly exceeds his fellow immortals. The fate of the war is changed when Zeus promises Thetis that he will give glory to Achilles by turning the war against the Achaeans. Hera is his wife, and Apollo, Athena, and Ares are among his many children.

Zeus Quotes in The Iliad

The The Iliad quotes below are all either spoken by Zeus or refer to Zeus. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Honor and Glory Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Books edition of The Iliad published in 1998.
Book 1 Quotes

Rage—Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles,
murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses,
hurling down to the House of Death so many sturdy souls,
great fighter’ souls, but made their body carrion,
feasts for the dogs and birds,
and the will of Zeus was moving toward its end.
Begin, Muse, when the two first broke and clashed,
Agamemnon lord of men and brilliant Achilles.

Related Characters: Achilles, Zeus, Agamemnon
Page Number: 1.1-8
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 4 Quotes

We claim we are far, far greater than our fathers.
We are the ones who stormed the seven gates of Thebes,
heading a weaker force and facing stronger walls
but obeying the gods’ signs and backed by Zeus.
Our fathers? Fools. Their own bravado killed them.
Don’t tell me you rank our fathers with ourselves!

Related Characters: Sthenelus (speaker), Zeus
Page Number: 4.471-476
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 9 Quotes

Cronus’ son has entangled me in madness, blinding ruin—
Zeus is a harsh, cruel god.

Related Characters: Agamemnon (speaker), Zeus
Page Number: 9.20-21
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 13 Quotes

One man is a splendid fighter—a god has made him so—
one’s a dancer, another skilled at lyre and song,
and deep in the next man’s chest farseeing Zeus
plants the gift of judgment, good clear sense.

Related Characters: Zeus
Page Number: 13.844-847
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 14 Quotes

With that the son of Cronus caught his wife in his arms
and under them now the holy earth burst with fresh green grass…
And so, deep in peace, the Father slept on Gargaron peak, conquered by Sleep
and strong assaults of Love.

Related Characters: Zeus
Page Number: 14.413-421
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 16 Quotes

Do as you please, Zeus . . .
but none of the deathless gods will ever praise you…
if you send Sarpedon home, living still, beware!
Then surely some other god will want to sweep
his own son clear of the heavy fighting too.

Related Characters: Hera (speaker), Zeus, Sarpedon
Page Number: 16.526-531
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 17 Quotes

There is nothing alive more agonized than man
of all that breathe and crawl across the earth.

Related Characters: Zeus (speaker)
Page Number: 17.515-516
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 19 Quotes

Ruin, eldest daughter of Zeus, she blinds us all,
that fatal madness—she with those delicate feet of hers,
never touching the earth, gliding over the heads of men
to trap us all. She entangles one man, now another.
Why, she and her frenzy blinded Zeus one time,
highest, greatest of men and gods, they say

Related Characters: Agamemnon (speaker), Zeus
Page Number: 19.106-111
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 22 Quotes

Past the threshold of old age…
and Father Zeus will waste me with a hideous fate,
and after I’ve lived to look on so much horror!
My sons laid low, my daughters dragged away…
Ah for a young man
all looks fine and noble if he goes down in war,
hacked to pieces…When an old man’s killed
and the dogs go at the gray head and the gray beard…that is the cruelest sight
in all our wretched lives!

Related Characters: Priam (speaker), Zeus
Page Number: 22.70-89
Explanation and Analysis:

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Zeus Character Timeline in The Iliad

The timeline below shows where the character Zeus appears in The Iliad. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 1
Honor and Glory Theme Icon
The Gods Theme Icon
Fate and Free Will Theme Icon
Mortality Theme Icon
...story of the rage of Achilles. The outcome of Achilles’ anger is the will of Zeus, but it also killed a huge number of Achaean soldiers. The story opens in the... (full context)
Honor and Glory Theme Icon
The Gods Theme Icon
Fate and Free Will Theme Icon
Mortality Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
...side, sensing his grief. Achilles explains the situation and asks his mother to plead with Zeus to take action. He notes that Zeus owes Thetis a favor, as Thetis once helped... (full context)
Honor and Glory Theme Icon
The Gods Theme Icon
Fate and Free Will Theme Icon
After twelve days, Zeus returns to Olympus. Thetis goes to see him and kneels before him, asking him to... (full context)
The Gods Theme Icon
Fate and Free Will Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
Although Zeus attempted to make his promise to Thetis in secret, Hera has seen everything. She taunts... (full context)
The Gods Theme Icon
Mortality Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
...in front of all of the gods, attempting to defuse the quarrel between his parents Zeus and Hera. He tells Hera that Zeus is far too strong, and gives a comic... (full context)
Book 2
Honor and Glory Theme Icon
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Zeus is kept up at night trying to devise the best plan to honor Achilles by... (full context)
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Fate and Free Will Theme Icon
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...courage of his soldiers, and tells the assembled soldiers that despite the original prophecy of Zeus and that fact that they outnumber the Trojans, the time has come to give up... (full context)
The Gods Theme Icon
Wartime Versus Peacetime Theme Icon
...armies disperse and the men make sacrifices to the gods. Agamemnon sacrifices an ox to Zeus, praying to defeat the Trojans, but Zeus is not yet prepared to grant his request.... (full context)
Honor and Glory Theme Icon
The Gods Theme Icon
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As the armies of Achaea storm out to battle, Zeus sends his messenger Iris to Troy, alerting them to assemble their own armies to meet... (full context)
Book 3
Honor and Glory Theme Icon
The Gods Theme Icon
Fate and Free Will Theme Icon
Mortality Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
...is finished. The troops pray for the oath to be kept, but Homer notes that “Zeus would not fulfill their prayers”. Priam, unable to bear the sight of his son’s potential... (full context)
Honor and Glory Theme Icon
Mortality Theme Icon
...Paris throws his spear, hitting Menelaus’ shield but failing to break through. Menelaus prays to Zeus for revenge, and his spear throw almost hits Paris, who barely dodges it. Menelaus then... (full context)
Book 4
The Gods Theme Icon
Fate and Free Will Theme Icon
Mortality Theme Icon
The gods sit in council on Mt. Olympus, watching events take place in Troy. Zeus begins to taunt Hera, mocking her and Athena for standing by while Aphrodite rescues Paris.... (full context)
Honor and Glory Theme Icon
The Gods Theme Icon
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Zeus, satisfied with Hera’s offer, agrees to ensure Troy’s destruction. He orders Athena to fly down... (full context)
Book 5
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Mortality Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
Odysseus, seeing the death of Tlepolemus, kills several of Sarpedon’s men in response. Sarpedon is Zeus’ son and is not fated to be killed by Odysseus. Hector pushes past the injured... (full context)
Honor and Glory Theme Icon
The Gods Theme Icon
...the Achaeans pushed back, harness Hera’s chariot and put on their armor. They appeal to Zeus to help the Achaeans, and he allows them to do so. They fly to the... (full context)
Honor and Glory Theme Icon
The Gods Theme Icon
Mortality Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
On Olympus, Ares displays his wound to Zeus, complaining of Athena’s violence and of Diomedes’ attacks on the gods. Zeus replies that he... (full context)
Book 7
Honor and Glory Theme Icon
The Gods Theme Icon
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Ajax prays to Zeus and prepares himself for battle. The duel begins, and Hector’s spear throw fails to pierce... (full context)
Honor and Glory Theme Icon
The Gods Theme Icon
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...gives up his war-belt. The two armies return to their camps. The Achaeans sacrifice to Zeus and lay out a banquet, where Ajax receives a choice cut of meat. (full context)
The Gods Theme Icon
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...Olympus, Poseidon is angered that the Achaeans are building fortifications without sacrificing to the gods. Zeus calms him, and tells him that he may destroy the fortifications as soon as the... (full context)
Book 8
The Gods Theme Icon
Fate and Free Will Theme Icon
The next day, Zeus summons the gods to assembly, forbidding them to interfere any further in the war. He... (full context)
The Gods Theme Icon
Fate and Free Will Theme Icon
The Achaeans and Trojans enter into battle once more. Zeus, holding a golden scale, tips the balance of the war in favor of the Trojans.... (full context)
The Gods Theme Icon
Fate and Free Will Theme Icon
...pity on the Achaeans and curse Hector. They decide to assist the Achaeans directly, despite Zeus’ warning, and arm themselves for battle. Zeus sees the goddesses preparing for battle, and sends... (full context)
The Gods Theme Icon
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Zeus returns to Olympus and mocks Hera and Athena for their failed efforts. Hera tells Zeus... (full context)
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...battlefield, so as to not let the Achaeans escape in the night. He prays to Zeus that the Achaeans will finally be defeated the next day. The Trojans light many watch... (full context)
Book 9
Honor and Glory Theme Icon
The Gods Theme Icon
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Wartime Versus Peacetime Theme Icon
...summons a meeting of the armies and tearfully declares the war a failure, stating that Zeus has “entangled me in madness.” He tells the Achaeans that it is time to sail... (full context)
Honor and Glory Theme Icon
The Gods Theme Icon
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...in order to bring him back into battle. Agamemnon agrees with Nestor, stating again that Zeus seized him with madness to make him quarrel with Achilles. Agamemnon sets aside a massive... (full context)
Book 11
Honor and Glory Theme Icon
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As dawn rises, Zeus sets the goddess Strife upon the Achaeans, encouraging them to fight. Agamemnon puts on his... (full context)
The Gods Theme Icon
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Zeus sends his messenger Iris to Hector, telling the soldier to hold back and command his... (full context)
Book 13
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Zeus, pleased with the Trojan dominance, takes his eyes off of the battlefield, not suspecting than... (full context)
Honor and Glory Theme Icon
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Homer briefly remarks on the clash of wills between Zeus and Poseidon. Zeus favors the Trojans in order to give Achilles more glory, but Poseidon... (full context)
Book 14
The Gods Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
...actions of Poseidon and is pleased. She plots to help her brother by further diverting Zeus’ attention away from Troy. Hera decides to dress in all of her finery and enchant... (full context)
The Gods Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
...flies to the dwelling places of the god Sleep. She asks the god to put Zeus to sleep for her, and Sleep is initially resistant. He recalls that he once performed... (full context)
The Gods Theme Icon
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Hera flies to Mount Ida, where Zeus is enthroned. Sleep hides nearby in the form of a bird, waiting to perform his... (full context)
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Sleep sends word to Poseidon that Zeus is asleep and that he may do as he pleases. Poseidon orders the Achaeans to... (full context)
Book 15
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Zeus awakes from his slumber and sees the catastrophe created in his absence. Feeling pity for... (full context)
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Hera agrees to Zeus’ plan and returns to Olympus. She tells the god Themis about Zeus’ unrelenting anger, and... (full context)
The Gods Theme Icon
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Zeus gives Iris her message for Poseidon, telling him to back down. Zeus warns that he... (full context)
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On Zeus’ orders, Apollo goes to Hector and rouses him from his stupor. Hector says that he... (full context)
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Hector notices Teucer’s bow break and takes it as a sign from Zeus. He rallies his troops to push forward, just as Great Ajax urges his men to... (full context)
Book 16
Honor and Glory Theme Icon
The Gods Theme Icon
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Love and Friendship Theme Icon
...Achilles’ chariot is yoked and Achilles stirs up the Myrmidons, his troops. Achilles prays to Zeus, asking him to fill Patroclus with courage and to bring him back safely from battle.... (full context)
Honor and Glory Theme Icon
The Gods Theme Icon
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...kills every Trojan he encounters. Patroclus faces Sarpedon, a Trojan ally and a son of Zeus, and eventually kills him. Zeus considers saving Sarpedon from Patroclus, but Hera scolds him, telling... (full context)
Honor and Glory Theme Icon
The Gods Theme Icon
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Zeus briefly deliberates whether to kill Patroclus now in reprisal for Sarpedon, or to let him... (full context)
Book 17
Honor and Glory Theme Icon
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...Sarpedon’s body behind and accuses him of fearing Great Ajax. Hector dons Achilles’ armor, and Zeus endows him with great strength. Hector rallies the Trojan troops, telling them that the man... (full context)
Honor and Glory Theme Icon
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...died. Achilles’ horses, immortal gifts from the gods, sense the death and begin to weep. Zeus pities the horses and fills them with strength. They take their driver Automedon back into... (full context)
Book 19
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The Gods Theme Icon
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...come to reconcile. Agamemnon agrees, but notes that he is not to blame, indicating that Zeus's daughter Atë (Ruin) had blinded his judgment when he chose to quarrel with Achilles. Agamemnon... (full context)
The Gods Theme Icon
Mortality Theme Icon
...for the living, and convinces Achilles to let the men eat. The captains sacrifice to Zeus and eat. (full context)
Honor and Glory Theme Icon
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...something, but Achilles refuses, overfilled with grief. Achilles addresses Patroclus with a speech of mourning. Zeus, filled with pity, sends Athena to nourish Achilles with the food of the gods without... (full context)
Book 20
The Gods Theme Icon
Fate and Free Will Theme Icon
As the Achaeans prepare for battle, Zeus summons the gods to a council. Zeus tells the assembled gods that they may return... (full context)
Book 22
Honor and Glory Theme Icon
The Gods Theme Icon
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...Achilles begins to chase Hector, and they run around the walls of Troy three times. Zeus, filled with pity for Hector, wonders if she should rescue him, but Athena tells him... (full context)
Honor and Glory Theme Icon
The Gods Theme Icon
Fate and Free Will Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
...circuit of Troy, Achilles cannot gain on Hector, but Hector cannot escape from Achilles’ speed. Zeus takes up his scales and tips the balance against Hector, sentencing Hector to death. Athena... (full context)
Book 24
Honor and Glory Theme Icon
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Love and Friendship Theme Icon
...Achilles is the son of a god, and that he and Hector cannot be equals. Zues agrees with Hera, but also indicates that the gods loved Hector dearly. He sends Iris... (full context)
The Gods Theme Icon
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Zeus sends Iris to Troy, letting Priam know that he must travel alone to the Achaean... (full context)
The Gods Theme Icon
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Zeus tells Hermes to go to Troy and ensure Priam’s safe travel. Hermes appears to Priam... (full context)