Within Homer’s Iliad, Odyssey, and the Homeric Hymns, there are a number of songs performed by internal characters over the course of the narrative. Despite similarities in theme and content between these songs, when they are divided according to the (im)mortality of their performers and the subject matter of their content, significant differences arise. Human singers wish to improve their social standing within the cosmic hierarchy. Being mortal, they are subject to death, but they can nevertheless emulate a sort of literary immorality though a celebration of kleos. The gods push against this. Within their own songs, the immortals instead reiterate the physical mortality that humans are attempting to overcome, emphasizing human inferiority and simultaneously solidifying the gods’ own position of power. By highlighting these differences, we reveal the intricacies of the Greeks’ relationship with their gods, and the critical role that song played in that relationship.
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