In the novel The Odyssey, the gods played a big role in the lives of the people on earth, or the mortals. Since the gods ruled over each of their specific lands, the mortals were to respect the gods fully, or suffer the consequences of their disrespect. Their decision on whether to abide by the gods or not significantly either helped or hurt them, depending on which god they were dealing with.
There were many gods that ruled over every region of the universe. A few examples of these gods would be Hermes, who was the god of the dead, and the ambassador of gods, among many. There were gods that reigned over earthly things, like people, animals and trees. Zeus was a prime example of this because he was in charge of destiny in the mortals lives, and he sympathized with them. There were also gods the ruled over feelings and emotions. One of these is Anthena, or Athene. She was the daughter or Zeus and she was the goddess of wisdom and the arts and crafts, and she was a heroine. These are just a few of the possibly hundreds of gods or goddesses that controlled the universe and kept it all in line. They all had a specific purpose, whether it be to the underworld or to the food that the mortals ate. “Hear me oh Lord, whoever you are, I come to you, as man others have come, with a prayer.” As did all the mortals, having the gods as a constant watch, no matter which one it was, was a comfort to them.
Respecting the gods could bring you many things: strength, love, wealth, or goodwill, but disrespect could bring just the opposite, possibly even death. “…and he made him pay for the men that he ruthlessly devoured”. The tragic ending of the suitors that came to woo Penelope may have had a happier ending if they would have had more of the gods on their side. Instead they were killed by Odysseus who knew that he had conquered the tricks that they had tried to put over him, and protected his wife. It could be said that this occurred because Odysseus had courage and wit, but truthfully he had a problem with Poseidon for a while. He quickly learned that he must be at the will of the gods and not of his own mind.
Not only were the gods a big role in the lives of the mortals but they were what the mortals leaned on for support and understanding. Most of the gods were sympathetic towards them, so they knew that their prayers would not just be pushed aside. Not only were they just gods in the sky, but they could take the form of anything, animals, other people, and each other. Athena was known throughout the book to disguise herself to deceive the people, make peace, or view a situation that was happening. “Athena… still using Mentor’s voice as a disguise, established peace between the two sides.” This is one example of how the gods could use their powers for good and to make peace among the mortals. Respecting them would get some respect back.
More than anything, the gods were not there to punish the mortals for not doing their “duty” in respecting them. They were there to make sure that everybody and everything was taken care of. It also gave the people a feeling like someone was watching out for them, and it gave them support, and this made the people want to respect them.