God and Man in Homer’s Iliad, Virgil’s Aeneid, and Dante’s Inferno

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God and Man in Homer’s Iliad, Virgil’s Aeneid, and Dante’s Inferno

The truest of man’s goals is to create art. Art is a by-product of the gift of man over the animals, creativity. Truly, creativity is a replication of God in man and a very possible interpretation of the Genesis 1:27 phrase “in his own image,” along with others—the possession of an immortal soul or the ability to speak. And creativity’s ultimate end product is art. And art more often than not in the history of man has led man to pay homage to his creator. Three of the classic literary artistic works of mankind, Homer’s Iliad, Virgil’s Aeneid, and Dante’s Inferno, feature—if not focus—on the deity or deities of the respective authors and their relation to the characters
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When Mercury delivers a message to Aeneas, he does not simply arrive, as Homer would have written it. He jumps and flies and soars over many important places, with great and interesting detail of his every twist and turn on his journey (Aen. 4.310-337). This illustrates not only the further development of writing over Homer, but also possibly the Roman audience’s lesser belief in such gods, as they can’t simply be to be believable. Lastly, sharply contrasting the earlier two, is Inferno and the almost complete lack of God as a character. Instead of acting like the father figure of the Old Testament, God in Inferno acts as he does in the New Testament, as a being so mighty that he cannot be a character. He is present, but only through providence—in the first canto, Dante becoming lost in the Dark Wood of Error and finding Virgil helps him to return to the True Way—or messengers—Beatrice (scattered throughout) or the angel that opens the gates of Dis (Inf. 8.125-9.100). And as Virgil’s over-presentation of the gods shows his audience’s lack of faith, the nigh-complete absence of God shows the extreme faith of Dante’s audience: Christians who for the most part claim to have never seen God working directly with miracles (and, of course, the Judeo-Christian concept of God being more abstract than the Greek or Roman mythic anthropomorphism).

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