The meaning of, and background to, the well-known expression "It's in the lap of the gods.

Well-Known Expressions

It's in the lap of the gods

Meaning:

It's beyond human control

Background:

From Homer's Illiad (8th century BC), although not all versions translate as "in the lap of the gods". For example this version by Samuel Butler (1898).

On this he [Aneas] cried out to the two Ajaxes and Menelaus, "Ajaxes
captains of the Argives, and Menelaus, give the dead body over to
them that are best able to defend it, and come to the rescue of
us living; for Hector and Aeneas who are the two best men among
the Trojans, are pressing us hard in the full tide of war.
Nevertheless the issue lies on the lap of heaven, I will
therefore hurl my spear and leave the rest to Jove."

Other variations from the 18th and 19th centuries include:

"But all these things rest upon the knees of the gods." - Theodore Alois Buckley (1873)

"Yet verily these issues lie in the lap of the gods." Andrew Lang, M.A., Walter Leaf, Litt.D., And Ernest Myers, M.A. (1891)

"Yet is the issue in the hands of Heav'n." - Edward Earl of Derby (1864)

"That lies in the laps of the gods." - Butcher and Lang (1909)

Alphabetical list of expressions

Challenge yourself with BookBrowse Wordplays

Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    The Valley of Amazement
    by Amy Tan
    "Mirror, Mirror on the wall
    I am my mother after all!"


    In my pre-retirement days as a professor ...
  • Book Jacket: A Man Called Ove
    A Man Called Ove
    by Fredrik Backman
    Reading A Man Called Ove was like having Christmas arrive early. Set in Sweden, this debut novel is ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Search
    by Geoff Dyer
    All hail the independent publisher! In May 2014, Graywolf Press brought two of long-revered British ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

Tomlinson Hill
by Chris Tomlinson

Published Jul. 2014

Join the discussion!

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.