Comparing Aeneas to Odysseus


ComparingAeneas to Odysseus

ComparingAeneas to Odysseus

Literaryworks have always played a fundamental role in the growth anddevelopment of the society, both in the contemporary and traditionalsocieties. Indeed, it is well acknowledged that literary works areaimed at shaping the progress of the society through outlining thethings that may be holding it back and triggering some thoughtsregarding the most appropriate ways for eliminating these ills. Ofparticular note is the fact that there are varied themes that arealways repeated or incorporated in particular works includingromance, jealousy, love, betrayal, corruption, greed, dictatorship,and sacrifice among others. Even more distinctive is the fact thatparticular characters in different works of literature may take onthe same features. This comes to the fore especially in instanceswhere the societies within which the authors live are more or lesssimilar, in which case the ills plaguing them are common. This isparticularly evident in the case of Roman and Greek mythologies,where characters shared some traits. This, however, is not the casefor Odysseus and the Trojan Prince, Aeneas. In Aeneid, Virgil bringsto the fore a comparison between the Greeks and their culturalsuccessors, the Romans. Indeed, it may be acknowledged that hedemonstrates the literary parallels to Homer so as to lay emphasis onhis point. Of particular note is the fact that both characters ofOdysseus and Aeneas are, essentially, microcosms of their cultures. Acomparison of the hero Odysseus to Aeneas allows Virgil todemonstrate that Romans had a far much more superior culture.

InOdyssey and Aeneid, the two heroes Odysseus and Aeneas undertakeparallel journeys that have the ultimate aim of getting them backhome or at least establishing a home in the case of Aeneas.Nevertheless, the two heroes are shown to be extremely different intheir actions throughout the journeys that they take. It may beacknowledged that Aeneas is an embodiment of the Roman value of duty.Aeneas was given the task by the gods as directly told by Mercury toget out of Carthage and establish another empire in Rome. Right after he received this message or rather commandment, he was preparedto follow it up and obey and appears enthusiastic to get out andstart the empire. “Asthe sharp admonition and command from heaven had shaken him awake, henow burned only to be gone, to leave that land of the sweet lifebehind”(N.A. 1093, 364). Readers would, with no doubt, determine thatobedience of the will of the gods is Aeneas’ inherent nature. Thisis depicted by the last sentence where he has no qualms about obeyingthe message in spite of the fact that it would mean departing andleaving behind the sweet life than includes his lover, Dido, as wellas the good and peaceful life that he has always had. His obedientcharacter is wrapped up in the statement that “Duty-bound,Aeneas, though he struggled with desire…took the course heaven gavehim and went back to the fleet.”(N.A. 1097, 520-526). In essence, it may be said that Aeneassacrificed his own happiness and the private life that he had builtfor himself for the good of benefit of his people, as well as hisduty to the public. This is unlike the case of Odysseus whoseescapades were not driven by any duty to the gods or to the public.It is noted that Odysseus left troy in an effort to go back home inIthaca, a destination that he does not get to until ten years later.In fact, even when he eventually gets there, he does so alone withnone of his original crew. Essentially, it may be determined that thedriving force for Odysseus was pure self interest, a fact that isdemonstrated by the numerous instances where he abandons theindividuals to whom he is indebted and for whom he is responsible.Further, he never really sticks to the purposed journey rather hestrays numerous times from the path, for instance, in the Island ifthe Cyclops, with Calypso and Circle. Readers may note that all thistime, he puts his followers in danger and serves his self-interest bybetraying his own wife who has been waiting for him. It may beacknowledged that Odysseus only goes back to his wife and Ithacaafter being ordered by the gods, once he had been satisfied by thebliss of Calypso. In fact, every other action that Odysseus makes isdriven by self-interest where he prioritizes on his own interest andprivate life rather than the public good. This element is deeplyabhorred by Romans, in which case Virgil compares Odysseus’self-interest to Aeneas’ sense of duty with the aim of outliningthe superiority of the Romans culture above the Greek culture.

Inaddition, the works of Homer are a component of the Trojan cycle andis a representation of two fundamental themes. There is Odyssey,which is a journey and Iliad, which war. It may be acknowledged thatVirgil manages to take the two concepts in Aeneid and blend them in ajourney that precedes a war. However, it goes without saying that thetwo characters Aeneas and Odysseus have varying approaches to war.Aeneas is fighting so as to lay the foundation for the futuregenerations as underlined by the creation of an empire that his sonwould take and continue Troy’s legacy. This comes out clearly inthe explanation that he offers Dido stating that “Priam’sgreat hall should stand again.”(N.A 1095, 449-450). This statement underlines the fact that hefights for a cause that is way greater than himself or his lineage ashe seeks to continue the glory of Troy. In the Underworld, his ownfather tells him “Whatglories follow Dardan generations in after years, and from Italianblood what famous children in your line will come, souls of thefuture, living in our name.”(N.A 1120, 619-622). In spite of the fact that Aeneas is well awareof the fact that his battles and sacrifices are aimed at benefitingother individuals, he goes ahead to accept the orders and even putsmore effort to the task assigned to him. This is unlike Odysseus whoundertakes every action in an effort to benefit himself and satisfyhis self-interest. Unlike Aeneas who never engages in meaningless andunsupported battles, Odysseus deliberately gets himself involved in aconflict so as to attain glory and earn praise for himself. This isthe case for the Island of Cyclops where Odysseus could have avertedthe possibility of a conflict with Polyphemos, as well as thesubsequent vengeance of Poseidon if only he was not concentrating onpersonal glory. Even more appalling is the fact that even after hehad reclaimed the house from the suitors, he did not hesitate to killall of them in spite of the fact that they had surrendered andoffered to compensate for it. He clearly stated that “Notfor the whole treasure of your fathers…would I hold my hand. Therewill be killing till the score is paid.”(N.A 496, 61-64). This underlines the fact that his motivation forkilling the suitors was to accentuate his stature and get his revengerather than simply saving his wife.

Ofcourse, some scholars may point out the fact that a large proportionof individuals actually benefited from his actions. While this may bethe case, it may be acknowledged that the overflow of the benefitswas simply accidental rather than deliberate or by design. This is anaccidental occurrence rather than the main purpose of Odysseus. Itmay be noted that Odysseus fights for his own self interests with theoutcome being destruction as is the case with the suitors, whileAeneas fights battles for the future and the sake of others, with theproduct being creating. This metaphor is used in comparing not onlythe characteristics of the two individuals but also the cultures inwhich they were brought up. It is worth noting that individualbehavior is always a product of the society and the environment inwhich he or she is brought up. In essence, the comparison and thedifferences in the traits of the two heroes may point to the factthat Romans and Rome primarily concentrate on the higher purpose ofcreating or establishing a vast empire, as well as a united culture.On the other hand, Greece remains extremely selfish and destructiveas demonstrated by the sacking of Troy, as well as the internaldestruction pertaining to the Peloponnesian War.

Inconclusion, it may noted that the history of any culture is primarilyembodied and written by the figures and their traits. Indeed, theinfamous heroes are usually an embodiment of that culture’s ideal,as well as the images that it aims at presenting and the values itseeks to uphold. In essence, a comparison of the heroes in aparticular culture would be a comparison of the cultures themselves.It, therefore, follows that the variations in the traits of Aeneasand Odysseus may be an indication of the variations between the Greeksociety and the Roman one, with Aeneas being an embodiment of thesuperiority of the later. Indeed, in spite of the fact that the twoare heroes in their own right, Aeneas is seen as a more admirableexample of a hero given his selfless nature unlike the case ofOdysseus. Aeneas demonstrates immense enthusiasm in seeking toaccomplish the will of the gods in spite of the fact that he did notstand to directly benefit from his exploits. He was seeking toestablish the foundation on which the future kingdom would be built.Odysseus, on the other hand, is not only a self-seeking individualbut also an immensely destructive one who does things for the sake ofself aggrandizement. This, essentially, amounts to a direct critiqueof the Greek society.


Vergilius,M. P., &amp Fagles, R. (2006). TheAeneid.New York: Viking.