Odysseus And Aeneas (988 words) Essay

Odysseus And Aeneas
If there is any possibility that a comparison could be made with the famous
journeys of Odysseus and Aeneas, it must be known that Aeneas is actually a hero
in search of his own soul while Odysseus is a hero trying to find his old life
and in a sense, his old soul. The Aeneid is very much of a spiritual quest,
which makes it unique in ancient literature and in contrast with the Odyssey.

Only Virgil admits to the possibility that a character can change, grow, and
develop. In the story’s earlier stages, the character of Aeneas is obviously
unsure of himself, always seeking instructions from his father or from the gods
before committing himself to any course of action. In the underworld he sees a
perspective of the future history of Rome down to the time of Augustus, and that
vision gives him the self-confidence to act on his own initiative.

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Comparatively, Odysseus is driven though his journey beginning with apparent
self-confidence and continuing with a vengeful vigor. While reviewing the
myth’s fantastic journey, I wondered if Aeneas was great because his fate made
him great or was he great because he had the courage and determination to live
up to the role fate handed him? There is a side to Aeneas, I noticed that is not
very impressive, even when I could almost understand why he feels the way he
does. He is sad, tired, always waiting for his father or the gods to tell him
what to do. But Aeneas always fulfills his duty to his family, to his country,
and to the gods, even when he is depressed. He is never selfish. He always puts
his responsibility to others first. In that way, his actions throughout his
journey to the underworld were somewhat different that Odysseus’. In Aeneas’
case, he too was as great of a survivor as Odysseus. In fact, he at least
matches him in the way that he is one of those people who can lose everything
and still start all over again. Aeneas goes from being a victim of the Greeks at
Troy to becoming a conqueror in Italy. Virgil’s Aeneas is the first character
in Western literature who actually changes and develops. His struggles help him
discover who he is and what he thinks is important. If I had to name one quality
that defines Aeneas throughout his journey, it is his devotion to duty, a
quality that the Romans called pietas or piety. This quality keeps him going
even when he would rather forget about his fate. Ultimately, this same quality
makes him accept, even welcome, that fate. Because, when Aeneas finally realizes
that all his efforts will make the glorious Roman Empire possible, his love of
his family and his country are fulfilled. The result is that the Aeneas we see
at the end of the Aeneid is determined, sure of himself, and confident that he
knows what is right. He has become a great leader who is able to impose order on
people who display more selfish and unruly emotions. Odysseus, as the classic
definition of his name suggests, is truly and individual who causes great
trouble. Throughout the Odyssey, there are many direct and indirect
circumstances in which Odysseus wreaks havoc upon others. He leaves Troy, fights
at the island of Ismaros, and witnesses the sleepy life of the Lotos Eaters. He
blinds and then tricks the one-eyed cannibal, Cyclopes, the son of Poseidon.

Eventually, he even buries Elpenor, one of his crew members who was killed
during all this trouble. Never does he begin nor end with a lack of self
confidence anywhere close to the one exhibited by Aeneas at the commencement of
his journey. After his first stage of havoc, Odysseus resists the song of the
Seirenes, and sails between the whirlpool and the cliff, personified by the
names of Skylla and Kharybdis. But his men make the mistake of eating the
forbidden cattle of the sun god, Helios. So Zeus wrecks Odysseus’ ship,
drowning all of his men. Odysseus manages to survive Skylla and Kharybdis again,
and washes up at Ogygia Island where he stays eight years with Kalypso. After
all that, he is still able to build a ship and set out again for Ithaka, but he
becomes shipwrecked by Poseidon and swims to Skheria, where Nausikaa, King
Alkinoos’ daughter, finds him. Homer seems to purposely intrigue us by having
other characters describe Odysseus, “He had no rivals, your father, at the
tricks of war.” described Nestor rather early in the story. If all of the
graphically horrid events and “warrior descriptions” do not help to classify
Odysseus as a troublemaker, I do not know what would! In extensive recounts of
the story, his killings are graphically described in a vulgar fashion adding to
his troublesome image “Did he dream of death?” Homer askes later on when
Odysseus kills Antinoos. “How could he?”. Antinoos’ nostrils spurt blood
and in his death throes he kicks over his table, knocking his meat and bread to
the ground “to soak in dusty blood.” It is indeed a graphic description and
it exemplifies Odysseus’ “pain-inducing image.” Even with such stories,
however, it is indeed very suitable to label Odysseus as an epic hero. He is in
fact a legendary figure with more than the usual amount of brains and muscle.

Sometimes throughout the stories it appears almost as though he is a superhuman.

At the end of the story, with only his inexperienced son and two farm lands to
help, he kills more than one hundred of Penelope’s suitors. He is able to do
it because he has the help of the goddess Athena. He embodies the ideals Homeric
Greeks aspired to: manly valor, loyalty, piety, and intelligence. Piety means
being respectful of the gods, acknowledging their control of fate and evidently,
consciously knowing you need their help. Odysseus’ intelligence is a mix of
keen observation, instinct, and street smarts. He is extremely cautious. Also,
Odysseus is good at disguises and at concealing his feelings. As is necessary
for “his line of work”, Odysseus is a very fast and inventive liar. In these
respects, his random lack of integrity put him in sharp contrast with Aeneas and
his actions on his journey.


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