Odysseus, the hero in The Odyssey, and Aeneas, the hero in The Aeneid, fought in opposing sides in the Trojan war. Odysseus was the king of Ithaca and was arguably the smartest king and warrior in all of Greece, whereas Aeneas was a warrior from Troy whose destiny was to found the Roman race in Italy. While both men were highly acclaimed by their respective countrymen as heroes, they shared many similarities in respect to their background, their virtue and their struggles.
However, amidst these similarities Odysseus and Aeneas were very different in their social status, their innate disposition and in the defining characteristics of their quest. In comparing Odysseus’ and Aeneas’ backgrounds, by far the most striking similarity is that they rivaled each other for the hero status in their respective countries. Odysseus earned his title of hero for the ingenious Trojan horse idea he used to conquer Troy. Just as the war looked all but lost to the Greeks, Odysseus gifts the Trojans with a huge wooden horse with Greek soldiers hiding inside.
Once the horse is inside the gates, Odysseus and his men wait until the Trojans are drunk and sleeping after their celebrations, and then emerge and slaughter the Trojans. He was highly praised for this maneuver, although he knew nothing of the tribute because his quest kept him from home for 15 years. Similarly, Aeneas, a great warrior known for being able to motivate his men at any time, was a hero for being the founder of the Roman race.
An example of Aeneas’ motivation skills is when he is talking to the Trojan and Latvian army before the battle against all the Rutuli and he says all that he has been through telling them all the dangers he had faced. However, Aeneas struggled in his life as a hero. It is often said that Aeneas is an unsympathetic hero. But if he makes us uncomfortable, it is perhaps because we understand him all too well. Achilles and Odysseus are arguably no more likable; but their actions are consistent with a distant heroic world. Aeneas is a man torn between what he wants to do and what he has to do: a modern conflict. Stallings) Amidst the similarity of being heroes in their respective countries, social status was a differing characteristic. Odysseus, born into royalty, was destined to be a leader. He grew up to be the King of Ithaca, following in his father’s footsteps. Odysseus, though he was born into royalty, still worked in the fields of Ithaca, hunted for his food, and did chores. King Odysseus worked as a layman in order to learn how to communicate with his people and to be a better king. Aeneas was not as lucky as Odysseus. He was born into a much lower class, but was destined to be a great warrior.
Aeneas gains respect from his followers, not by birth, but by proving himself to the people of Troy that he was a powerful and strong warrior. As he approaches the hunt just prior to the improvident meeting in the cave, Aeneas is expressly described as “handsome past all others” (86). Many martial virtues on which the Romans prided themselves depended on this corporeal fitness – running quickly, hurling weapons, wrestling with an opponent, etc. (Stewart). Aeneas did what Odysseus did but he did it to make a living as a young man. Aeneas did not have it as easy as Odysseus, but Aeneas gained a lot of glory the hard way. As Criseyde watches the Trojan army march through the city after a day of fighting, the people of Troy greet their warriors. ” (Arner) Warriors in Troy were praised greatly for there efforts on the battlefield.
The Trojans typically honored all of their warriors in battle, and that is why Aeneas was honored so much. Odysseus and Aeneas were similar in terms of the virtues they possessed. Virtue is a measure of goodness in a human’s behavior. The virtues of Odysseus and Aeneas helped aid them both in becoming true men. “We know early on that Odysseus is the kind of hero who succeeds against all odds. (Moore 103) this means that Odysseus is the type of person who might have struggles on his journey but will eventually overcome all the struggles and finish his task. Both men exemplified courage, perseverance and leadership. Odysseus showed his courage through many of his acts when trying to save his men, while Aeneas showed courage when he went head on with Turnus the leader of the Rutuli. Odysseus showed perseverance when he never stopped trying to get home to Ithaca, and Aeneas showed this virtue by never stopping his search for Italy.
Lastly, leadership is observed in Odysseus through the respect and dedication paid to Odysseus from his men throughout the long and tedious journey. Aeneas also portrayed leadership in combat, specifically when he led his army into battle against the Rutuli’s and defeated them. Contrasting characteristics of the two warriors are their innate dispositions. Odysseus can be characterized as distracted, intellectual, and self-reliant. In almost every situation Odysseus is put into, he is distracted by either a temptress or a task he must complete. His arrogance and self-confidence constantly got in the way.
For example, when Odysseus is trying to save his men from Circe, he allows himself to get distracted by the seduction of Circe. Odysseus is definitely a warrior that is not solely focused on his ultimate goal, and although Odysseus may not be the strongest warrior, he certainly surpasses every other warrior of his time in battle strategy. He uses his intellect to the fullness of his ability and never doubts it. The last innate disposition, and the most important, is Odysseus’ self-reliance. He uses his talents and knowledge to see him through the difficulties he encounters.
Throughout his voyage, Odysseus constantly praises himself, speaking highly of his own abilities, “I know well how to handle the polished bow, and would be first to strike any man with an arrow aimed at a company of hostile men, even though many companions were standing close beside me, and all shooting with bows at the enemies. But I will say that I stand far out ahead of all others such as are living mortals now and feed on the earth. ” (Odyssey 8. 215-223). Aeneas’ innate dispositions are on quite the opposite side of the spectrum in relation to Odysseus’.
Aeneas is described as strong, dedicated, and reliant on the gods to help him with his struggles. A great example of Aeneas’ strength is when he defeats Turnus in hand-to-hand combat just one man against one man. Aeneas, though he is reliant to the gods, still knows the qualities that he has. However, he acknowledges that the skills that he has are from the gods and that his success can be attributed to the gods’ gifts and guidance. Both Odysseus and Aeneas suffered similar struggles in life, specifically the loss of loved ones. While Odysseus was trying to get home, his mother killed herself because she was so consumed with grief.
Aeneas’ father died on the journey to found Rome. They also shared the struggle of having to overcome an enemy. Odysseus’ palace was overcome with suitors trying to force his wife’s hand into marriage, while Aeneas had to fight the Rutuli, a tribe in Italy. “Using clues from star and sun positions mentioned by the ancient Greek poet Homer, scholars think they have determined the date when King Odysseus returned from the Trojan War and slaughtered a group of suitors who had been pressing his wife to marry one of them. ” (Schmid) Odysseus’ struggle with the suitors was so bad he had o kill them, and if he hadn’t, they would of killed him and taken his wife and his country. Similarly, Aeneas ended up fighting the Rutuli and Turnus, head of the Rutuli, for control over Italy and all the land controlled by the king of Latvia, Latinus Aeneas killed Turnus in Hand-to-Hand combat at the very end of his mission to found the roman race. They both overcame these struggles but not without losses.
Turnus killed Aeneas’ friend Pallas and later said to Aeneas “Pallas strikes this blow, Pallas sacrifices you now, makes you pay the price with your own guilty blood! (Stallings) and it is at that moment that Aeneas realizes Turnus killed Pallas. Odysseus, because he blinded Polythemus who then prayed to Poseidon to punish Odysseus, looses all of his men and returns to Ithaca a broken man. In contrast, the defining characteristics of Odysseus’ and Aeneas’ quests varied greatly. Poseidon, the god of the oceans, cursed Odysseus’ quest because he took all the glory of conquering Troy for himself, did not thank Poseidon and blinded his son Polythemus. Take yourself out of this island, creeping thing, your voyage here was cursed by heaven! ” (Odyssey-Book 10, lines 82-5) is the words Aeolus said to Odysseus after he returned from the journey to Ithaca the second time because he now knows that Odysseus will get home a broken man. Odysseus also got himself into trouble by being too prideful. He refused to leave the Cyclops’ cave, and as a result, many of his men were eaten by the Cyclops to satisfy Odysseus’ curiosity to see the beast. Conversely, Aeneas’ journey is blessed by fate.
Aeneas was chosen from among all the Trojans to survive the Trojan War and flee to Italy. He is chosen to do so in order to be the founder of the Roman race. Though some of the gods try to stop him, they cannot because Aeneas is destined to found the Roman race, and fate out-ranks the gods’ power. Juno is a goddess who hates the Trojans and wants them destroyed, but Juno said, “Give up what I began? Am I defeated? Am I impotent to keep the king of the Trojans from Italy? The Fates forbid me, am I to suppose? ” (Aeneid 1. 6-59) when she realizes that no matter what she does, nothing can stop the fate of Aeneas. Aeneas, while on his way to Italy, finds Carthage. Aeneas’ self-giving to destiny and the will of the gods compels him to leave Carthage and Dido, whom he loved. In conclusion, Odysseus and Aeneas differed in many ways, but they were more similar then different. Odysseus, King of Ithaca, was courageous, perseverant, and a born leader. Aeneas, a great warrior of Troy, was also courageous, perseverant, and born to be a leader.
They were also both major heroes and very symbolic to all their people in their respective countries. However, where Odysseus was easily distracted and very prideful, which got him into a lot of trouble on his way to Ithaca, Aeneas was dedicated to his task and very god reliant. He knew that if he did what he was suppose to do, he would be fine, and it turned out that he was right. Although both Odysseus and Aeneas fought on opposing sides of the same war and are from two different epics, they were both true heroes in their own ways.
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