The Aeneid is very much of a spiritual quest, which makes it unique inancient literature and in contrast with the Odyssey. Only Virgil admits to the possibilitythat a character can change, grow, and develop. In the story’s earlier stages, the characterof Aeneas is obviously unsure of himself, always seeking instructions from his father orfrom the gods before committing himself to any course of action. In the underworld hesees a perspective of the future history of Rome down to the time of Augustus, and thatvision gives him the self-confidence to act on his own initiative.
Comparatively, Odysseusis driven though his journey beginning with apparent self-confidence and continuing with avengeful vigor. While reviewing the myth’s fantastic journey, I wondered if Aeneas was greatbecause his fate made him great or was he great because he had the courage anddetermination to live up to the role fate handed him? There is a side to Aeneas, I noticedthat is not very impressive, even when I could almost understand why he feels the way hedoes. 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, evenwhen 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 differentthat Odysseus’. In Aeneas’ case, he too was as great of a survivor as Odysseus. In fact, he at leastmatches him in the way that he is one of those people who can lose everything and stillstart all over again. Aeneas goes from being a victim of the Greeks at Troy to becoming aconqueror in Italy. Virgil’s Aeneas is the first character in Western literature who actuallychanges and develops. His struggles help him discover who he is and what he thinks isimportant.
If I had to name one quality that defines Aeneas throughout his journey, it is hisdevotion to duty, a quality that the Romans called pietas or piety. This quality keeps himgoing even when he would rather forget about his fate. Ultimately, this same qualitymakes him accept, even welcome, that fate. Because, when Aeneas finally realizes that allhis efforts will make the glorious Roman Empire possible, his love of his family and hiscountry are fulfilled.
The result is that the Aeneas we see at the end of the Aeneid isdetermined, sure of himself, and confident that he knows what is right. He has become agreat leader who is able to impose order on people who display more selfish and unrulyemotions. Odysseus, as the classic definition of his name suggests, is truly and individual whocauses great trouble. Throughout the Odyssey, there are many direct and indirectcircumstances in which Odysseus wreaks havoc upon others. He leaves Troy, fights atthe island of Ismaros, and witnesses the sleepy life of the Lotos Eaters.
He blinds and thentricks the one-eyed cannibal, Cyclopes, the son of Poseidon. Eventually, he even buriesElpenor, one of his crew members who was killed during all this trouble. Never does hebegin nor end with a lack of self confidence anywhere close to the one exhibited byAeneas at the commencement of his journey. After his first stage of havoc, Odysseus resists the song of the Seirenes, and sailsbetween 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. SoZeus wrecks Odysseus’ ship, drowning all of his men. Odysseus manages to surviveSkylla and Kharybdis again, and washes up at Ogygia Island where he stays eight yearswith Kalypso. After all that, he is still able to build a ship and set out again for Ithaka, buthe becomes shipwrecked by Poseidon and swims to Skheria, where Nausikaa, KingAlkinoos’ daughter, finds him. Homer seems to purposely intrigue us by having othercharacters 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 toclassify Odysseus as a troublemaker, I do not know what would! In extensive recounts ofthe story, his killings are graphically described in a vulgar fashion adding to histroublesome image ?Did he dream of death?? Homer askes later on when Odysseus killsAntinoos. ?How could he??. Antinoos’ nostrils spurt blood and in his death throes hekicks 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 epichero.
He is in fact a legendary figure with more than the usual amount of brains andmuscle. Sometimes throughout the stories it appears almost as though he is asuperhuman. At the end of the story, with only his inexperienced son and two farm landsto help, he kills more than one hundred of Penelope’s suitors. He is able to do it becausehe has the help of the goddess Athena.
He embodies the ideals Homeric Greeks aspiredto: manly valor, loyalty, piety, and intelligence. Piety means being respectful of the gods,acknowledging their control of fate and evidently, consciously knowing you need theirhelp. Odysseus’ intelligence is a mix of keen observation, instinct, and street smarts. Heis 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 theserespects, his random lack of integrity put him in sharp contrast with Aeneas and his actionson his journey.BibliographyWestern Literature Vol.2