The Odyssey Vs. The Aeneid Essay, Research Paper
Virgil was a creative genius from his time, but it can be understandable that many of his works may have been influenced from previous works of literacy. A comparison of Virgil?s, The Aeneid, and Homer?s, The Odyssey, will help to show the different aspects of Roman and Greek cultures. It will also help to illustrate the effects the Greeks had on Roman culture. There are many differences and likenesses between these two epics. Greek culture and literature had a great dominating influence over Roman life, therefore, the influence of style and the stories written by Virgil adopted many of the old Greek ways. However, Virgil did not imitate, he gave a new meaning to the works that he borrowed and added his own thoughts and opinions that expressed and explained Roman life to the rest of the world.
The Aeneid is not only a personal epic about Aeneas, but also exaltation and beautification of Rome and the future of the people. There is a greater emphasis placed upon the founding of Rome rather than the actual adventure of Aeneas. Virgil?s epic shows that he had a great admiration and pride in Rome and its people. Homer used the story of The Odyssey to express his understanding of human nature and the world that humans live in. His techniques were used to express his ideas and beliefs. Homer?s poems were accepted as the ultimate authority for information about mortality and early history.5
The introduction of epic poetry begins with an invocation. This is where the writer states the theme of his work and asks for divine aid in telling the story . During the time of Homer, an invocation was used as a prayer based on the belief that art and poetry were a sacred act of creation. In Virgil?s time, the invocation was only used because it was a tradition in epic poetry. The change in Virgil?s invocation reveals his different approach to this epic. This new subject reflects the role Aeneas plays in Rome and the influence the gods have over his future. For example, Virgil begins his epic asking for godly inspiration to tell his story correctly:
?Tell me the causes now, O Muse, how galled
In her divine pride, and how sore at heart
From her own wound, the queen of gods compelled him-?
The Odyssey?s invocation also announces the theme of his poem and he too asks for godly inspiration, except Homer uses real prayer to ask for this assistance.
?Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story
of that man skilled in all ways of contending,
the wanderer, harried for years on end,
after he plunders the stronghold
on the proud height of Troy.?
Both of these pieces show similarities in their form and structure, but the statement that is being expressed is completely different. Homer uses more of a mythical, spiritual aspect, while Virgil uses a more formatted approach and less sacred emotions.
Many of the situations from the Homeric poems are embraced in The Aeneid. They were however changed by Virgil throughout his writing of the epic. Some examples are the shipwreck, the tale told by the hero at the banquet, and the descent of Aeneas/Odysseus into Hades.
The shipwreck, in the Aeneid in Book 1, is when Aeneas and his ships left Sicily, on the last part of their journey to Italy. Juno bribed Aeolus, the king of the winds, to cause a furious storm that would cause their ships to become overtaken by the sea. In The Odyssey, the shipwreck is told in Book X. Odysseus and his men landed on the island of Aeolus, the king of the winds. As a gift, from Aeolus, Odysseus received a large leather bag that contained all the vicious winds, which could drive his ships off course. When one of Odysseus? men opens the bag, the ship is blown off course and destroyed. Notice the same name used for the god Aeolus.
Aeneas is asked to tell his tale at the banquet held by Dido, in Book 1, Aeneas tells his tale to Dido in Book 2. Odysseus tells his tale while he is among the Phaeacians. He tells his tale in Books IX, X. XI, and XII.
In The Aeneid, Aeneas asks Helenus to be brought to the underworld so that he can have a safe journey. She at first protests, but then she permits him to go. This visit to the underworld allowed Virgil to express his religious and patriotic imagination. He blended the past and future together with a vision of the heroes of Roman history. This is where the Aeneid can be viewed as an epic of glorification and praise. In The Odyssey, Odysseus holds Circe, his lover for some time, to the promise that she would help him on his journey home. He had to go to Hades in order to be guaranteed a safe voyage. Odysseus? visit to Hades was to enlighten his intellect and to express to him the importance of experiences throughout the life span. This also reflects the change to the new life of Odysseus. The idea of death and rebirth are common to people of the Mediterranean.
These two pieces of work are very similar in comparison. The evidence that I have revealed shows the influence the Greeks have had on Roman culture and ideas. Virgil was capable of using this influence and expressing his own Roman ideas through his alterations and transformations of the tales. The many similarities between these adventurous epics convinced me that Homer had an impact on Virgil?s story line. I am also convinced that Virgil used his knowledge of past epics to create a well-renowned epic for his time. He was able to achieve that goal, but I think that without the influence of Homer and Greek culture, The Aeneid would not have become the prestigious epic it is today.
1. Virgil, The Aeneid, Vintage Classics Edition, June 1990; Translated by Robert Fitzgerald ? 1981, 1982, 1983
2. Homer, The Odyssey, ? 1961, 1963 by Robert Fitzgerald; Anchor Books, Doubleday ? 1961
3. Microsoft, Bookshelf Dictionary 1996-1997 edition, ? 1987-1996, Microsoft Corporation
4. Odyssey, Microsoft ? Encarta ? 97 Encyclopedia. ? 1993-1996 Microsoft Corporation