Compare and Contrast of Odysseus and Aeneas

Topics: Odysseus, Trojan War, Odyssey Pages: 5 (2120 words) Published: December 3, 2012
Compare and Contrast of Odysseus and Aeneas

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...
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