Comparison of the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Aeneid

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The ancient world literature is filled with epic tales of heroes and gods who go on perilous adventures to foreign lands and encounter many mythical beings along the way. These adventures usually teach a lesson or give insight as to the culture of the area and time period in which it was written. The Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Aeneid are all similar epics in their adventures and their lessons. Throughout the literary works of the ancient world there are many reoccurring motifs such as: the role of the gods, the role of suffering, and the roll of fate. The role of the gods shows heavily in the literary works of this era through the god’s direct interference in mortal events. Within the Iliad Athena, who hates the Trojans, does not directly kill Hector but tricks him into facing Achilles which ultimately leads to his death. Thetis, the mother of Achilles, helps her son and the Greeks throughout their adventures in any way possible. Similarly in the Odyssey gods interfere with the mortals to show their own will over their lives. Although he could not kill Odysseys, Poseidon sent storms to delay him after he disrespected him and blinded his son. Hermes, however, actually assisted Odysseus on Circe’s island by warning him about her potions and giving him a means to protect himself. After Odysseus’ men slaughter the sun god Helios’ prized cattle, Zeus is asked to bring about a storm which destroys all Odysseus’ ships and kills all his men. In the Aeneid, Juno convinces Aeolus to unless a storm on Aeneas as he searches for a friendly harbor, because of her strong hatred for Trojans (Aeneas and his men are destined to destroy her beloved city of Carthage). Neptune senses this storm within his realm so he immediately calms the storm and essentially saves Aeneas. Another ally to Aeneas is his mother Venus who helps her son whenever she can. Although Venus and Juno are on completely different sides in the matter of the Trojans they both make sure Aeneas and Dido fall in love, for very different reasons. The reoccurring role of the gods essentially choosing sides in each battle shows that the people of this time very much competed in some respects to obtain the gods attention and bring them to be their allies. The role of suffering is also an obvious motif in the epics of the ancient era. In the Iliad, Achilles suffers the loss of his friend/cousin Patroclus which is the cause of his rage in battle. King Priam also mourns the loss of his son Hector, by the hand of great Achilles in battle, as well as not immediately having his body to provide him with a proper funeral. This motif unifies the Iliad and Odyssey as Odysseus suffers throughout the entire epic because he is being kept from his home, his wife Penelope, and his son Telemecus. Penelope is also suffering because she is without her husband, raising her son alone, and having to deal with suitors pursing her to remarry. Telemecus also suffers without his father. Again, the idea is reflected as Aeneas suffers initially because he lost in wife Creusa as they were fleeing Troy, as well as losing his home. Aeneas and Dido both suffer in their love story as they live together happily as lovers, but he is reminded by the gods that he has another purpose and must leave. To which such anguish is caused that Dido kills herself. Aeneas also suffers in that he is not ever able to see the fruits of his labors throughout his life. Each characters suffering serves a purpose whether it is to teach them a lesson or to change how they are living it ultimately presents them with some greater knowledge. Each account of suffering is because of family and love, so the role of suffering in these epics ties together the concept of how important family was to the ancient people.

The role of fate is another extremely frequent motif appearing in this time period’s literature. For the Iliad, this appears when Achilles was destined to kill Hector in the Trojan War as was Hector destined to be killed...
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