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"The Differences Between The Aeneas And Odysseus"

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"The Differences Between The Aeneas And Odysseus"

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  • November 12, 2003
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Both the Odyssey and the Aeneid share some similarities as epics; both describe the trials of a heroic figure who is the ideal representative of a particular culture. There are even individual scenes in the Aeneid are borrowed from the Odyssey. Yet, why are Odysseus and Aeneas so unlike one another? The answer is that the authors lived in two different worlds, whose values and perceptions varied greatly of a fundamental level. 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.

To illustrate, a common idea is woven into the Odyssey, custom. Customs were handed down by the gods, and were meant to keep men safe by giving them civilization. When men flaunted their customs and the gods, they invited retribution and chaos by placing themselves outside the ordained scope of humanity. Moreover, if the customs are followed and proper respect given the gods, it is possible for man to live in harmony indefinitely. These differences in ethos are most easily seen when Virgil borrows a scene and transforms it to his own ends. For example, Virgil adopts the episode where Odysseus is washed up on shore and meets the Phaiakians and uses it to form the core of Aeneid I and II. In the Odyssey, the episode begins with Odysseus on his makeshift raft, heading home after all his trials. His eventual passage home has been agreed upon by Zeus. However, in the past Odysseus wounded Polyphemos and in reckless abandon questioned the power of the gods, while he was fleeing from the Cyclops. For this affront, Poseidon decided to make Odysseus' journey home a long and difficult one. The god of the sea sends a storm his way but Odysseus survives with a gift and guidance....