Fate and Destiny in the Aeneid and the Odyssey

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From the dawning of modern human thought, humans have questioned the nature of life and its passing. One of the most fundamental questions to arise from this train of thought is the ideas of fate and duty. We humans desire to know whether the path of our lives is preordained and unalterable or if it is just a series of consequences from our past actions. If we live by fate and believe our path is already set in stone, then is it our obligation to fulfill that destiny to the best of our abilities or can we resist and hope to forge our own story? It is quite obvious in the epics of both Aeneus and Odysseus that the idea of fate and duty plays a huge role. The difference we see between the two is which is more important and how each epic allows these two ideas to unfold.

In Virgil’s Aeneid, Aeneus is driven by the prophecy that he will leave a legacy that will go on to found the greatest and most powerful empire the world will ever know. Aeneus’s journey is filled with trials and tribulations; some are purposefully placed in front of him with the intention of undoing his fate while others are pure happenstance. What drives Aeneus to press on is his sense of duty. One of Aeneus’s most significant obstacles is the princess of Carthage, Dido. The patron goddess of Carthage is Juno and she knows that Aeneus’s prophecy tells of his kingdom destroying Carthage in the future. So Juno sends Cupid to make Dido fall madly in love with Aeneus so that he will do the

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same and consequently will settle in Carthage never founding the foretold empire that will destroy Juno’s city. Once learning of this plan, Jupiter dispatches Mercury to remind Aeneus of his destiny. “And are you at a time like this laying the foundations of stately Carthage, and building, like a fond husband, your wife’s goodly city, forgetting alas! your own kingdom and the cares that should be yours?” (Virgil, Book 4, line 279-282) Aeneus is awe-struck, but he immediately goes to repair his...
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