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Homer vs. Virgil

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  • Pages: 4
  • Word count: 975
  • Category: Odysseus

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In ancient Greece numerous forms of entertainment existed, the most popular being listening to the tales sung by the many rhapsodists throughout the great country. The epic poetry they recited enthused many Greek civilians. The people of Greece loved the tales written by the famous poet Homer the most. He captured the attention of his listeners with his detailed writings of several heroes of the day. Two of his writings include The Iliad and The Odyssey. After the great Homer, multiple writers tried to emulate the stories he created, but none could compare. Then came Virgil, a roman poet hired by Augustus Caesar to create a tale describing the beginning of Rome. He wrote The Aeneid, which is considered one of the most famous pieces of epic poetry written in Rome. The work of Homer and Virgil can be compared through hero’s fate, conflict, and the intervening of gods and goddesses. In their poetry, Homer and Virgil both used heroes as main characters for their epic poetry. But the two had very different ideas of how a hero should act. Homer let heroes choose their own fate, such as the case for Achilles. Achilles may be one of Homer’s most famous heroes.

He comes from the epic The Iliad, in which Homer gives him Hubris (which is common in Homeric Heroes). Hubris is an abundance of confidence and pride, which causes Achilles to make rash decisions that occasionally change his fate. In The Iliad , after Achilles is angered by his ruler’s decision of taking away his prize of honor he decides to reside from the Trojan War, which he knows will save his life because he was told his fate was to be killed in the war. Although, when his best friend and successor is killed in the war, he makes a rash decision to rejoin the conflict. “‘I shall go forth to slay Hector, who killed the man I loved. I shall accept my fate whenever Zeus and the other immortals bring it upon me. Until then, may I win great fame and glory, and may every Trojan realize that the greatest of the Greeks no longer remains apart from battle. If you love me, Mother, do not attempt to prevent my return to battle’” (Homer 65). The quote shows how Achilles is angry and only wants to rejoin the war to avenge the death of his close friend. However, Virgil’s heroes have a fate that they can not be deterred from. In The Aeneid, Aeneas many times is distracted from his fate of founding Rome but the gods never give him the option to change his fate. He always presses forward to his final destiny.

Overall, even though both Homer and Virgil both expressed their hero’s fate openly, they are very different in how their hero deals with his fate. Undoubtedly, conflict can make or break a story. In their epic poetry, Homer and Virgil use two different types of conflict; good vs. good and good vs. evil. Traditionally, our modern society is used to the common good vs. evil conflict that Virgil expresses in his writings. “The Virgilian Hero’s destiny is good for the world in which he lives or for the world of the future. Therefore, the beings who help him are good, and those who deter him are evil.” (Donna Rosenberg 118). For example, in The Aeneid Aeneas’ destiny is to found the city of Rome, which is made out to be for the good of the people. Thus, the characters on Aeneas’s side such as Venus, Jupiter, and Helanus are good and characters like the Harpies, Dido, Juno, and Turnus are evil for distracting Aeneas. On the other hand, Homer lets his readers choose which side they believe to be good. Known as good vs. good conflict, this type of writing allows the audience to interact with the story and pick which side they would choose to be on. In the end, both types of conflict prove to be entertaining in Homer and Virgil’s poetry, but it is up to the listeners to decide which they would prefer.

When reading the works of Homer and Virgil, it is easy to see that gods and goddesses play an important role in the plot of their stories. Though how they interact with their mortal followers appears to be different in the two authors’ poetry. In Homer’s writings the gods are clear to tell a hero his full destiny and help or prevent in any way they wish. For instance, in The Iliad Patrocles attacks the Trojan wall but Apollo is able to throw him off the wall three times and then stun him, which leads to his death by the hands of Hector. Yet in Virgilian writing, gods and goddesses use heroes as pawns in order to get what they wish. They may tell a hero part of his destiny and withhold the rest in order for him to make decisions that will eventually lead to a hero’s destiny being accomplished.

Indeed both writers use gods to add a supernatural element to their writings, but as you may see the way Homer and Virgil use them are incredibly different. In conclusion, Homer and Virgil are two of the most gifted writers to come out of Greece and Rome. While they both have different writing styles, they do have some common elements, such as Homeric similes, and divine influence. Without bards like Homer and Virgil, historians today would lack a lot of the knowledge we currently have about ancient history. The world has learned much from the different themes that are implied throughout The Iliad, The Odyssey, and The Aeneid. Hopefully future generations will continue to dissect and analyze their writings in order for the messages in the writings to continue to be passed down.

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