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Sam Grant-Williams

Classical Mythology
Comparison Paper

Cunning vs Piety: A Comparison between Odysseus and Aeneas

Through out human history there have been stories about epic quests to kill monsters and long
journeys for some mystical object. Homer's The Odyssey and Virgil's the The Aeneid, however are
different, this is because both stories are more about the concepts of Home and national identity. These
themes are no more apparent than in the personalities of the title characters Odysseus and Aeneas. Both
of these man are written to be ideal heroes to their respective culture and yet they are polar opposites. It
is by looking at the key differences between Odysseus and Aeneas that we can gain a clear view of
what was valued and what was hated by ancient Greece and Rome.
The character of Odysseus can be said to be embodiment of the ancient Greek idea as well as
the personification of all things selfish and Cunning. This is shown in how he consistently lying in
order to survive hardship, although much of said hardship comes from his own arrogance and selfish
actions. He embodies the geek views of home and family and is trying to return to his kingdom. Yet his
is more then willing to destroy the homes and families of others in his quest to get home and because
of this his journey takes longer then necessary. It is because of this that although he is seen a great man
to the Greeks, he is viewed as a scoundrel by the Romans.
In stark contrast to Odysseus and his destructive nature, Aeneas is a man with a strong sense of
duty to both is people, the Trojans and the gods. He is a man who suffers greatly in order to carry out
his destiny in setting stage for the founding of Rome, and yet he dose so with out complaint or
expectation for glory or gain. Odysseus wanted to get home for himself and all of his men die in the

process, Aeneas wishes to find a new home not for himself but for his people and by the end of his
wanderings most of his followers remain. Just as Odysseus kills all those who get in his way even after
the surrender, Aeneas tries his very hardiest to avoid conflict only fighting when he has to.
In terms of similarities between Odysseus and Aeneas, they are both man on a journey to go/
find home and are leading a group of their own people. They are both royalty and both fought in the
Trojan war and have been stated to be talented warriors. They are also the same in that they both went
to the underworld at some point in their quests. Both are seen lying to someone, and both are targeted
as part of a goddesses plans and they also have one or more gods angry at them. Both face many
hardships but are destined to survive and reach their home, and both are forced to do battle with
someone when they do get home.
It is very clear that both the similarities and differences between Odysseus and Aeneas were
intentional on the part of Virgil. It could be argued that Odysseus is a prototype to Aeneas and that
Virgil Created his Aeneas to show that Rome had everything that was good about Greece and also
greater in its own ways. The Aeneid can be seen as an Embodiment of Romes ideals and its belief of its
own superiority to barbaric places like Greece and that Virgil viewed it as an improvement over The
Odyssey. It is almost like The Aeneid is an attempt at rewriting The Odyssey much like an FanFic. It
also is very apparent that Virgil is playing a political game by writing about the great virtues of those
who founded Rome most likely due to the attitudes of people at the time like Emperor Augustus.
Ultimately it makes sense that Aeneas is an attempt to correct or Improve upon the character of
Odysseus as Odysseus a man who embodies everything that the Romans hate. He is someone who
placed is own needs above those of his men and country and is a man that lies his way out of
consequences for his actions and others suffer for it. He kills the son of a god and is disrespectful to
several goddesses. He is the living symbol of the Roman view of Pre-Roman Greece, a land of
barbarians that although had many accomplishments, was ultimately petty and self-destructive.