Homer & Virgil, a Comparison

Originally published on June 25, 2017, by Misty Smith for HIS-321 Ancient World of Greece & Rome at Southern New Hampshire University.

When ordinary individuals are asked about ancient history their thoughts normally turn to Greece, Rome, and the great versifiers Homer and Virgil. This can be attributed to media outlets using their tales to spin entertainment such as movies and television. However, in ancient times Homer and Virgil’s works were also popular, but for other reasons. While they were not the only writers of their time, their epics helped to shape both Greek and Roman societies and were often household discussions.



Homer and The Odyssey

    The great blind bard, Homer, reportedly lived between the late eighth century and early seventh century B.C.E. in Greece. He is the attributed author of various works, including the Iliad and The Odyssey. However, who was he really? Did he exist at all? His existence has been a point of debate since the early third and second centuries B.C.E., with the lingering question: was Homer a single person, or a group of individuals?[1,2] Homer’s birth or place of origin is not known. However, the language in which his works were completed was that of Ionic and Aeolic Greek, which leads historians to believe that if he was a real individual that he was born or lived in Eastern Greece.[3] During antiquity, the area of Eastern Greece encompassed the entirety of the west coast of Asia Minor, including all neighboring islands, hence a more specific location for Homer’s residence is difficult to ascertain. [4] Although some histories have placed, unproven, his birthplace as being the town of Smyrna or the island of Chios. [5]

     Regardless of the existence of Homer as a singular poet or a collection of individuals, the works attributed to the name gave forth the gift of literature, religion, and culture to the West. For example, it was the works of Homer that gave the ancient Greeks a compiled history, and, for the first time, a sense of community and unity that had not been known in previous ages. Historian D. Brendan Nagle points out,

That Greeks came to achieve and subsequently maintain their cultural unity despite being separated from each other by thousands of miles was due in considerable measure to the activity of a large number of poets whose works circulated, mostly orally, throughout the Greek diaspora, providing a kind of universal history, genealogy and set of moral values for all Greeks no matter where they lived. [6]

     Homer’s Odyssey takes place after the fall of Troy, ca. twelveth century B.C.E. (bronze age), in Mycenaean Greece and centers around the Greek hero Odysseus, King of Ithaca, who had angered the God Poseidon because of the injury he had inflicted upon the Cyclops Polyphemus. [7] He was adrift upon the sea; ever searching for his lost home. Odysseus had left behind his loyal wife Penelope and son Prince Telemachus to rule in his stay; however, the wolves had besieged his household, destroying his riches and demanding Penelope’s hand, believing Odysseus to be deceased due to the fact that he had not returned to his kingdom. Therefore, his beloved Penelope, who did not dare to believe he was dead, was running out of ways to keep them at bay and her son Prince Telemachus was unconfident and unknowing of how to take care of the situation at hand. The main characters in the epic are Odysseus, Telemachus, Penelope, and the Goddess Athena.

     In book one we Homer gives the foundation for what is to follow: “He had traveled far in the world, after the sack of Troy, the virgin fortress…he endured many troubles and hardships in the struggle to save his own life and to bring back his men safe to their homes.” [8] His travels were seemingly never-ending according to the Goddess Athena, due to how he had angered Poseidon. She begs of Lord Zeus to send Hermes to the nymph Calypso on the island of Ogygia with word that Odysseus had suffered enough for his transaction and must return to his kingdom. Furthermore, she declares that she will set forth to Ithica “…to put heart in his son and make him do something.” [9]

     Homer explains that as Telemachus sits among the intruders thinking of his father, “He wondered if his father would suddenly appear and make a clean sweep of them all, and take his own honorable place again, and manage his property.” [10] That is when Athena, who had made her way to Ithica and befriends the young Telemachus by being disguised as his Mentes. Telemachus welcomes the disguised Goddess into his home and explains to Athena that his father, Odysseus, had forsaken his own house and that the Gods had willed that thieves into his midst.

 If he were dead, it would not hurt me so much; if he had fallen before Troy among his comrades, or if he had died in the arms of his friends after he had wound up the war. Then the whole nation would have built him a barrow, and he would have won a great name for his son as well in days to come. But now, there is not a word of him. The birds of prey have made him their prey; he is gone from sight, gone from hearing, and left anguish and lamentation for me. [11]

     Athena, after hearing his anguish, stresses that he is to call an assembly of the men of Ithica and demand help removing the suitors from his father’s home. She further advises him to “Get the best ship you can find, put twenty oarsmen aboard, go and find out about your father and why he is so long away.” [12] The assembly of the council did not go as planned, although Telemachus delivered a fine speech with the courage Athena had bequeathed upon him, “My mother is besieged  by those who would marry her against her will, own sons to those men who are chief among you here…” [13] The council, instead of pledging to help rid Penelope of the unwanted suitors, placed blame upon the Queen herself. “Blame us indeed! Your own mother is at fault.” [14] Upon the failed petitioning to the assembled council, Telemachus took the previous words of Athena to heart and prepared to set sail upon the sea to locate his father.

     Traveling with Athena still disguised as Mentor, Telemachus sets sail for Pylos. Once again Athena gives Telemachus encouragement to speak with King Nestor about the fate of Odysseus. “We come from Ithaca… I seek any news I can hear anywhere in the wide world of my father, the noble Odysseus, the ever-patient man, who they say fought by your side when you took Troy.” [15]

     However, King Nestor does not know the fate of Odysseus, and can only recant the tale of the fall of the city of Troy and how Odysseus was a great hero of the war that had lasted nine long years. “All that time no one came near Odysseus in resource {sic}, for the grand man was first by a long way in all plots and plans and schemes, your father.” [16] However, the last he knew, Odysseus had stayed behind with the great Agamemnon. King Nestor suggested that Telemachus take control of his father’s house just as Prince Orestes had done in revenge for his father’s death. “Now my friend, don’t go a-roaming too long far away from home, and desert your property, and leave those blustering fellows in your house like that…” [17] King Nestor then suggests that Telemachus make sail to Menelaos, who may have heard of Odysseus’ fate during his travels abroad. However, when Telemachus and Athena, still in the form of Mentor, make their way towards their ship, King Nestor demands that they stay within his palace for the night. Athena then transforms into a sea-osprey before King Nestor and his court, which lets them all know that Telemachus is escorted by the Gods themselves; therefore King Nestor commits to sending his own son, Prince Pisistratus, to escort Telemachus to Sparta.

     Within the house of Menelaos, Telemachus learned further the deeds of his father during the Trojan War from Helen herself. She recanted how, dressed in rags, Odysseus had managed to enter the walled city of Troy and boast of the plans to her. “I gave him a bath and a good rubbing with oil and swore a solemn oath never to let out the secret before he returned to the camp;{sic} and then he told me the whole plan of the Achaians.” [18] Menelaos tells Telemachus a great tale of his adventures and claims that he had seen Odysseus being held by the nymph Calypso; that he longs for his home but has no ships to transport him due to the woes delivered by Poseidon himself.

     Next, we find that Athena has returned to Mount Olympus along with all of the other Gods, except Poseidon, to debate the fate of Odysseus. Athena tells Zeus that everyone in Ithica has forgotten their kind King Odysseus and that now they even plot to kill his son Prince Telemachus who had, upon her urging, set sail to find news of his father. Furthermore, she feared he would be killed once he returned to Ithica, if not with his father. Zeus is persuaded by Athena’s pleading and sends the messenger Hermes to Calypso’s island. “Go and declare to Calypso our unchangeable will, that Odysseus shall return after all his troubles. But no God shall go with him, and no mortal man.” [19] Hermes made his way to Calypso and told her the decision that had been made by Zeus and that she was to free Odysseus at once. However, Calypso was in love with Odysseus and believed that the Gods were punishing her for loving a mortal man. She asks of Hermes, “Why are you shocked if a goddess  sleeps with a man and makes no secret of it, when she happens to find one she could love as a husband?” [20] However, Calypso knew the love was one-sided, as Odysseus longed for his mortal wife and his life in Ithica, so she set forth in helping him build a boat for his journey home.

     However, his journey home was not sweet sailing as he had hoped, for Poseidon spotted him upon the waves and sent a storm to kill him. It is only by fate that the Goddess Ino sees what is occurring and steps in to help Odysseus by giving him a veil that will protect him from the sea. Homer explains, “ Then the goddess gave him the veil, and dived back herself into the sea, like a great shearwater, and the dark waves covered her.” [21] Odysseus, the great war hero who had been through so many tribulations was about to give up when Athena stepped in once again and opened up a path to a river that he could swim ashore upon. It is the Phaeacian Princess Nausicaa, who had been visited in a dream by a disguised Athena, who found Odysseus washed on the shore of her kingdom. She gives him clothing and tells him how to approach her home without stirring unnecessary trouble. However, Athena, who is once again is disguised from her true form, meets Odysseus on his way to King Alcinous and covers him in a protective mist that shields him from harm as explained by Homer, “Odysseus passed through the hall hidden in the mist which Athena spread about him.” [22}

     Odysseus throws himself at the feet of Queen Arete, which breaks the spell of the mist that Athena had surrounded him with. However, the King and Queen do not know his true identity and he does not first offer it. The kingdom is in the middle of a festival that is in honor of Poseidon, and songs were being sung of Troy (which include tales of Odysseus). At hearing the songs Odysseus is saddened and King Alcinous takes note of the mood changes, “No one noticed him but Alcinous; but he was sitting next to him and saw what he did, and heard his groans.” [23] Finally, Odysseus speaks his name and then makes known the travels and troubles he had faced during his time abroad since the fall of Troy.

     It is here, within Book IX of The Odyssey, that Homer spins the tales that have become a pivotal point of Greek History through the words of Odysseus himself and it all starts with, “I am Odysseus Laertiades, a name well known in the world  as one who is ready for any event.” [24] He states that he and his mighty men had first traveled to Ismaros of Ciconians where he killed all of the men, yet sparing the women. Going against his advice, his men then killed a multitude of cattle and sheep on the beaches and started to feast. However, a number of new Ciconians showed and bested his men in the end. The survivors escaped only to befall a numerous amount of storms which drifted them to the land of the lotus-eaters. It was there that some of his men fell under the spell of the lotus and had to be forced to leave.

     Odysseus then explains that they next ventured to the land of the Cyclopians and to the island which harbored numerous wild goats. He and his men made a feast of the goats while enjoying wine from which they had taken from the Ciconians. The next day he set out to see who exactly the Cyclopians were, as all he knew of them was a rumor. “My good fellows…the rest of you stay here, while I take my ship and crew and see who these people are; whether they are wild savages who know no law, {sic} or hospitable men who know right from wrong.” [25] It was there that they encountered the Cyclops named Polyphemus, son of Poseidon, to whom he tricked and then blinded in order to escape being eaten alive. Odysseus then reveals that it was Polyphemos who called out to his father asking for revenge, “Hear me, Poseidon Earthholder {sic} Seabluehair! If I am truly thy son, and thou art indeed my father, grant that Odysseus  the conqueror of Troy – the son of Laertes – whose address is in Ithaca, may never reach his home!” [26]  

     Next, he and his men encountered Aiolos Hippotades on the Island of Aiolia, who gave him a bag made of oxen skin that contained the wind itself. Odysseus commanded that none touch the bag, and they set sail and in nine days time, they came within eyesight of Ithaca. However, his men fell into greed, believing that there must be a treasure within the bag and opened it. The winds escaped and blew them once again out of reach of their homeland. He continued on with his tale, about this encounter and the next. He spoke of Circe and how he stayed with her, frequenting her bed for a year before attempting to reach home yet again. It was Circe who then sent him on his way to the underworld, in order for him to find his way home via Teiresias the blind seer.

      In the underworld, he encountered many souls he had once known. Fallen Greeks he had fought side by side, and even the soul of his own mother who had died after he left for the battle of Troy. Finally, he found Teiresias, who warned him that Poseidon would not let him find his home so easily and that much trouble would come his way. Finally, with his story at an end, Queen Arete spoke and broke the silence that had settled in while Odysseus had been speaking to proclaim, “Isn’t he a fine figure of a man?” [27] However, King Alcinous wants to hear more of the adventures and Odysseus continues on. The next day Odysseus set sail for home on a ship provided by King Alcinous.

     Odysseus finally arrives back in Ithaca and, with the help of Athena, takes the form of an old man to hide his true identity. He first meets with Eumaios, who speaks ill of the strangers in the house of his master who torments Queen Penelope, all the while still declaring his loyalty to his lost master, Odysseus. It is not long after that Telemachus returns to Ithaca and makes his way to Eumaios and his father, who is still disguised and unknown. Eventually, by the hand of Athena Odysseus is revealed to his son and they make plans to rid his house of the suitors and to reclaim his land.

     Odysseus entered his home while the intruders were feasting, still dressed in the rags of a beggar so he would not be found out. He learns how evil the intruders are by their actions against him. That night, after they have all passed out, he and Telemachus remove all of their arms while they sleep. Eventually, a contest is set with a  great bow and Odysseus is the only one who succeeds. Homer writes, “He did not miss: right through the tops of all axes {sic} went the shaft, and clean out at the other end.” [28] It was then that Odysseus shed his masquerade and let it be known that it was him that had returned to his home, and, with his son fighting at his side, they dispatched the intruders. The parents of the to-be suitors soon learn that their children had been slaughtered and plan on revenge. However, the end of the story comes by Athena tricking the grieving parents into forgetting what had happened to their children and to be happy with the return of their King. “Stay your hands from battle, men of Ithaca, be reconciled and let bloodshed cease.” [29]

     Homer’s epic about Odysseus has survived the ages and is now known worldwide. However, in the ancient Greek society, it was used as a basis of history, religion, and even politics. According to Nagle, “The Odyssey is in good measure the story of what happens to a chiefdom when its rule is gone for a long time…” [30]

     However, early on Homer paints Odysseus as a very resourceful and extraordinary individual through the tales that are told to Telemachus during his inquiries, therefore his survival over the years should be expected without too much thought. On the other hand, Homer also paints Odysseus as rebellious in matters of the Gods, thinking that he either does not need them or that he is better than them. As a result for such defiance, he must be punished for his transgressions against them. In the end, Odysseus had been through much and survived as a much stronger man. He had to come home to a kingdom lost and overrun and had to do battle to reunite with his family and title, which he was successful.


Virgil and the Aeneid

    In the year 70 B.C.E. in the village of Andes, near Mantua in Cisalpine Gaul, was born a man by the name of Publius Vergilius Maro, or better known as the great Roman poet Virgil. Virgil was not born into privilege as he was the son of a beekeeper, whose name has been lost to history, and Magia Polla. However, he was educated in Milan and by the age of 15 received the toga virilis, which gave him full Roman citizenship and the privileges that came with said citizenship. [33] Although most citizens, of all classes of Rome, were subject to military draft [34] Virgil was never a soldier, as explained by the historian Robert J Forman, “There is no indication that Vergil served in the military or engaged in politics. He was probably excused from these duties because of his fragile health and general bookishness.” [35] Virgil was sponsored in life by patrons such as Gaius Maecenas and the Emperor Augustus. [36] His works include the Bucolics, The Georgics, and the Aeneid. [37] Virgil died enjoying full wealth on September 21, 19 B.C.E., in Brundisium (now Brindisi, Italy). However, his legend has been touched upon in later masterpieces such as Dante Alighieri’s The Inferno, in which he was sent to lead Dante,

At sight of him in the friendless waste {sic} I cried: “Have pity on me, whatever thing you are, Whether shade or living man.” And it replied: “Not man, {sic} though man I once was, and my blood. Was Lombard, both my parents Mantuan. I was born, though late, sub Julio, and bred In Rome under Augustus in the noon Of the false and lying gods. I was a poet  And sang of old Anchises’ noble son. [38]

     One of the great works completed by Virgil was The Aeneid ca. 20 B.C.E., which focuses on the time after the fall of Troy, much like Homer’s Odyssey, but within a Trojan perspective. Some of the major characters in The Aeneid are Aeneas, Dido, and Turnus. Aeneas, who is comparable to Homer’s Odysseus, was the Trojan leader and purported son of the Goddess Venus and a Trojan named Anchises. He has been fated by the Gods to become the founder of the Roman Empire in Italy and The Aeneid is his narrative. Virgil explains, “…ere he might found a city and carry his gods into Latium; from whom is the Latin race, the lords of Alba, and the stately city Rome.” [39]

     Similar to the Odyssey where Odysseus is blown off course from his beloved homeland, the voyage in which Aeneas and his fellow Trojans embark upon to Italy’s shores is struck by a strong storm, in which they are blown into Carthage. Carthage at the time was ruled over by its founder Queen Dido, who herself had fled there from her home of Tyre. Aeneas is welcomed into the city of Carthage after sending an envoy and tells of how Troy was destroyed by the Greeks at the urging of Dido,

Nay, come,’ she cries, ‘tell us, O guest, from their first beginning the treachery of the Grecians, thy people’s woes, and thine own wanderings; for this is now the seventh summer that bears thee a wanderer over all the earth and sea. [40] 

     Aeneas obliges the Queen and spins his tale back to the war and the treachery that the Trojans had faced at the hand of the Greeks. He describes how the long years of war had broken the Trojan people and that the Greeks had tricked them into accepting a gift that would seal their fate, “…the Grecian captains build by Pallas’ divine craft a horse of mountainous build…Within the blind sides they stealthily imprison chosen men picked out one by one, and fill the cast cavern of its womb full with armed soldiery.{sic}” [41] He recants how some Trojans gave council that the Greeks could not be trusted, while others called for the gift to be graciously accepted into the city. Furthermore, he states that if they had only speared its belly that Troy would still stand, “..had moved us to lay violent steel on the Argolic hiding place; {sic} and Troy would now stand, and you, tall towers of Priam, yet abide.” [42] He tells how that night the belly of the beast gave birth to the Greeks and that the city fell, with him, his son, father, and various other Trojans narrowly escaping the horrors after the battle is lost and as Troy burns by help of the Gods.

     Furthermore, he describes how they had seven years of wandering and twice failed at building a new city only to be stymied by various forces. “Hither I pass, and on the winding shore I lay under thwarting fates the first foundations of a city, and from my own name fashion its name, Aeneadae.” [43] His story ends with the tale of the loss of Anchises and the storm that brought them to Carthage.

     Dido had been suffering from great anguish over her slain husband Sychaeus, who had died at the hands of her own brother Pygmalion, and she had sworn that she would never marry again. In Book 1 it is stated, “Ah, poor Dido! witless how mighty a deity sinks into her breast;…begins touch by touch to efface Sychaeus, and sows the surprise of a living love in the long-since-unstirred spirit and disaccustomed heart.” [44] However, after hearing the tales of Aeneas, she once again found herself deeply in love and confided such to her sister in Book IV,

Anna, my sister, such dreams of terror thrill me through! What guest unknown is this who hath entered our dwelling? How high his mien! {sic} How brave in heart as in arms! I believe it well, with no vain assurance, his blood is divine. Fear proves the vulgar spirit. Alas, by what destinies is he driven! What wars outgone {sic} he chronicled! Were my mind not planted, fixed and immovable, to ally myself to none in wedlock since my love of old was false to me in the treachery of death; were I not sick to the heart of bridal torch and chamber, to this temptation alone I might haply yield. [45]

     Aeneas and Dido enjoy a love, much like Odysseus did with Calypso in The Odyssey, and much like the romance between Odysseus and Calypso with the Gods sending Hermes to seal their fate, the Gods intervened with Aeneas and Dido by sending Mercury to remind him that he must continue on with his mission. “… be he was to rule an Italy teeming with empire and loud with war…Let him set sail: this is the sum; thereof be thou our messenger.” [46] However, unlike Homer’s Odyssey, where Calypso lets Odysseus go onward with his journey and continues on with her life, Dido cannot stand the leaving of Aeneas and takes her own life in her grief by stabbing herself while standing upon a pyre of Aeneas’ left behind possessions. [47]

     Aeneas and his fellow Trojans next find themselves blown into Sicily by another bout of storms. Once there, Aeneas declares that they are to celebrate and remember their ancestors with a festival, “Did I spend it an exile on Gaetulian quicksands… yet would I fulfill the yearly vows and annual ordinance of festival,{sic} and pile the altars with their due gifts.” [48] However, after the festival, some of the matrons grew tired of the travels and demanded that they are given a city upon the Sicilian shores, “Here are our brother Eryx’ borders, and Acestes’ welcome: who denies us to cast up walls and give our citizens a city?” [49] In their protests, they start great fires of the ships of Aeneas’ fleet, “The Fire-god rages with loose rein over thwarts and oars and hulls of painted fir.” [50] It would seem that all hope is dashed of ever completing their mission when Aeneas prayers to Jupiter to spare the fleet if they are to continue on. As if an answer straight from the Gods, rain settles in and puts out the flames, “Scarce had he uttered this, when a black tempest rages in streaming showers; earth trembled to the thunder on plain and steep; the water-flood rushes in torrents from the whole heaven…” However, not all Trojans in his company are still prepared to continue on with the voyage and commit to staying in Sicily while he continues on.

     Reminiscent of Odysseus entering the underworld during his voyage, Aeneas is beckoned into the underworld in a dream by his father, “For I am not held in cruel Tartarus among wailing ghosts, but inhabit Elysium and the sweet societies of the good.” [51] However, it is Sibyl of Cumae that leads him into the underworld to his father, and, along the way, he encounters many dead such as Dido and King Priam’s son. However, once with his father, he is shown what is waiting for him once his mission is complete: the glories of Rome. “Behold, O Son! By his augury shall Rome the renowned fill earth with her empire and heaven with her pride, and gird about seven fortresses with her single wall, prosperous mother of men…” [52] Once returned from the underworld, Aeneas continues on his voyage and arrives in Italy under the rule of King Latinus.

     On their way, they pass by the lands of Circe; however, unlike Odysseus and his men, Aeneas and his fellow Trojans are given winds by the Gods to pass by her Island unscathed. Virgil writes, “Neptune filled their sails with favorable winds, and gave them escape, and bore them past the seething shallows.” [53] Once they arrive in Italy, King Latinus hopes that Aeneas is there to fulfill a prophecy to wed his daughter and invites them in with peace.  However, Queen Amata does not wish her daughter to marry Aeneas, but to marry Turnus of her own land. Turnus uses his hatred of Aeneas to start a war with the Trojans over a killed stag,

Turnus is there and amid the heat and outcry at the slaughter redoubles his terrors, crying that Teucrians are bidden to the Kingdom, that a Phrygian race is mingling its taint with theirs, and he is thrust out of their gates. [54] 

     Next, Virgil tells us that Aeneas travels up the Tiber river, at the urging of river god Tiberinus, to procure an alliance with the Arcadian King Evander who is an enemy of the Latins.

An Arcadian people sprung of Pallas, following in their King Evander’s company beneath his banners, have chosen a place in these coasts {sic} and set a city on the hills, called Pallanteum after Pallas their forefather. These wage perpetual war with the Latin race; these do thou take into thy camp’s allowance…[55]

     Aeneas reaches out to the Arcadian King Evander by announcing that he is to submit to the ‘Best of the Grecian race,” [56] and asks for an alliance. King Evander accepts an alliance against their common enemy, the Latins, “How gladly, bravest of the Teucrians, do I hail and own thee!” [57] King Evander calls for backup of his neighbors and as thousands of newly aligned troops march towards the Latins. Here, Venus, who appears to her son Aeneas at the brink of battle, gives him gifts of armor that had been crafted by the God Vulcan. She does this out of love and fear for his own safety.

     In Book IX, Juno, ever meddling, sends word to Turnus, who is not at the camp, that he should attack. However, when he investigates he sees that an attack would not be easy. Instead, he decides to burn Aeneas’ fleet in his absence; however, as Virgil explains this was not so easy due to the fact that the Jupiter, at the urging of his mother, Saturn, had rendered the ships of Aeneas immortal, “O mother, whither {sic} callest thou fate? Or what dost thou seek for these of thine? May hulls have the right of immortality that were fashioned by mortal hand?” [58]

     As Virgil’s words unfold we find that the prophesied peaceful founding of Rome has turned into a bloody war. Trojans build and gain allies, yet are still attacked and blood is shed constantly; even the immortal fleet is lost. Therefore, on Mount Olympus, the Gods discuss how things went wrong, and it is Venus who blames Juno for harassing Aeneas and his people, “If thy cruel wife leaves no region free to Teucrians, by smoking ruins of desolated Troy…” [59] However, Juno continues to meddle by setting Turnus adrift at sea, which gives the reigns against the Trojans to Mezentius who kills numerous Trojans in battle, “But meanwhile at Jove’s prompting fiery Mezentius takes his place in the battle and assails the triumphant Teucrians…” [60] After many losses on both sides, including Prince Pallas son of King Evander, Aeneas sends 1000 troops to carry the Prince back to his father. The battle is then at a cease-fire for twelve days in order for grieving to take place, which was customary in those times. Meanwhile, King Latinus hears demands that a duel between Turnus and Aeneas could end the bloody war once and for all. However, more battles and deaths occur, including an attack upon King Latinus’ city, where he is considering that a duel would be preferred.

     Nevertheless, in the end, a duel between Turnus and Aeneas is scheduled as a means to end the war. But, as to be expected, the duel is interrupted, this time by Juturna, sister of Turnus, who shakes up the troops to where, Tolumnius, one of the soldiers under the command of Turnus spears one of the gathered Trojan soldiers. “The spear flies on; where haply {sic} stood opposite in ninefold brotherhood all the beautiful sons of one faithful Tyrrhen wife, borne of her to Gylippus the Arcadian…” [61] This, of course, leads to the gathered forces of both sides to rush at each other. It is Aeneas who attempts to stop the further bloodshed, but he is wounded by an arrow to his leg. Turnus, true to his violent nature, takes advantage of the carnage and steps upon the field of battle, killing as many Trojans that cross his path. However, Aeneas’ wound is more serious than the doctors can heal; therefore, Venus has to send down healing medication to use, otherwise, he would die of his wound and all would be lost. Aeneas is healed and heads back into battle, turning his troops to the now left unguarded city of King Latinus. The war ends; Aeneas kills Turnus in a fit of rage after Turnus had surrendered because of being scared by an omen, a bird, sent down by the Gods.

     The ending of Virgil’s Aeneid forces the reader to imagine what happened next. In the society which he wrote his epic, it was suggested that the successful founding of Rome and their dominance over others was the ending that Aeneas had procured with his victory over Turnus. Although Aeneas was sent by the Gods to found Rome, he had to battle hard for what was to become. The vision given by his father in the underworld was just one example Virgil used continuously, as a reminder, that Aeneas was not to give up on his mission, and that he simply could not fail no matter what.

Similarities and Differences

    Similarly, we see that both Homer’s Odyssey and Virgil’s The Aeneid are set in a period after the Trojan War and the fall of the great city of Priam. Whereas in the Odyssey we are following the tale of the Greek hero Odysseus, in The Aeneid, we follow the great Trojan Aeneas and other Trojan survivors. However, where the Odyssey and Odysseus’ journey seems to be a punishment from an angered God, Aeneas in The Aeneid is following his destiny of founding Rome that had been preordained by the Gods. On the other hand, it is clear that whether it is punishment or following a clearly established mission that both of the hero’s journeys are shaped at the hands of the Gods; Athena watching over Odysseus and Venus over her dear Aeneas. Both heroes journeys are affected by weather produced by vengeful Gods and their voyages postponed as such. Furthermore, both heroes find upon their journey that they are loved, Odysseus by the Nymph Calypso and Aeneas by Queen Dido. Each of these love affairs is different yet similar in their own rights, each is ended when the Gods send messengers reminding the heroes of their purposes, Odysseus to return to Ithaca and Aeneas to reach Italy to found Rome. However, whereas Calypso agrees, albeit grudgingly, Queen Dido takes her own life at the very thought of losing another love. Although another difference between the heroes relate to the Gods, that being Odysseus is a mortal man and Aeneas is portrayed as a demigod, son of a mortal and Venus.

     Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, Homer portrays his Greeks as honorable and cunning conquerors who won a long-fought battle at Troy with skillful calculations. His portrayal of Odysseus further cements these beliefs with his survival ability. According to the historian Barry Strauss, “Homer portrays champions on both sides carving paths of blood through the enemy as if they were supermen…” [62] As a result, this mindset is adopted by the Greeks and used as examples of why they were superior in all they did. On the other hand, Virgil portrays the Greeks as treacherous, men who used whatever means even if dishonorable to win. He further changes the tale of Aeneas and the Trojans, the future founders of the Roman society, as honest and loved by the Gods. Previous tales have Aeneas and his people fleeing Troy and taking refuge at nearby Mount Ida instead of fighting. However, as explained by Strauss, “Virgil famously tells a different story, in which Aeneas stays in Troy, fighting the Greeks…while carrying his elderly father on his back.” [63] This is used by the future Romans as validation of their superiority in their conquests and societies. In conclusion, the epic tales that were spun by Homer and Virgil helped to validate the mindsets of two great ancient civilizations with their tales of heroes and Gods.





  1. The University of Cincinnati, “Who Was Homer?”, (Troia Projekt and CERHAS)
  2. Julie A. Williams, “Homer.” (Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia, January 2017).
  3. Ibid.
  4. Julie A. Williams, “Homer.” (Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia, January 2017).
  5. Ibid.
  6. D. Brendan Nagle, The Ancient World: a Social and Cultural History, 8th ed. (New Jersey: Pearson, 2013), 81.
  7. Homer, The Odyssey: The Story of Odysseus, trans. W H D. Rouse and Deborah Steiner (New York: Signet Classics, [2007?]), 5.
  8. Homer, The Odyssey: The Story of Odysseus, 3.
  9. Ibid, 5.
  10. Ibid, 6.
  11. Homer, The Odyssey: The Story of Odysseus, 9.
  12. Ibid, 10.
  13. Ibid, 16.
  14. Ibid, 17.
  15. Ibid, 29. 
  16. Homer, The Odyssey: The Story of Odysseus, 30.
  17. Ibid, 35.
  18. Ibid, 46.
  19. Homer, The Odyssey: The Story of Odysseus, 62.
  20. Ibid, 64.
  21. Homer, The Odyssey: The Story of Odysseus, 70.
  22. Ibid, 86.
  23. Ibid, 94.
  24. Homer, The Odyssey: The Story of Odysseus, 105.
  25. Ibid, 109.
  26. Ibid, 118.
  27. Homer, The Odyssey: The Story of Odysseus, 141.
  28. Homer, The Odyssey: The Story of Odysseus, 269.
  29. Ibid, 303.
  30. Nagle, The Ancient World: a Social and Cultural History, 68.
  31. Robert J. Forman, “Virgil.“, (Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia Research Starters, EBSCOhost, 2017). 
  32. Ibid.
  33. Ibid.
  34. Nagle, The Ancient World: a Social and Cultural History, 208.
  35. Robert J. Forman, “Virgil“.
  36. Ibid.
  37. Ibid.
  38. Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy: The Inferno, the Purgatorio, and the Paradiso, trans. John Ciardi (New York: New American Library, 2003), 18-19.
  39. Virgil, The Aeneid, trans. John Mackail (Enhanced Media, 2017), Book 1.
  40. Virgil, The Aeneid, Book 1.
  41. Ibid, Book 2.
  42. Ibid.
  43. Virgil, The Aeneid, Book 3.
  44. Ibid, Book 1.
  45. Ibid, Book 4.
  46. Virgil, The Aeneid, Book 4.
  47. Ibid.
  48. Ibid, Book 5.
  49. Ibid.
  50. Ibid.
  51. Virgil, The Aeneid, Book 5.
  52. Ibid, Book 6.
  53. Ibid, Book 7.
  54. Virgil, The Aeneid, Book 7.
  55. Ibid, Book 8.
  56. Ibid.
  57. Ibid.
  58. Virgil, The Aeneid, Book 10.
  59. Ibid.
  60. Ibid.
  61. Virgil, The Aeneid, Book 11.
  62. Barry S. Strauss, The Trojan War: A New History (New York: Simon & Schuster, ©2006), 6.
  63. Ibid, 178.

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Dante Alighieri. The Divine Comedy: The Inferno, the Purgatorio, and the Paradiso. Translated by John Ciardi. New York: New American Library, 2003.

Forman, Robert J. “Virgil.” Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia (January 2017): Research Starters, EBSCOhost (accessed May 28, 2017).

Homer. The Odyssey: The Story of Odysseus. Translated by W H D. Rouse and Deborah Steiner. New York: Signet Classics, [2007?].

Nagle, D. Brendan, and the University of Southern California. The Ancient World: a Social and Cultural History. 8th ed. New Jersey: Pearson, 2013.

Strauss, Barry S. The Trojan War: A New History. New York: Simon & Schuster, ©2006.

The University of Cincinnati, “Who Was Homer?,” Troia Projekt and CERHAS, accessed June 01, 2017, http://cerhas.uc.edu/troy/q402.html.

Virgil. The Aeneid. Translated by John Mackail. Enhanced Media, 2017.

Williams, Julie A. “Homer.” Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia (January 2017): Research Starters, EBSCOhost (accessed June 01, 2017).