Epics - Virgil and The Aeneid

Long poems that recount the various exploits of heroes who uphold the ideals and culture of their individual civilizations or societies are known as epics. The Aeneid by Virgil, which depicts Roman society, and The Odyssey by Homer, which depicts Greek civilization, are two of the greatest epics in the history of writing.

The Aeneid and The Oddysey will then be compared and contrasted in terms of their characters, stories, themes, and societal repercussions. We'll look at some parallels between the two epics as well as how they vary from one another. Virgil was one of the greatest poets in Rome, Italy. He was born in 70 B.C. and in 49 B.C., he went to Cumae, a city situated at the western part of Naples and was considered as the oldest, existent Greek colony in the West. Virgil started his written works during his education at Cumae. His epic The Aeneid, which was written in 31 B.C. was regarded as his primary masterpiece. It also became the national epic of Rome as Augustus was the one who assigned this project to him. It was believed that he would write at least three lines of The Aeneid daily, thereby meticulously conscious on self-perfection. He was able to complete the twelve books of The Aeneid until his death. He also made Homer’s The Oddysey and Iliad as his models for his

masterpiece. Little was known with regard to Virgil’s private life. However, he had a great impact on world literature since his works were constantly read and studied until today.

Rome’s acknowledgement of its history is depicted in The Aeneid, since the wars of Greece and Ilium (Troy) were mentioned. The Aeneid’s complete dedication to the fall of Troy was described in the line,

Ilium was going down in fire.

The main character of Virgil’s The Aeneid is Aeneas. He was selected by the gods in order to discover the Roman Empire and lead Rome toward its recovery from the fall of Troy. His main goal was to obey the commands of the gods and this was depicted throughout the whole epic. One instance was when Aeneas was with Dido in Carthage. He lived a contented life with her but then he realized that he had to make a sacrifice for the sake of Rome, and so he decided to leave her.

Aeneas’ heroism was vividly defined by his respect and humility with the gods who commissioned him for his quest in Rome. Thus at certain points in The Aeneid, he was described as the “pious Aeneas”.

Homer and The Oddysey

Homer, on the other hand, became known due to his two great epic poems during the 6th century B.C., The Iliad and The Oddysey. Despite his blindness, he was deemed as one of the most significant and oldest among other Greek writers. Because of this, he was one of the pioneers of Western literature. His works contributed toward the evolution of literature in ancient Greece, from oral verses to new styles of writing. Homer was also Virgil’s inspiration for his goal of achieving glory in Rome.

The Oddysey was considered a war story due to the fact that Oddyseus planned for the downfall of Troy through the design of the well-known wooden horse. The Greek soldiers were hidden secretly inside the belly of the horse. When it was allowed to enter the gates of Troy, the Greek soldiers came out of the wooden horse and waged war with the Trojans. Together with the entire Greek army, Troy was victoriously conquered.

The Oddysey also revolved around the life of a hero who made various efforts and sacrifices on his journey back to their homeland. Heroes during the time of Homer were believed to hold a special role in the aristocratic class, placing them between gods and humans. Oddyseus, the main character of The Oddysey, experienced tribulations for many years before he was able to return to Greece. Oddyseus went through painful and deadly challenges, but one thing that remained in him was his senseof certainty. He was a soldier whose skills and personality was mocked by cruel monsters enveloping his world. Generally, misery and postwar disappointments were the aspects that formed the central theme of this epic poem.

Comparison and Contrast of The Aeneid and The Oddysey

The two epic poems, The Aeneid and The Oddysey were accomplished from two contrasting viewpoints: the triumphant Greeks of Homer’s The Oddysey and the overpowered Trojans of Virgil’s The Aeneid who were to become Romans. One aspect of comparison between the two poems is the aspect of war. The wars and their respective heroes were popular in both poems especially the Sirens and Dido in Carthage.

Comparing both characters, Aeneas and Oddyseus were sexually involved with other women aside from their wives. The difference is that Oddyseus’ relationships with the goddesses Circe and Calypso happened while he was married. As for Aeneas, he was already a widow when he had a relationship with Dido, who was a mortal. Both Circe and Calypso were alive until the end of the poem while Dido killed herself the moment Aeneas decided to leave her for the sake of his mission for Rome.

The opening lines of The Aeneid have a direct connection with The Oddysey. This was depicted in the passage,

I sing of warfare and a man at war,

Tell me the causes now, O Muse

For years, they wandered as their destiny drove them on,

From one sea to the next: so hard and huge

A task it was to found the Roman people.

Virgil was able to convey a touch of entertainment through the interaction with the Muse coupled with the illustration of his challenging journey by the sea. The above-mentioned passage has a profound similarity with the opening lines of The Oddysey, which states,

Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story

Of that man skilled in all ways of contending,

The wanderer, harried for years on end,

After he plundered the stronghold on the proud height of Troy.

Both Aeneas and Oddyseus were epic heroes who have undergone numerous challenges but were able to achieve victory over their enemies. In addition, they both went through a journey to the underworld, of which they were able to survive. Also, they were able to encounter Cyclops, a one-eyed giant.

The difference between the personalities of the two protagonists though is that Oddyseus became more popular for his cleverness while Aeneas exhibited strength as he went through every trial in his life. Both parents of Oddyseus were mortals while Aeneas was the son of Venus, the goddess of love and beauty, who apparently disguised herself as a huntress.

Aeneas and his crew members apparently survived the fall of Troy. Re-establishing a new city in the west was a mission given to him, yet he discovered later on that the new city will be unlike Troy. Because of this, Aeneas gave up the fact that he was a Trojan and decided to build the Roman Empire. Though both Aeneas and Oddyseus went on their journey to the west, their individual goals were completely different.

Culture and the Two Epics

In order to comprehend the impact of Homer’s Oddysey and Virgil’s Aeneid on its corresponding societies, the interactions of main characters, both the living and the dead, were observed. Such actions were assessed to determine the extent of which they are able to reflect on each society’s traditions and beliefs. Homeric epics affected the religious principles of contemporary Greeks such as their beliefs and traditions with regard to the dead, their methods of burial, and the existence of hero cults. Although the religious beliefs and traditions of the Romans were depicted in Virgil’s epic poem, the Homeric perspective of the underworld which was portrayed in The Aeneid had no significant effect on their principles. The impact of these two epic poems was projected at different levels of the society, from spiritual actions to political management.

The two epic poems have an influence on Greek and Roman art and literature as well. Greek art can also be observed on various aspects of Roman art. One of the evidences is the statues or monuments which were obtained from the Greeks and incorporated into Roman culture. Another would be the poems, plays and other written forms of text. The most apparent contribution of Greek influence in The Aeneid is its literary form due to the inclusion of two literary devices from Greece, namely, the epic simile and the Homeric motif. The simile uses the words “as” and “like” to compare animate with inanimate objects. The term epic simile was adapted due to the use of intensity to signify the status of an object being described. As such, epic similes were used in The Aeneid for the readers to build interest on matters such as warfare and the military. The Homeric motif, on the other hand, entails the reestablishment of a heroic myth and its incorporation into poetry. Virgil was able to revive a “Homeric hero” through the character of Aeneas and his quest to the land which eventually became ancient Rome.

Moreover, The Aeneid enabled ancient Rome to give significance to legendary heroes, gods and goddesses as well as value Roman traditions, culture and values. Aside from myths and legends, certain religious aspects were observed in this epic poem, which resulted in the development of Roman culture apart from that of ancient Greek culture.

The Oddysey, on the other hand, gave significance to the value of women and their role in the household. The relationship with family members was also taken into account. This is because the central theme of the poem revolved around one’s identity and place in the society as depicted in the beginning of the story, which highlighted Telemachus, the son of Oddyseus.

Analyzing the two epic poems, it can be observed that the Romans’ way of life was greatly influenced by Greek society. Certain aspects in ancient Rome can be attributed to Greek culture and these include literature, mythology, philosophy and religion.


Indeed, it can be concluded that the two epic poems, The Aeneid and The Oddysey have greatly affected not only the ideas of its readers but it also left numerous cultural implications on its respective societies and civilizations.

It can also be seen that there are certain parallelisms between these two epic poems in terms of its characters and writing style. This is because both Aeneas and Oddyseus were regarded as exemplary heroes during their time as well as both epic poems made use of literary devices such as the epic simile and Homeric motif.

On another note, numerous differences were also observed and this can be seen through the respective plots and central themes of each epic poem. While The Aeneid delved on the rebuilding of Rome into a great civilization through Aeneas, The Oddysey focused on the struggles that Oddyseus had to go through on his journey back home.

More than similarities and differences, the most significant aspect which can be observed on these two classics is their capacity to leave a legacy not only on world literature in general, but also on the hearts and minds of readers until the present time.


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