Descent to the Underworld in the Aeneid and the Odyssey
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Descent to the Underworld in the Aeneid and the Odyssey I chose to compare the Odyssey written by the Greek poet Homer and the Aeneid by the Roman poet Virgil. I will focus my interest on Book 11 of the Odyssey and Book 6 of the Aeneid, since that is when both of the main characters make an educational visit to the underworld. The description of the underworld created by Homer's wild imagination, inspired Virgil eight centuries later. Virgil's masterpiece was planned as an imitation of Homer's poems, so one automatically starts comparing the creations of the two authors. They were separated by eight centuries and by the cultural differences of their people. These differences are reflected on the structure of their compositions. At first the reasons for Aeneas's and Odysseus's voyage to the world below seem similar. Both of them want to receive information from the people who have already died. This knowledge is necessary in order for them to continue a successful life in the real world, amongst the real people. Aeneas wants to ask his wise father Anchises for advise about the foundation of a new state - Rome. His father tells him about the future of his family. This prophecy includes the history of Rome all the way until the days of Virgil himself. What glories follow Dardan generations In after years, and from Italian blood What famous children in your line will come, Souls of the future, living
Robbers and their victims together, leading a cheerless and meaningless existence, they are disembodied souls waiting to be reincarnated. House of Death - where the senseless, burnt-out wraiths of mortals make their home.6 Apart from Hades there is a scarier place called Tartarus, the light never shines there. The gods, who have been thrown down are sent to suffer in Tartarus. Homer also speaks of Elysium or the Isles of the Blest situated somewhere on earth where certain favored heroes may pass, but he never specifies who. In ancient Greece, according to Homer, a clear picture of the underworld didn't exist. Romans adopted the general idea about Hades, Tartarus and Elysium. Virgil developed it to the smallest detail; so that even a person from the twenty-first century starts believing, against his own will, in the existence of the imaginary kingdom. Romans supposed that a person consists of three substances - the body, the soul and the ghost. The body is burned and the ashes are kept in a jar, the soul flies into the sky and the ghost, the disembodied shadow, is sent to the underworld. Here a separation occurs - the shadows of chaste men fly away to Elysium the world of felicity. This was the company of those who suffered Wounds in battle for their country; those Who in their lives were holy men and chaste Or worthy of Phoebus in prophetic song;7 The shadows of criminals fly to Tartarus for torment and suffering.
He thinks of himself as a political figure whose mission is to establish a new State - Rome. His personal feelings are not taken in an account; only the great mission is of any importance. He leaves the woman he loves, Dido, because of that. In the center of the Roman culture is the State, its strength and welfare, its power and size. Rome must rule the world. The last words, which Aeneas's father delivers to him, are very symbolic: Let others better mold the running mass Of metals, and inform the breathing brass, And soften into flesh a marble face; Plead better at the bar; describe the skies, And when the stars descend, and when they rise. But, Rome, 't is thine alone, with awful sway, To rule mankind, and make the world obey, Disposing peace and war by thy own majestic way; To tame the proud, the fetter'd slave to free: These are imperial arts, and worthy thee.10 Through an analysis of the adventures of the two characters in the invented underworld, we draw conclusions about their real life, their hopes and dreams. The world of the dead represents a mirror, which reflects this real world and helps us to understand not only the characters but also the poets who wrote the two outstanding compositions, on which all of the world's literature is based. Homer who glorifies the great value of a person and Virgil who glorifies the grandeur of the State - Rome.
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