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What impression is given of Aeneas as a man and as a leader in Books 1-6 of "The Aeneid"? How similar is he to Odysseus?

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Introduction

What impression is given of Aeneas as a man and as a leader in Books 1-6 of "The Aeneid"? How similar is he to Odysseus? To analyse the character of Aeneas in comparison to the character of Odysseus we must first recognise that they have both been sent away from home, Aeneas by force after the sack of Troy and Odysseus to fight from the Greek side. To analyse them as leaders and "good men" we must look at their feats and their strengths as well as recognising their flaws as people and warriors. Both characters are extremely respected as heroes. Virgil presents us with the man that founded the greatest empire of all, the Roman Empire. Odysseus had the idea of the Trojan horse, without which the Greeks would not have won the war. Both are primarily good men who serve their countries well. I found though, that they do this in two very different ways. Odysseus' nostos and Aeneas search for a new home. Scholars continue to disagree on whether or not Aeneas is presented as a good soldier, although the question itself is certainly far from black and white, complicated by the culturally relative nature of terms such as "conflict"and "courage", as well as by the rather oblique definition that "good" itself holds. Odysseus respectively. I will argue that Aeneas meets the criteria set by neither model and that, ultimately, he is an emotionally unstable, morally dubious and even an incompetent military leader. However, the very fact that he is the protagonist needs to be stressed: his character is necessarily sympathetic, dynamic and intricate. My intention is not to assert that Aeneas is a villain or a coward; he is quite obviously neither of these things and such an interpretation of the Aeneid, a text rich and ambiguous in meaning, would be nothing short of reductive. And in this way he must, and does, have some positive, somewhat redeeming features. ...read more.

Middle

Cruesa, his first wife, is lost at Troy; Dido, debatably his second, commits suicide and Anchises, his father, dies in the port at Drepanum. Only his son and heir, Ascanius, is still standing at the end of Book Twelve. Of course, it may be argued that the hero is culpable for not a single one of these deaths were it not for the fact that, with the exception of Anchises, Aeneas readily confesses to his personal failure in the role of warrior-protector. For instance, he admits to being "confused" and "robbed" of his "wits" when, in Book Two, he quite literally loses his wife, "I never saw her again. Nor did I look behind me or think of her or realise that she was lost." (Book 2). Odysseus is performing an act of duty to himself. Aeneas is carrying to burden of a nation without a home. This difference means that any mistakes that Aeneas makes are taken more seriously. By the end of the poem Odysseus, himself returns home with all his men lost. But he succeeds his nostos. He is still a hero. Aeneas could not have lost many men because he would have no people to found his city with. Odysseus' mistakes are critical to his own nostos. When Aeneas remains at Carthage, his people's fates are at risk. Odysseus has a painful curiosity, which in some cases I am sure contribute to his reputation as "The master strategist". At the Cyclops's cave, even though his men are scared and eager to leave the empty cave, Odysseus makes them stay in hope for guest friendship. This leads many men to be "dashed against the rocks as if they were puppies" and being eaten alive by the Cyclops - a big mistake on the part of Odysseus. Another huge flaw in his character is pride. When Polyphemus is blinded, Odysseus shouts a boast of who he is and where he is from so that the ruined Cyclops can hear. ...read more.

Conclusion

For the sake of his men, Aeneas feigns hope on his face although he is worried. With both speeches, Virgil shows important qualities of a leader. Aeneas puts the feelings of his people before his own as every leader should. Aeneas's human frailty allows him to identify with his people; he is not too divine to feel the pain and grief that the rest of Trojans feel. Aeneas keeps his men alive by both feeding their bodies with food and feeding their souls with hope, "And perhaps one day it will please us to remember even these things". By saying these words, Aeneas provides the Trojans with a father figure - exactly what they need in these troubled times. The Trojans need someone who is wiser and in control to guide them through their journey. Virgil intended Aeneas to be the perfect Roman embodying the most valued personality traits. The Romans greatly valued the personal qualities of a strong devotion to duty, a strong character, and putting the common good before personal gain. Aeneas would therefore exhibit strong leadership qualities from a Roman civilisation's point of view. However, from today's point of view we are most ably allowed to look around his character and compare it to what we class as a "good" man and a "good leader". Aeneas and Odysseus are both good leaders. They both succeed in their missions. But Aeneas, in my opinion, goes through more temptations and hardships than Odysseus and has a far grander mission with two gods against him. He is open to make more errors because he is shown as the lesser man, a younger man who has been through less than Odysseus. He does not have to master strategy of Odysseus which makes it difficult for him until he is prompted by the gods. The main difference between these two characters is that Odysseus has the ambition to return home and is merely helped by Athene. Aeneas is pushed and played with by fate and the will of the gods. Alexandra Spencer-Jones Classical Civilisation - Epic (Aeneas Vs Odysseus) Christmas Assignment (2002) 1 1 ...read more.

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