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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Alexandra Spencer-Jones

Classical Civilisation - Epic (Aeneas Vs Odysseus)

Christmas Assignment (2002)

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. Virgil created in Aeneas a new type of Stoic hero, a point that is perhaps most evident in Book Four when Aeneas leaves Carthage. His speech to Dido is indicative of his determination to suffer both silently, Aeneas did not move his eyes and struggled to fight down the anguish in his heart.", (Book 4) and willing, "Do not go on causing distress to yourself and to me by these complaints. It is not by my own will that I still search for Italy." (Book 4)

Emotional restraint and acquiescence in regard to one's own fortunes and torment is intrinsic to a Roman conception of a role model and leader. Equally, the presentation of Aeneas in Book Four can be seen to parallel that of Odysseus in Book Nineteen of the Odyssey, where the reader is told that, in spite of his wife's tears, the hero's
"eyes were steady". Aeneas, then, does conform to both the Roman and Homeric paradigms in his ability to endure the sufferings that Fate has allotted him. And yet his chief characteristic is not his endurance, as is the case with Odysseus, but rather his pietas, a quality essential for a Roman warrior. Time and time again in the Aeneid he is referred to as pious Aeneas, "famous for his devotion"(Book 6), so the Sibyl states. This devotion is threefold in that it is not only religious and extends to both his family and to his duty as "Father" of Rome. The latter of these has already been demonstrated by his separation from

Dido, in which he subordinates his personal wishes in order to fulfil his destiny, while one can see the first two aspects of this pietas at work quite clearly in Book Five, in which the funeral games, "held in honour of the divine father of Aeneas"(Book 5), combine a celebration of the familial and of the holy.

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Like the "Father" figure that Aeneas, by fate takes on, Odysseus has great affection for his men. When he loses some of his men at Ismarus he tells us how they sailed on "with heavy hearts, grieving for the loss of our companions". As well as this, when all the other ships are lost to the Laestragonians, he states, "We lay on the beach for two days and nights, utterly exhausted and eating our hearts out with grief". Odysseus risks his life for them. In book 10 when the first half of his men are transformed into pigs by Circe, ...

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