Compare Odysseus in Homer's Odyssey and Aeneas in Virgil's Aeneid in terms of their roles as a leader, a lover, a family man and a hero.

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noahvox2 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the area of leadership, Aeneas would probably be considered the more successful since many of those who followed him from Troy survived, whereas all of Odysseus' men died. Additionally, Aeneas avoids some of the dangers (e.g., the Scylla and Charybdis) that Odysseus encounters.

Helenus’s orders warned against taking a course between

Scylla and Charybdis, a hair’s breadth from death

on either side: we decided to beat back again. (Aeneid 3; A.S. Kline translation)

As lovers, both Odysseus and Aeneas have sexual relationships with women other than their wives, although Odysseus' extra-marital activities are with goddesses (Calypso, Circe), whereas Aeneas' relationship with the mortal Dido occurs after his wife has already died. Also, Aeneas is more of a heart-breaker, since Dido killed herself after his departure, whereas Odysseus' lovers remained quite alive.

Let the cruel Trojan’s eyes drink in this fire, on the deep,

and bear with him the evil omen of my death.”

She had spoken, and in the midst of these words,

her servants saw she had fallen on the blade,

the sword frothed with blood, and her hands were stained. (Aeneid 4; A.S. Kline translation)

Odysseus and Aeneas are both loyal family men, although Odysseus does seem to like to keep some of his family members in the dark about his identity until he feels it is safe to reveal that. Both men have sons to whom they are devoted and both men have wives for whom they care. Aeneas does get some "negative press" for not paying as much attention to Creusa as he might have at the end of Aeneid 2. Virgil's epic, however, would have been much different if Creusa had survived Troy. For the sake of the story, Creusa had to die. 

As far as their heroic portfolio is concerned, both heroes experience many trials and tribulations; both heroes are victorious over their foes, although Odysseus is more famous for his cunning, while Aeneas is probably more powerful physically. Aeneas is the son of a goddess (Venus), whereas both of Odysseus' parents are mortals. Both heroes travel to the underworld and survive while they are still alive. 

In sum, the two heroes are quite comparable, although Virgil has a much different agenda, namely a political one, than his Greek predecessor and we know that Virgil's Roman audience would not have tolerated some of Odysseus' actions and behaviors (e.g., his trickery).

Read the study guide:
The Odyssey

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