How is Ulysses presented as a villain in Vergil's Aeneid?

Quick answer:

Vergil portrays Ulysses as the scheming, evil Greek and Aeneas as the selfless Trojan. The purpose of this article is to consider how H.D.'s poem, "Enemy," relates to Homer's Odyssey . This involves a consideration of the plot of Enemy, a summary of some events from the Odyssey that are analogous to those in Enemy, and an analysis of certain similarities between H.D.'s language in "Enemy" and that found in Homer's Odyssey. In doing this I have tried to keep in mind two things: (1) The important influence on H.D.'s writing of classical Greek mythology and literature; and (2) The fact that H.D.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

This is a worthwhile question since Odysseus/Ulysses is one of the "good guys" in Homer. In Vergil's Aeneid, though, Ulysses is regarded as one of the most evil of the Greeks.

The simplest explanation is that he is a Greek and the Greeks are the enemies of the Trojans. Therefore, Ulysses must be regarded as enemy.

A second reason for the negative portrayal of Odysseus/Ulysses is that even among the Greeks, Odysseus had a reputation for cunning and cruelty. Sophocles' Philoctetes, in particular, and several surviving Euripidean plays characterize Odysseus as a ruthless double-crosser.

Another reason for the negative portrayal of Ulysses is that he is a trickster and this is a value that the straight-dealing Romans do not admire in their leaders. Aeneas is described as pius, dutiful with respect to the gods, country, and family. Ulysses, on the other hand, is wily and cunning. Ulysses attacks during the night and uses the deceptive method of the wooden horse to defeat his enemy. Aeneas fights during the daytime and on the open battlefield.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial