Who is the more heroic: Odysseus or Aeneas? (A comparison of epics) Watch

The Master
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Hi i'm doing A2 classics and one of my exams is the greek and roman epic paper (The Odyssey and The Aeneid).

If its not too much trouble, I was wondering if any of you bright scholars out there would help me with a character comparison

Basically I was looking for help with the theme of heroism, instances where the protagonists appeared heroic or unheroic.

I've been struggling with this and was wondering if any of you could help me out?

Basically as an example of what im doing e.g.

Pros - Odysseus

Bk11 - slaying the deer to feed his party who are emotionally distraught after losing their comrades to the laestrygonians. odysseus is showing compassion for his men here

Cons - Odysseus

Bk9 - he taunts the cyclopes, giving away his true name. Polyphemus then prays to dad and essentially leads to the demise of O's men ('may he reach home alone in a foreign ship' - or something like that :p:)

Anyway there are also loads of instances where Aeneas may appear as a hero or the opposite as well (Virgil obviously borrowing loads).

So i was wondering, as a character study and form of revision for me, who do YOU think is the more heroic? (and if you post an explanation for your choice that would be great)

Thanks
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username165192
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That is a fairly difficult question as the Greek idea of a hero was very different to that of what was perceived to be heroic in Roman ideology. I would however say that I believe Odysseus to be more 'heroic'. Aeneas is more dutiful and pious, and his journey is for a great cause, but if you look at it as the books building up to a climax in the last book then it can be argued that Aeneas is not heroic at all in the killing of Turnus. Dryden says that Aeneas shows 'the shining quality of an epic hero, his magnanimity, his constancy, his patience, his piety' but these are the qualities of a distinctly Roman hero. I feel that the interpretation by R.D. Williams is somewhat better, when he notes ‘the efforts of Aeneas in the poem to control violence in himself and others meet with only very imperfect success.’ Hardly very heroic. The heroism of Odysseus is somewhat subtler in the Odyssey. You note that he taunts Polyphemus, which is clearly foolish, but if you look at all the things he bravely does to prepare for the escape from the cave, then I would certainly call him heroic. Although he also kills at the end of the text, it seems more justified, to me, as it is for revenge and means something whereas Aeneas' killing seems more cold hearted. I suppose it would be fairly easy to argue either way though.
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Peanut42
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As lumnotglum says, you should probably consider the different types of 'hero' the Romans and Greeks had. To the Romans Aeneas was heroic, in that he didn't let anything stop him from founding Rome. Duty over inclination, that sort of thing.

Greek heroes generally earnt their reputation by fighting, for example Achilles was the perfect Greek hero. But Odysseus earned his 'kleos' through cunning and quick thinking. His ability to esacape Polyphemos shows this.

But I would argue that although both kill at the end of the epics, they retain their heroism. Odysseus kills the suitors who have been terrorising his family and living at his expense. While Aeneas' killing of Turnus may seem cruel, he is justified by the fact that killing Turnus means he can found Rome. Similarly to Odysseus, he is taking revenge for the death of Pallas.
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*Corinna*
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I agree with Peanut42
I never considered Odysseys so much of a hero, exactly because he is renowned for his power in mind and not his abilities in war. Far from thinking of him as a great hero, I always thought that he is not that brave or heroic, because he deals with difficulties by carefully planning his actions and by cheating and lying. This isn't what a true hero does. I think the best are Achilles and Hector,who is actually the greatest one of all, because he fought for his family and his Gods even though he knew he didn't stand a chance.
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Ed.
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To start with ,both are heroes. Different kinds of hero, but heros none the less. Odysseus could not complete Aeneas' mission and vice versa. Odysseus is an advancement of the Illidic hero, his skills of cunning and trickery whilst they would put him out of favor today make him famous in the mythical world. He is a hero ,the Phoenicians recognize the name Odysseus and know it to be heroic. Aeneas is again renowned as a hero, he is famous, his exploits are painted onto Dido's walls before they even meet. Aeneas is designed to be Augustus, the hero and savior of Rome. As such he carries Rome's fate with him in battle (the shield depicting scenes from Rome's history) Aeneas due to his correspondence with the contemporary Roman 'hero' at the time is for me the more heroic, he carries the fate of history on his back, Odysseus on the other hand is a hero for purely selfish means.
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alpday
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id say Odysseus is more heroic. both are different heroes as perceived by their time- but aeneas had to be subbordinate to the gods, his country, his friends, his fam etc, he couldnt be that heroic.. he just had to do what his destiiny was

odysseus COULD be heroic, i he had himself to look after to get home, but for aeneas' mission to succede all his men had to survive, so aeneas couldn't take as many risks- he had think about things alot and possibly be indecisive. whereas odysseus was a great individaulist, but aeneas HAD to be a great... socialist

aeneas couldn be heroic like odyseeus, he had to be human, to allow him to be roman. he had to be a relatable character, and odyseus is not relatable.. even though he a good hero
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wholikeswood
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there were two attributes to a great soldier in the ancient view, i believe:

- prowess in battle
- eloquence in speech

Odysseus is the latter, Aeneas the former.

thats my very compact view of the matter.
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kiss_me_now9
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What do you consider heroic? It's helpful to define this first. Both of them are equally heroic if you don't outline what you mean; Aeneas is heroic because he carries on without faltering towards his end goal. Odysseus is heroic because he's a very physical character, he doesn't let people get the better of him and always has a plan to get out of a situation.

However they both have major flaws - Odysseus is incredible pig-headed/cocky (the Polyphemus incident) which doesn't help him get home. The Greeks probably wouldn't have registered this as a major flaw though. Aeneas is somewhat too focused on his task and ends up screwing Dido over, and results in her death.

Personally I think Odysseus is more heroic because he never strays from his plan (he could easily have stayed with Circe or Calypso). Whilst Aeneas also does this, with him it's almost an obsession, and I think that hinders him too much to make him truly heroic. His act is in itself a heroic deed, but Ody just pips him to the post for me, he has more dimensions and deserves his title.
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the_racoon_did_it
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They are both heroic but in differing ways. Odysseus is a Homeric hero (fights for personal glory so his name will be remembered) whereas Aeneas is a Virgilian Hero (he lives by 'pietas' which is a threefold duty to the Gods, the State and the Family). But then I do agree with kiss_me_now9 in that Aeneas is driven by the Gods (his divine mission) to found a new city in Latium- he never acts by himself, for example, before his death Anchises plays a huge part in the decision making that should have been Aeneas' responsibility, but Odysseus acts on his own behalf.
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Meep!
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Eurgh, Aeneas, Aeneas, Aeneas. Odysseus is awful! He doesn't think before he jeopardises his entire crew (think of his shouting back to Polyphemus, and nearly being killed for it) and he loses his entire crew (although it is true that he has to in order for the story to end in the way Homer intended). Aeneas successfully leads his people through many dangers and difficulties, qithout losing them all.

That said, I genuinely dislike Odysseus - I think he's arrogant, a poor leader, and rubbish for sleeping with anyone he can on the way.
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kiss_me_now9
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But Odysseus' crew were, to be perfectly frank, idiots too. They opened the winds of Aeolus and ate Hyperion's cattle even after Odysseus had specifically told them not to. They didn't trust their leader, which is probably a slight on him, but it's also a difference between the two - People follow Aeneas and trust him, they don't with Odysseus.

Another point I thought of - The romans would probably have considered Aeneas more heroic because he, you know, founded the whole of their race.
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Long Jo(h)n Silver, yarrr
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i think the main problem arising here is that odysseus and aeneas are completely different heroes. one is homeric and one roman. odysseus constitutes the standard greek values of heroism whilst also looking out for himself...odysseus is trying to get home to continue his life, it's not really about anyone else. aeneas, on the other hand, has lost everything. his wife, his city, most of his friends and anchises shortly into the epic. aeneas is the representation of pietas, and his goal isn't for personal gain or welfare, it's for the divine conclusion that the fates and jupiter have ordained. aeneas reaps no benefit from his actions - they are purely for the gain of others, such as Iulus, and it advocates him as a servant rather than the served, thus keeping in the idea that augustus was meant to represent a servant of the roman people...despite his leadership over them, if you get what i mean? if you read the art of the aeneid, it demonstrates the difficulty perfectly of comparing a homeric hero with someone like aeneas...he's passive.

from a modern perspective, aeneas obviously appears more heroic, but to view it as a person from the 21st century is fairly stupid...considering the change in values etc.
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Katbudd
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He did stay with both Circe and Calypso, for years and years, plus he cheated on his wife Penelope with both of them and although it is never explicitly stated I personally suspect he did the same with Nausicaa
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