Both the Odyssey and the Aeneid share some similarities as epics; both describe the trials of a heroic figure who is the ideal representative of a There are even individual scenes in the Aeneid are
borrowed from the Odyssey. Yet, why are Odysseus and Aeneas so unlike one
another? The answer is that the authors lived in two different worlds, whose
values and perceptions varied greatly of a fundamental level.
To illustrate, two common ideas woven into the Odyssey are custom and
recklessness. Customs were handed down by the gods, and were meant to keep
men safe by giving them civilization. When men were reckless (when they
flaunted custom and the gods), they invited retribution and chaos by placing
themselves outside the ordained scope of humanity. Moreover, if the customs
are followed and proper respect given the gods, it is possible for man to live
in harmony indefinitely.
In contrast, the Aeneid propounds upon furor and civitas. Furor is the
discord that lies at the heart of each person which engenders violence, and
this furor must be restrained in order for civilization to work. This gives
rise to the idea of civitas, the overwhelming devotion to the state above
selfish personal desire; this is the only way man can chain furor on a large
scale. Moreover, it is always possible for furor to surface; even after years
of sacrifice and constant vigilance, peace is never guaranteed.
These differences in ethos are most easily seen when Virgil borrows a
scene and transforms it to his own ends. For example, Virgil adopts the
episode where Odysseus washes up on the shore of Skheria and meets the
Phaiakians and uses it to form the core of Aeneid I and II.
In the Odyssey, the episode begins with Odysseus on his makeshift raft,
heading home after all his trials. His eventual passage home has been agreed
upon by Zeus, "whose will is not subject to error."1 However, in the past
Odysseus wounded Po...
1Odyssey V, line 34
2Odyssey IX, lines 571-73
3Aeneid I, page 20
4Aeneid I, page 13 of the 1952 C. Day Lewis translation; all further page
references are from this.
5Aeneid I, page 21
6Both quotes are from Aeneid I, page 14
7Odyssey VII, line 124
8Odyssey VII, line 106
9Odyssey VII, lines 138-140
10Odyssey VII, lines 77-78
11Odyssey VI, lines 210-11
12Odyssey VI, lines 215-16
13Odyssey VIII lines 617-18
14Last four quotes from Aeneid I, page 25
15Aeneid I, pages 25-26
16Last four quotes from Aeneid I, page 26
17Odyssey V, lines 229-233
18Odyssey V, lines 337-38
19Odyssey IX, line 204
20Odyssey X, line 9
21Odyssey X, lines 473-74
22Last two quotes from Aeneid II, page 36