Homer’s Odyssey arguably stands out head and shoulders above any other piece of epic literature produced by Western civilization for nearly three millennia. Most remarkable is the extent to which the Western hero archetype is to this day still a result of the molding that occurred upon the character of Odysseus so long ago. In imagining a police lineup of the most profoundly influencing protagonists of Western epic poetry, surely Odysseus would impress in stature and roguish airs far beyond the others for is not the gray-eyed Athena, daughter of rain-bringing Zeus himself, bound in devotion to this mortal hero? It is she who repeatedly enhances Odysseus’ appearance so as to impress upon others his god-like qualities:
And Athene, she who was born from Zeus, made him
Bigger to look at and stouter, and on his head
Made his hair flow in curls, like the hyacinth flower . . .
So she poured grace upon his head and shoulders. (6.229-35)
In anointing Odysseus in similar fashion throughout the tale of his arduous journey homeward, the ancient as well as modern reader cannot help but look to Odysseus as a role model. Implicit in this behavioral model is one of Homer’s many subtexts, namely that having one or more of the gods on one’s side is not enough to guarantee even a partial success in one’s endeavors. The god Poseidon stands in direct opposition to Odysseus’ goal of reaching Ithaca, yet his attacks upon the hero always fall just short of actually killing him. Instead, with each calamity that befalls Odysseus at Poseidon’s hand, the hero is faced with a parallel inward struggle. Surviving the physical realm at first seems to be the test when actually it …
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…side of the woman (the animus) and the passive, feminine side of the man (the anima). Although the two figures are always tempting the ego to identify itself with them, a real understanding even on the personal level is possible only if the identification is refused. (Jung 16: 469)
Perhaps The Odyssey, when seen from the perspective of Jungian and post-Jungian psychology, offers the reader a rich model for their own psychological development and an opportunity to re-examine the hero archetype in Western civilization. Works Cited
Cirlot, J.E., A Dictionary of Symbols. New York: Barnes
Comparing the Aeneid and the Odyssey
Both the Odyssey and the Aeneid represent their cultures very well, but they express different ideas on what one should strive for in life. There are also different forces that pushed both epics to be written. The Aeneid expresses the Roman idea of pietas which means to show extreme respect for one’s ancestors. We see this in Aeneas when he is pictured caring his father away from burning Troy. He has pietas because he cared so much for his father that in fleeing from Troy he took up his father over his shoulder to save his from certain death. This is not the only major idea in the Aeneid. There is also a very political focus. The Roman were very interested in politics which comes through in the Aeneid. The Odyssey has the Greek idea of arete trapped somewhere among the many themes. Arete is a strive for perfection in both mind and body. It is a much more personal and individual idea than the Roman pietas. In the most basic seance the Aeneid and the Romans have a much more political focus and duty to the state ( republic ) than the Greeks who honor tradition , family , and arete.
Vergil shows the duty to Rome with the love between Dido and Aeneas. Venus ordered Cupid to shoot Dido with one of his magic arrows so that she would fall in love with Aeneas. This was very unfair to Dido because Aeneas had to go on and found Rome. After Cupid hit Dido with an arrow she does fall madly and deeply in love with Aeneas but a problem develops : Aeneas starts to fall in love with Dido. This can not happen because he has such a bright and definite future and Dido just does not fit into it. He eventually has to leave her and fulfill his destiny. This is a good place to see how strong the duty to Rome is. It is expecte…
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…lot to be desired. The Roman individual interest and desire to be great takes a little away from the story. In fact it may have been one of the reasons for their down fall. I like the Greeks view a little better. Homer wasn’t writing this for himself or for anyone else. He wanted to do it for the people. He wanted to show people what was valuable about tradition and how in looking at tradition important values were demonstrated. This paper has lead me to believe this and might do so to others. I can see where both ideas have their place, but one makes for a better story , and the other makes for a valuable historical tool.
Gransden, Karl W. Virgil: The Aeneid. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1990.
Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. Robert Fagles. New York: Viking, 1996. Print