The Odyssey and The Aeneid are two of the most celebrated and read classical epics. The Odyssey which is centered on a land called Greece, takes the fall of the city of Troy as its starting point and crafts a new epic around the struggle of one of those Greek warriors, the hero Odysseus.
It tells the story of his nostos, or journey home, to northwest Greece during the ten-year period after the Greek victory over the Trojans. A tale of wandering, it takes place not on a field of battle but on fantastic islands and foreign lands.
The Aeneid, on the other hand is Roman. It tells the self-consciously imaginary tale of Aeneas, the legendary prince of Troy who somehow escaped the sack of his city, fleeing with his young son by his side, and his father on his back. Many say that The Aeneid is a copycat of The Odyssey. In this paper, I will discuss their similarities and differences through two of their leading lady characters, Dido and Circe.
Dido, the wife of Aenas, can be described as loving, giving, and submissive. However, her love and passion for Aenas drives her to the limits to the extent that she took her life. Jupiter, the chief Roman god, dispatched Mercury with a message to Aeneas, recalling him to his duty and commanding him to resume the voyage.
Horrified by his intention to leave, Dido bitterly reproached Aenas, but his deep sense of piety gave him strength enough to launch the fleet again. Then the weeping queen mounted a pyre which she had ordered to be prepared and, having run herself through with a sword, was consumed by the flames.
The exact opposite of Dido, Circe from the Odyssey gives not love to men but merely treats them as dinner. Circe also known as Kirke, traps the men that are lost in her island. She uses her beauty and charm along with her female followers to lure men into their lair. She then turns Odyssey’s men into pigs and this may be a symbolism of how Circe sees men, they are pigs.
Aeneid, The Odyssey, and The Inferno
However, she was victimized by Odyssey when he fooled her. Odysseus took his potion with Hermes’ advice and went boldly into Circe’s house. She welcomed him as another victim and gave him her vile potions but the ‘good medicine’ gave Odysseus protection. When Circe thought the drugs had taken effect, she struck Odysseus with her wand.
The wand was supposed to complete the transformation process but Odysseus drew his sword and sprang upon her. The astonished Circe surrendered instantly. She released the twenty-two pig-men and ceremoniously anointed them with another one of her potions. The men were restored to their original forms but they were taller and more handsome than before they had been enswined. Circe can be described as a strong, bold, and independent woman which is the opposite of Dido, Aenas’ wife.
Dido can be seen as a sacrificing wife who lets the fate decide her future while Circe takes matters in her own hands and gets her evil behaviors done. Through these two characters we see that The Aeneid manifests what a good Roman citizen is.
As according to David Pettersen, Virgil’s new "foundation myth" is also a practical guide to being a good Roman citizen. So Aeneas embodies all the virtues and his behavior is always impeccably correct, as befits the first Roman nobleman. We can also say that Dido is a model Roman woman who is willing to sacrifice her life and love for the empire. On the other hand, the Odyssey is a more adventurous story that does not limit itself to a stereotype of characters.
Stewart, Michael. Greek Mythology: From the Iliad to the Fall of the Last Tyrant. 14 November 2005. 15 December 2006 <http://messagenet.com/myths/bios/circe.html>
Pettersen, Derek. The Aenid. 15 December 2006 <http://www.bookideas.com/reviews /index.cfm?fuseaction=displayReview&id=617>
15 December 2006 <http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/odyssey/context.html>