Homer’s The Odyssey and Virgil’s The Aeneid are both considered some of the most influential literature of ancient times. Written more than six hundred years a part it is a wonder how they have so many striking similarities. However, a look into why they were written can offer interesting insight into the history of their eras. While Homer’s The Odyssey and Virgil’s The Aeneid share many commonalities including plot and characters, they each hold respective differences. In addition to each author having a different writing style, The Aeneid is used as a form of propaganda while The Odyssey is a record of Greek myths and values.
Although written more than six hundred years apart, it is apparent that Virgil pulled much of his writing from Homer’s. This is demonstrated through the similarities in plots between The Odyssey and The Aeneid. The first half of The Aeneid can be summarized as a hero wandering, much like the story of The Odyssey. One example of this is in book 1 of The Aeneid when Aeneas and the Trojans land at Carthage. Dido says to Aeneas “come rather, dear guest and tell us from the beginning the Greek stratagems, the ruin of your town and your sea-faring” (1.1027-1029). She is asking Aeneas to recount his adventures and thus begins the rest of the epic. Odysseus has a similar experience with Alkínoös when he says “Now by the same rule, friend, you must not be secretive an longer…But come, now, put it for me clearly, tell me the sea ways that you wandered, and the shores you touched; the cities, and the men therein…Tell me why you should grieve so terribly over the Argives and the fall of Troy” (8. 587-617). And so begin both epics, with the main character being asked to recount their story.
Odysseus and Aeneas have another similar adventure when they land on the island of the Cyclopes and the land of the Harpies, respectively. The Trojans notice the Harpies, flying bugs with faces of women, but are too distracted by the prospect of food. Virgil writes, “When we pulled in to port, what met our eyes but sleek herds in the meadows everywhere and flocks of goats, no one attending them. Setting upon them with out swords…we set out couches for a savory feast” (3.302-308). After battling the Harpies, the Trojans are eventually cursed for the rest of their journey. Correspondingly, Odysseus runs into the same misadventure when him and his men feast on the sheep of the Cyclops. As soon as they saw the goats, the men “ran to fetch [their] hunting bows and long-shanked laces from the ships” (8.167-168). They, too, were cursed at the beginning of their journey.
In addition to these plot details both epics contain similar characters. Both Odysseus and Aeneas have godly antagonists, Poseidon and Juno. After Odysseus stint with the Cyclops, the Cyclops prays to his father, who happens to be Poseidon. He prays, “O hear me, lord, blue girdler of the islands…grant that Odysseus, raider of cities, never see his home…Should destiny intend that he...