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The epitome of a hero in a Roman legend

The story of Aeneas, as told by Virgil in Aeneid, is directly intertwined with the Greek mythological heroes such as Odysseus and Achilles. All of them are major characters in the timeless story of the Trojan War (Homer). Unlike Odysseus and Achilles who are largely associated with Greek mythology, however, Aeneas is more attached with the founding of Rome. In fact, it was alleged that in Aeneid, Virgil innovates on the story of Dardanus’ (Zeus’ son from whom Anchises – Aeneas father – can trace back his lineage) migration to Troy by making his starting place Corythus in Etruria instead of Samothrace (Virgil).

The benefit of the innovation for Virgil is that it places the ancient origins of Rome squarely in Italy. Furthermore, Aeneas’ arrival to Italy can then be represented as a return to his ancestral homeland. Perhaps, it is Aeneas’ special relationship with the gods that makes him a prime candidate for the central role in the development of a Roman legend. Genealogically, he can trace his lineage back to divine origins on the side of both his mother (Aphrodite/Venus) and father.

Moreover, the religious piety that is attributed to Aeneas in the Homeric Iliad becomes one of his defining characteristics. One of the stories that have often been told is that it was Odysseus and Aeneas who found Rome, which they named after one of the Trojan women, Rhome. More than this, however, Aeneas exemplifies virtue and pietas — roughly translated as piety, though the word is far more complex and has a sense of being duty-bound and respectful of divine will, family and homeland.

And his struggle between doing what he wants to do as a man, and doing what he must as a virtuous hero makes him a more realistic character than the heroes of Homeric poetry, such as Odysseus.

References

Mack, Maynard. Ed. The Norton Anthology of World Literature. Expanded edition. W. W. Norton & Company, 1997. Dryden, John (translator). The Aenid by Virgil. July 19, 2006. http://classics. mit. edu/Virgil/aeneid. html Butler, Samuel (translator). The Iliad by Homer. July 19, 2006. http://classics. mit. edu/Homer/iliad. html

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