Compare and Contrast the Divine Machinery of Odyssey and Aeneid

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Compare and Contrast the Divine Machinery of the Odyssey and the Aeneid

The Aeneid is a poem of Fate, which acts as an ever-present determinant, and as such Aeneas is entirely in the hands of destiny. The unerring and inexorable passage of fate, assisted by the Gods' intervention, is impossible to prevent and its path does create many victims along the way, who are expendable for Rome to be created. In the Aeneid, mortals suffer, no matter what they do or how good a life they lead and they are unable to rely on the Gods for assistance. However, the Odyssey is a poem of morality, where the good are exulted and the bad are punished ("The blessed gods don't like wicked acts. Justice and fair play are what they respect" O.14.84). It is the gods that uphold the distinction and are very active in passing judgement. No god supports the suitors or the Ithacan crew. Odysseus, the righteous man receives divine support since he is a man worthy of it. Not so in the Aeneid, where Juno supports the enemies of the Trojans, with such men as the dastardly Mezentius. In the Odyssey, destiny is one's own responsibility; instead of leaving all things up to fate, the characters have a significant influence upon his or her own existence. Whilst occasional prophecies punctuate the literary landscape of the Odyssey (e.g. the wanderings of Odysseus after he returns home, and the prophecy of Telemus), they are more poetic tools than fate determinants.

The Aeneid is the story of Rome's creation. It's intended audience was the Romans of 29BC, centuries after the original tale. Thus, the outcome is known right from the start, and is confirmed by Jupiter's speech ("Rome, the rulers of the world...it has been decreed" A.1.282). ...

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... gods operate on extremely different terms. The Aeneid's gods are ruled by destiny, despite their own wishes and require frequent control by Jupiter. It is a matter of hero against hero with Turnus pitted against Aeneas, patron goddess against patron goddess with Venus in conflict with Juno. Luckily for Odysseus, it is he and Athene against monsters, trials and trepidation, not against a deity with a grudge or a favourite to pit against him. Though we might consider Poseidon who acts against him, he is happy to leave Odysseus alone when he reaches the shores of Scherie ("so much for you" O.5.376), as Polyphemus' curse is now satiated. He receives no more trouble from Poseidon from that moment onward.

Works Cited:

Homer. Odyssey. Trans. Robert Fagles. NY: Penguin Books, 1990.

Virgil, Aeneid. Trans. Allen Mandelbaum. New York: Bantam, 1991.

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