The Curse of Odysseus and Aeneas

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“The gods told you to do it, a likely story”: The Curse of Odysseus and Aeneas As a noun, the Oxford English Dictionary defines a curse as “an utterance consigning, or supposed or intended to cosign, (a person or thing) to spiritual and temporal evil, the vengeance of the deity.” As a verb, the OED says, “to utter against (persons or things) words which consign, or are intended or supposed to cosign, them to evil spiritual or temporal, as the wrath of God or the malignity of fate.” For classic heroes Odysseus and Aeneas, their curses were the result of their lack of foresight and selfish behavior towards their host. Although both happened into the Cyclops’ island and Dido’s Carthage by accident, neither men proved to be model guest. Angering their host, the title characters received curses that were tailored to their quest. For Odysseus, it was a prolonged return to his homeland and family, and for Aeneas, it was the country that he would found would never have peace with Carthage; there would be endless warfare. What Odysseus and Aeneas cannot understand is that their actions have not only caused physical pain to their host, but they have embarrassed them in front of their peers and their pride and reputations have forever been tarnished by actions that were unnecessary. Yet, despite their failings, both Homer and Virgil lay the blame of the curses not on the heroes, but on the victims. Odysseus recounts his tale with the Cyclops as if it were some overreaction. Odysseus has poked the only eye the Cyclops has; yet he is the victim. Aeneas has taken the virginity of a queen, was leaving her home in the middle of the night, yet she overreacted to his passiveness when discussing their relationship. When Odysseus and his me... ... middle of paper ... ...k side and that gave him clearance to do whatever he wanted. More than furthering the plot of the epics, Homer and Virgil use curses as a teaching tool for their audiences to learn a few points about being a guest and what happens when those rules are broken: as a guest, never insult the intelligence of your host, but at the same time, be truthful to them about your reasons for being there; if your host was hospitable, it is unnecessary to leave unannounced; if your host was inhospitable and you have to use force to leave, use enough force to get away safely, but there is no need shame your host, especially after they have acknowledged your superiority. If the audience can avoid offending their host, the gods will bless them. Works Cited Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. Robert Fagles. New York. Viking, 1996. Print. Virgil. The Aeneid. Trans.
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