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Half of the room had their faces painted orange and brown. Half of the room had their faces painted black and yellow. I sat and looked at the other side of the room with total disgust. How could they call themselves Clevelanders as they sat and cheered on the enemy?
Then it hit me.
They didn’t — none of them called themselves Clevelanders. As I looked around the lounge of Twin Towers, I realized that most of these fans were here to cheer on their home team in the first Cleveland Browns-Pittsburgh Steelers game in three long years. The fans varied in hometown.
This ethnocentrism can be traced back all through history — even back to the times of Homer and Virgil. Odysseus and Aeneas were both “hometown heroes,” and both were also despised by their opposing countries. Odysseus and Aeneas, both epic heroes, were very similar but there are some differences. The differences between Odysseus and Aeneas are representative of their Greek and Roman cultures respectively.
Odysseus and Aeneas both have an extremely different view of what the meaning of “home” is. They also have a contrasting value of importance on home. This is a parallel that follows them throughout their lives.
Odysseus left home to fight in the Trojan War. He left to serve his country. After hard work he was victorious. He was forced to go to Hell and back when he was to go home. Of course he did take a long break in paradise to experience the good life. Odysseus landed on the island of Calypso. She is immortal and fell in love with Odysseus. They spent the days having passionate sex and he had the opportunity to stay there forever drinking nectar and eating ambrosia.
So why’d he leave?
He wanted to go home.
Home is extremely important to Odysseus just as home is important for most Greeks. Greece is not a huge country. At no point in history did Greece become a large empire taking over great amounts of land. Greece is a specific place and the Greek traditions are found only within the borders.
Aeneas also went to fight in the Trojan War. He also was a national hero. He was a great warrior. Both Odysseus and Aeneas were trying to head home.
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Aeneas was going home because Jupiter told him to.
Do you honestly think Aeneas wanted to head back to Rome? Of course he did not want to. He was having a ball fighting in the war. He was a vicious warrior. Let’s take a look at the typical Roman soldier. They fought with swords and shield without much, if any, armor. He was a natural born killer. Aeneas fit the cookie cutter format of the Roman soldier.
He stopped at Carthage and was perfectly happy consummating with Dido (after a little help falling in love from his mother and Juno). Jupiter told Aeneas he needed to leave, and soon. He acquiesced to leaving. Even his mom, Venus, didn’t care if he ended up heading home or not. After all, she’s the one that sent Cupid to make Dido fall in love with him.
Taking a look at Rome, this is an example of how Roman life is carried out. Rome is huge. The empire included almost all of Europe at the height of the empire. Home isn’t really that carefully defined. The Roman way of life is simply the way of life just about anywhere that he could travel. Aeneas did not care about getting home because home wasn’t such a peaceful place as it was in the Greek society.
Though neither the Odyssey nor the Aenead will ever go down in history as a great love story. There is a difference of how the two heroes handle their love affairs and it too is representative of their cultures.
Odysseus was faithful to his wife — sort of. Sure, he may have spent a while on Calypso’s island, but sleeping with an immortal isn’t against the rules. The important thing is that Odysseus ultimately chose to go home to his wife. He also wanted to make sure she had not cheated on him. Though neither of their primitive cultures had a great faithfulness, the Greek culture definitely had a stronger family life.
Did Aeneas care for his wife? I’m sure he did somewhat, but look what he did to his wife after the Greeks came battling out of the Trojan Horse. He grabbed his father Anchises and ran out with his wife trailing. She ended up getting trampled to death. He left his wife for dead as he saved his old father.
Love for his wife seemed nonexistent. In fact, that’s true with much of Roman culture: women have the same social status as slaves. In fact, many of the slaves are women.
Even the way in which the battles were fought were representative of the cultures. Odysseus lost all of his ships and all of his crew as well. He had to fight hard, but eventually he pulled through. Aeneas’ battles did not come too difficult. Even though the Trojans lost the war, it didn’t seem like it was too bad of a defeat through Virgil’s writing.
Again, the cultures reflect this difference. The Greeks worked hard and kept their small thriving country not only afloat but successful. They had their hardships, but they worked through them. The Romans had all the glory in the world. Even though they were battled down to the constraints of the Italian border, they still take great pride in their country. They don’t see it as a great loss, but as a great time to look back to.
Aeneas and Odysseus may have differences, but all of them are representative of their cultures. Homer and Virgil may or may not have done this on purpose, but they have both shaped literature in doing so in amazing ways.