Comparison of Homer and Virgil’s Tragic Hero

1908 Words Nov 14th, 2011 8 Pages
Comparison of Homer and Virgil’s Tragic Hero

Homer, an ancient Greek epic poet, influenced many writers in the ancient Greek and Roman culture, particularly Virgil. Virgil, most famous for his epic poem The Aeneid demonstrates Homer’s influence through similar characters, mythology, and ideals. Homer in both his most famous works the Iliad and The Odyssey weaves poetry based on centuries worth of oral stories handed down and uses a sophisticated style of writing that is still recognized today. Although the tragic hero is defined slightly differently in modern text than ancient Greek and Roman works, Aristotle defined a tragic hero in his work Poetics as “the character between these two extremes,-that of a man who is not eminently good
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Homer used pride as the tragic flaw that Achilles learned to overcome, whereas Virgil used a sense of duty as Aeneas’s tragic flaw. Homer portrayed Achilles as arrogant because he allowed his men to fight a battle he knew they could not win without him. Achilles asked his mother for Zeus to favor the Trojans so that he could regain the honor that he felt Agamemnon stripped away. Aeneas’s tragic flaw unlike Achilles was his sense of duty, which in turn he encountered pitfalls during his escape from Troy. Achilles battled for personal glory and his own honor as a warrior whereas Aeneas spent his time attempting to fulfill his mission, which forced him to invade and conquer, a duty given to him by the gods. “Virgil unites and conjoins all the virtues in the formation of his hero: He gives him religion towards the gods, piety towards his country, tenderness and friendship towards his relations, and equity and justice towards all” (Rapin). On the contrary, Homer magnified the tragic flaw in Achilles, which cost him his sanity because he became obsessive with revenge. Although Aeneas’s flaw appears minor in comparison to Achilles, it led him to be an instrument of gods, which in turn destroyed innocent lives. Mercury appeared to Aeneas to remind him of his mission and told him, “Oblivious of your own world, your own kingdom…He [Zeus] and no other sent me to you…Think of the

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