The Underworld and How It Reflects the Goals and Realities of Virgil and Homer

1595 words 7 pages
The Underworld and How it Reflects the Goals and Realities of Virgil and Homer Two epic poems from two great civilizations depict their authors' varying views of the Underworld: The Odyssey and The Aeneid. The Greek poet Homer describes the hardships of Odysseus and his struggle to return home to his beloved wife and family after the Trojan War in The Odyssey. The Roman poet Virgil composed The Aeneid for the first emperor of the Roman Empire, Caesar Augustus, in order to rebuild Rome after the civil war had ended. The Aeneid portrays a demigod, Aeneas, whose mission is to create a grand city that will be known as Rome. This paper analyzes the differences and similarities in how Virgil and Homer view the Underworld in The Odyssey …show more content…

Finally, Homer and Virgil have divergent values and goals that are reflected in their depiction of the Underworld. The main goal of Virgil is political in nature, compared to Homer's goal of entertaining his audience through mythology, including the mythology of death. Homer only aims to entertain his audience through depicting the Underworld as a place of death, the end of all that is precious to life. Evans Lansing Smith argues that Homer wants to reinforce the mythical views of the Underworld in his time. At the same time, he stresses that when Virgil changes who his hero will meet, the father instead of the mother (as in The Odyssey), and depicting differences in what can be found in the Underworld, Virgil, in effect, is showing the rise of patriarchal values and collectivity over matriarchy and individualism. The Underworld in The Aeneid essentially portrays the historical vision of Aeneas, which demonstrates changes from Greek to Roman civilizations, particularly the “increased centrality of patriarchal values in Augustan Rome with their emphasis on reason and practical concerns of Empire building and civil service,” and which sharply contrasts with the “mysticism and matriarchal orientation of The Odyssey” (61). When Aeneas meets his father, Anchises is watching how spirits are leaving the Underworld and