This is part one of a six part article exploring the Classical traditions of heroism. My high school philosopher teacher once remarked that one can perceive perfection as a balance. With that in mind, consider the idea that perfection in a hero is found in the balance of masculinity and femininity.
Considering Homer as a single poet supports the belief that the Greek archetype of heroism must have some sort of divine interaction with it, which in turn influences the Roman archetype. Some think that Homer refers to a group of people while others prefer to think that Homer is one poet. Kullmann takes on the opinion that Homer is a singular person, a poet who could not write, but rather had someone write for him.
However, Kullmann explores one of the problems with that theory, which is the difference between the relationship of heroes and men in the two epic poems. Iliad prefers to depict the relationship between gods and men as one where the gods frequently intervene in the affairs of men.
On the battle field, Aphrodite swoops in to save precious Diomedes while grey-eyed Athena is depicted fighting on behalf of the Greeks. This interaction between gods and men reveals that the culture believed that gods had a role in their everyday life. Aeneas has interactions with Neptune, Venus, Juno, Aeolus, and Mercury, but they do not directly intervene to change fate, rather to derail it or hasten it. The interactions between god and men in the Iliad alters whether or not specific men die thus as a whole heroes are seen as mere playthings of the gods.
This idea portrays the Greeks as having an external locus of control rather than a Roman-like internal locus of control. Meanwhile over in the Odyssey, the gods take more of a hands off approach to their relationship with heroes. Interestingly enough, while the gods may be different, the heroes are quite similar.
This article explains that for all intents and purposes of the paper, Homer is a single person who originated both epics. Also, this article highlights the differences in the roles that the gods have in each epic by pointing out and analyzing instances such as Odysseus’s return to Ithaca. Odysseus’s homecoming, especially when one considers how Aeneas was able to make the same homecoming, demonstrates that the Vergil and therefore the Roman culture rely more on the actual man to do the work, not gods. Odysseus’s homecoming was not exactly grandeur, but he had the opportunity to be reunited with his family as a result of gods propelling him on his journey. This shows that there exists disconnect between Greeks and Romans. While the Greeks appraise the idea of receiving help from the gods and have fate on their side, the Roman interpretation of a hero is one who advances all the more boldly against them [misfortunes].
Livy's historical work includes mythology, containing the story of the Aeneid that backs up Vergil’s assertions about heroism. Book one is an account of the founding of Rome. The story is described as twofold. The first version being more similar to the Aeneid, where Aeneas and his men take over the Land of Latium and Romulus and Remus are suckled by Lupa. Then Romulus and Remus have a feud and Romulus kills Remus and starts Rome. This is the version that the Sybil said would come to past. The other version of the story is that the war never happened, a peaceful treaty occurred and that the founding of Rome was a different ordeal. History was thought of differently in Roman times than it is now.
Mythology was a bigger part of history. The importance of this work is that it backs up the Aeneid historically. Virgil's intent when writing was to not only show that the Romans were better than the Greeks, but to also prove that Aeneas is related to Augustus.
This connection achieves what Virgil intends to achieve, which is that Rome is more successful than Greece because the hero of Rome is greater than the heroes of Greece. The Iliad and Odyssey as the longest epics of their time did not have any work to be compared with. In fact, one of the first works translated into Latin from Greek was the Odyssey. The Aeneid’s purpose was to one up the Iliad and the Odyssey, which contributes to Vergil’s supercharged Homeric hero that even Livy supports with his historical account.