Iliad, Odyssey, Aeneid: An Epic Trilogy — An essay by Tomas Rocha
The Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid are epic poems. These poems share enough similarities to be considered a trilogy of sorts. Each poem shares a common element: the Trojan War. In the Iliad, there is the fighting of the Trojan War. In the Odyssey, there is a return from the Trojan War. Finally, in the Aeneid, there is an escape from the ruin of the Trojan War. Although they share a common war, each poem also contains multiple parts that differentiate them from each other, which I will be discussing over the course of this essay.
One of these parts is that the Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid are not all written in the same language. The Aeneid was written in Latin by a Roman poet Virgil, who I will talk about in more detail later in this essay. In contrast to that, the Iliad and Odyssey were written in Greek by a Greek poet Homer, whom I will also talk about later in this essay. This variation of multiple languages shows that the Greek and Roman cultures were both interested in these stories and wanted to put their distinct spin on them.
The Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid inspired some other great works in the history of literature. Like Dante’s Divine Comedy and perhaps even Cervantes’s Don Quixote. This path of inspiration began with Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey which helped to inspire Virgil’s Aeneid. The Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid’s stories were great in a sense that they were not only popular in their own ancient Greek and Roman times but the Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid also left enough room for others to add and expand to the world they brought to life through their impact on the world of Greece’s and Rome’s culture through the stories they told.
Through the different stories they told, the Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid impacted Greek and Roman cultures. They impacted these cultures in a way that they are not only remembered and loved by the Romans and Greeks of ancient times, but are also loved and still are loved by us in modern times, and virtually every time period in between. The Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid were always around as a source for others as great works that writers could learn from, be inspired by, and adapt. In other words, these epic poems created an impact that inspired not only the tales of their own ages but also inspired some of the tales from ours.
Without the Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid, we would not have the Divine Comedy, Don Quixote, Ulysses, and even children’s books like the Percy Jackson series. All of these were inspired either entirely or in part by the Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid or other books that took inspiration from the Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid. Overall, the Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid made an impact on Greek and Roman cultures and our own cultures. Through this impact on the culture of the Greeks and Romans, the Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid paved the way for others who adored their writing to take parts from this epic trilogy and incorporate it in their own stories.
In this text, I will summarize the Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid in individual summaries. The summaries will be in chronological order of the Iliad, Odyssey, and finally the Aeneid. In those summaries of the Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid, I will give a short introduction paragraph with some exploration into the myths or origins of the Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid, and then I will launch into the main summary of the Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid. After the summaries, I will provide a section with a collective commentary on the Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid. Finally, I will present an ending, where I will reflect on the books and the comments. Through these summaries and this text as a whole, I hope to introduce you and guide you through the Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid in a clear and engaging way that will bring you to value these works as much as I do.
The Iliad is the first work in this trilogy and is the catalyst from which the Odyssey and Aeneid draw inspiration. The Iliad is believed to be written in the 8th century BC by the Greek poet Homer, although some people believe Homer may have just been a pen name or that he simply didn’t exist, with the name used to cover up a group of Greek authors. For the sake of this essay, I’ll just refer to the author as Homer.
The Iliad and other epic poems were originally made to be recited in theaters or events. These epic poems were written in verse rather than prose, and the Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid were written in dactylic hexameter. The dactylic hexameter is a style of writing verse that consists of six feet or dactyls per meter. Each dactyl consists of one long syllable and then two short syllables. At first, epic poetry was often sung and even joined by music. These melodies are thought to help highlight the flow of the verse. The effect the dactylic hexameter had on the Iliad is still evident in the text of the Iliad today.
The main character in the Iliad is Achilles, the Greek’s best soldier, whose mother is the sea deity, Thetis. Thetis bathed Achilles in the River Styx when he was a baby, holding him by the heel, making him invincible in every part, except the heel. If you pay attention as you read the Iliad you can find similar things to it repeated by the stories of the Odyssey and Aeneid in their own two summaries.
The Iliad is, as I like to call it, a “great Greek work” which means to me that the work was made by the Greeks and was great or influential among the Greeks. Typically, Greek tales have roots or origins based on some sort of myth or legend. This myth says the war started because of the famous “golden apple.”
The myth starts with a wedding where all of the gods are in attendance. Eris, the goddess of strife, threw an irresistible golden apple to start a conflict. On the apple, the words “For the most beautiful” were written on it. The golden apple was thrown right between Athena, the goddess of wisdom, Hera, the wife of Zeus the king of the gods and the queen of the gods, and Aphrodite, the goddess of love. As soon as the apple lands, the three goddesses immediately start to quarrel over who is the most beautiful. Before it got out of hand, the conflict was resolved by Zeus, the king of the gods. To resolve the conflict, Zeus chooses a mortal shepherd named Paris to be the judge. All the goddesses immediately promise Paris gifts to sway him into choosing them. Hera promises world domination. Athena promises the prospect of being the greatest hero ever. Finally, Aphrodite promises to give him Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world, who is already married to Menelaus, the king of Sparta.
Paris immediately chooses Aphrodite and her promises of love, and she makes him a prince of Troy, so he can get into Menelaus’s court as a visitor. When he arrives, Aphrodite gives Helen a mad love for Paris, and together, Paris and Helen escape into the night. The Greeks are infuriated about this, especially Menelaus, who gathers the best fighters and armies from all of Greece. With these armies and his brother Agamemnon, the king of the Greeks, Menelaus sets sail to destroy Troy.
On the way they capture and loot a few of the nearby cities that are allied with Troy, causing the Trojans to barricade themselves in their impenetrable walls. However, one of those cities is where they capture Chryseis, causing Chryses, the father of Chryseis, to come to the Greek’s encampment.
We start with Chryses, a priest of Apollo, coming to the Greek army, which is encamped near Troy and has endured nine years of war, to ask for his daughter, Chryseis, back. He confronts Agamemnon and offers a ransom. The rest of the Greeks urge him to accept, but Agamemnon rudely declines and threatens Chryses. After this, Chryses prays to Apollo to punish the Greek army, and Apollo sends a deadly plague. The Greeks soon realize their mistake and Agamemnon gives back Chryseis, but he demands a settlement from the Greek’s own spoils. Achilles taunts him for this, and Agamemnon flies into a rage and takes Brysis, a beautiful maiden Achilles had captured and taken as his wife, Agamemnon takes her as his slave. Achilles, in his fury, rebukes Agamemnon and says that he will not fight for the Greeks.
After this, both the Greeks and Trojans gather their armies. Both sides, tired of the nine years of war, have arranged a duel between Menelaus, the brother to Agamemnon, and Paris, brother to Hector, the greatest Trojan warrior. Both of the men had played a great role in how the war started. The war started because Paris kidnapped Menelaus’s wife, Helen, the most beautiful woman on earth. Menelaus, inflamed with fury over the sight of Paris, immediately seems to be on top. He is about to kill Paris when he is saved by Aphrodite, the goddess of love, who teleports him into the impenetrable walls of Troy. But since Paris was saved by Aphrodite, he forfeited the duel. The war is about to end until Hera convinces a Trojan archer to shoot Menelaus. Menelaus isn’t killed by the shot, but war erupts straight after.
The gods immediately get involved, with the first being Athena, who finds Diomedes, a Greek, and gives him courage, increased skill in battle, and the ability to see gods in battle. Diomedes cuts through soldier after soldier and corners Aeneas, the son of Aphrodite. Aphrodite comes to save Aeneas but is stabbed by Diomedes. Apollo comes and saves Aeneas himself, but Diomedes attacks him and Apollo, outraged, calls Ares, the god of war, to slaughter the Greek army.
Diomedes sees that they have no chance and is about to call a retreat when Athena comes in and helps him by fighting by his side and helps him impale Ares. He comes up to Olympus in rage and agony and is healed by his father, Zeus, the king of the gods. Zeus bans all interference in the Trojan war in light of these events. Ajax and Hector then duel which ends in a tie out of mutual respect but then the tide of the battle turns dramatically because the favour of the gods goes to the Trojans Hector leads the Trojans, forcing the Greeks into their makeshift stone walls that surround their ships and camp. After this, Agamemnon realizes he needs Achilles to fight and sends an embassy with Ajax and Odysseus to him offering gold, horses, land, women, including Brysis, and much more in exchange for him to fight for the Greeks again. Achilles refuses all these gifts and continues his anger. With this done, Odysseus, Diomedes, and Nestor raid the Trojan camp and steal some of their horses which helps to raise the troops’ spirits. However, after this, the Trojans storm the ramparts of the wall and nearly burn the Greek ships.
Patroclus, Achilles’s friend and chariot driver, is worried about the Greeks and begs Achilles to let him dress up in his armour to fight and rally the troops. Achilles agrees. Patroclus smashes through the Trojan army, many of the Trojans freezing in terror when they see him, for they believe he is Achilles. Hector puts a stop to this by killing Patroclus and taking Achilles’s armour.
Achilles hears of this and flies into a surge of grief and fury. He asks his mother, Thetis, to ask Hephaestus, the god of fire, to forge him a new suit of armour, because his old suit of armour was taken by Hector when he killed Patroclus. Achilles confronts Hector and kills him, but his grief isn’t settled by this and he ties the body of Hector to his chariot and drags him around the walls of Troy. After this Achilles holds elaborate funeral games for Patroclus, with races, boxing, and spear throwing.
When this is over, we see that in the city of Troy, Priam, the king of the Trojans and Hector’s father, is going into the Greek camp outside of the city of Troy to retrieve Hector’s body alone. With the help of Hermes, Priam sneaks into Achilles’s tent and talks with him. They both, at the core, are mourning someone and this is how Priam connects with Achilles and convinces him to get Hector’s body back. And so, Priam brings Hector’s body back for all of Troy to mourn him. And thus, Hector is buried and the first part in this epic trilogy, the Iliad, ends.
The Odyssey is the second part of the “trilogy”. It is another “great Greek work” and also believed to be written by Homer in the 8th century BC. This part of the story tells the tale of the return from the Trojan war that was described in the Iliad. The main character, Odysseus, is the person who thought of the way to end the Trojan War through the well known Trojan horse. The story of Odysseus’ return is nonetheless as famous as the story of the Trojan war. The Odyssey is built from the end of the Iliad and is an epilogue of sorts. It is one of the surviving books in another series “The Returns” which is about the returning of the various heroes of the Iliad and the Odyssey was considered to be the best one of the series.
We begin the Odyssey with the famous invocation of the Muse, “Tell me about a complicated man.” After this, the gods meet and Athena pleads to her father, Zeus about Odysseus, the king of Ithaca, returning home. Zeus allows her to help Odysseus get back home and sends Hermes to the island of Calypso where Odysseus is staying to order Calypso, a nymph who loves Odysseus, to let Odysseus leave.
Athena goes to the house of Odysseus in Ithaca, where his wife Penelope is being harassed by suitors, who all believe Odysseus is dead, a belief held by the rest of Ithaca. There Athena, in disguise, tells Telemachus, Odysseus’s son, that Odysseus is alive. Afterwards, Telemachus sneaks out to learn more about his father. He travels to Pylos and Sparta and learns about the story of the Trojan war and the returns from the war from the kings Nestor, the king of Pylos and Menelaus, the king of Sparta.
Meanwhile, Odysseus constructs a raft and begins to sail home. Unfortunately, Poseidon wrecks his raft and Odysseus washes up on Phaeacia. He is found by Nausicaa, the princess of Phaeacia and is taken to the palace where he tells the king and queen of Phaeacia about his sufferings.
Odysseus tells the Phaecia of his proud fleet being driven off course to the land of the Cicones, where they were driven out by the giants that lived there. And how his crew were tempted in the Land of the Lotus-Eaters, where the Lotus-Eaters convinced some of them to eat the fruit of the lotus, and those who ate it forgot who they were. Then, Odysseus talks about him and his crew reaching the land of the Cyclops, where they were captured by Polyphemus, a Cyclops who ate men. Odysseus and his crew escaped by telling the Cyclops that his name was “Noman,” and blinding him so that when he calls for help, he says that “Noman” has hurt him. Then, Odysseus and his men sneak out and in his pride, Odysseus tells the Cyclops his real name and Polyphemus cries out to his father Poseidon, the god of the oceans, to curse Odysseus. Poseidon hears and grants his son’s prayer which causes Odysseus’s troubles to continue. Odysseus’ fleet reaches the island of Aeolus, who gives Odysseus a bag of winds to steer his ship towards Ithaca, but on their way back, his comrades open the bag and they are blown back to Aeolus, who sends them away angrily.
Then, Odysseus and his crew come to the island of Circe, who at first turns the crew into pigs, but after Odysseus foils her with the help of Hermes, she transforms the crew back into men and helps them on their quest. After this, Circe tells Odysseus to consult the dead prophet Tiresias in the underworld. Odysseus and his crew sail to the underworld and once they reach it, Odysseus sacrifices a ram and a ewe to draw out the spirits of the dead. He speaks to Tiresias, who warns him of the perils ahead, and meets old friends. These friends include Agamemnon, who died when he returned home because his wife had set up a plot to kill him. He also meets Achilles, who died from an arrow aimed directly at his heel. He also sees his mother Anticlea, who died because of grief, because she missed Odysseus during the Trojan war.
After these events in the underworld, Odysseus and his crew return to Circe, who gives Odysseus and his crew advice on the dangerous journey. Afterwards, Odysseus and his crew pass the Sirens, and Odysseus, tied up, hears their song. Then they pass the six-headed Scylla and the whirlpool monster, Charybdis. Six men are killed by Scylla and they nearly are sucked up by Charybdis. Soon after, the crew and Odysseus are marooned on the island of the Sun God. Odysseus warns his comrades not to eat the cattle that dwell on the island, for they are the Sun God’s, but as Odysseus naps, the men feast on many of the cows and incur the Sun God’s wrath. The Sun God tells Zeus about this and he resolves to punish the crew for disobeying these orders, both those from the gods, and from Odysseus. When the crew and Odysseus leave the island, the ship is blown up by Zeus and only Odysseus survives. Odysseus drifts back towards Charybdis and barely manages to escape the whirlpool. After ten days at sea, he washes up at the island of Calypso and our story comes full circle.
The Phaeacians help Odysseus get home and in the disguise of a beggar by Athena, he goes to the house of the swineherd Eumaeus. Odysseus tells him fake stories of his beggar identity and himself and Eumaeus lets him stay and gives him a cloak for it. During this, Telemachus returns and comes to Eumaeus’s hut, where he reunites with his father and together Odysseus and Telemachus devise a plan to take back Odysseus’s home.
Odysseus, disguised as a beggar, gets into the palace with the suitors and has a meal with them. He gets in through a contest with another beggar, the suitors had offered the winner of the contest will be fed and cleaned. The contest is a fighting match and Odysseus wins. While washing Odysseus, an old slave nurse, Eurycleia, recognizes Odysseus by a scar he has on his leg from a boar hunt he had as a young man and the boar had cut him with its tusk, creating a wound that Eurycleia had treated as a young woman. Then, Penelope explains her plan to finally choose a suitor, by having them try to string Odysseus’s old bow and shoot an arrow through axe heads. The contest starts not long after and the suitors try and fail until Odysseus strings the bow and shoots it flawlessly through all the axe heads. Odysseus then promptly kills all the suitors.
When this happens, Penelope hears from Eurycleia that the beggar who completed the challenge is Odysseus. Penelope at first doesn’t believe her, but then she tests Odysseus. In front of him, asking the servants to tear up her bed to make room for the beggar. Odysseus, horrified, explains that it is impossible because he carved that bed out of a tree growing there so it was implausible to do that. Penelope, seeing that only her husband would know this, acknowledges him as her husband and they weep.
The next day Odysseus reveals himself to the slaves and punishes those who were disloyal to him. He also reunites with his aged father, who doubts that it is actually Odysseus and tests him as well, but he gives clear proof through the tusk scar and by naming all the trees promised to him from his father’s orchard in his childhood and together they eat and drink. Later, the Ithacans, enraged with the murder of the suitors, gather. Odysseus starts to kill them. Then Athena comes and stops the bloodshed and death by saying, ”Ithacans! Stop this destructive war; shed no more blood, and go your separate ways at once… Odysseus, you are adaptable; you always find solutions. Stop this war or Zeus will be enraged at you.” Odysseus stops the war and so, this part of our epic trilogy, the Odyssey, ends.
The Aeneid is one of the most well-known works of classical literature, yet it is unfinished. The Aeneid is the last of this trilogy of the Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid and written by the Roman writer Virgil in the Homeric epic style. Virgil wrote the Aeneid in 30–19 BC under orders of the new emperor Augustus. After fighting a civil war to secure his rule, Augustus asked Virgil to write an epic poem that would glorify him to help cement his right to rule in the minds of the readers. Virgil wrote the Aeneid in the style of the Iliad and Odyssey, but he did not mean for it to be sung or performed in a theater, but rather to be read. I believe that this transition from reading as a performance to a more private view on reading marked the transition from people having to attend oral theater to listen to a story to people having the liberty to choose what they wanted to read and how to read it. In other words, this change in perspective marked the rise of private reading. Virgil chose to write about Aeneas, the legendary fore-founder of Rome. Aeneas was a Trojan who escaped from the Greek’s massacre of Troy. The reason that Virgil wrote about Aeneas was that the Caesars claimed to be related to Aeneas. And Augustus claimed to have been the adopted son of Julius Caesar. And since Aeneas was the son of Venus, also known as Aphrodite, it would make Augustus related to a goddess.
As for Aeneas, he is flung out of his home and must lead the Trojans through a hostile world to a new home that at first seems welcoming, but turns out to lead him into another war. Although there is no Greek writer there is certainly Greek inspiration specifically from the Greek Returns and the Odyssey.
You may think the Romans would plagiarize the Homeric works a lot in the Aeneid, by which I mean the Aeneid focusing mostly on an Odyssey-like story within most of the book. In this sort of Odyssey-like story, it would mainly have Aeneas out at sea journeying and only returning or finding a home towards the end. It was surprising to me to learn that most of the story is about a war for the Trojan’s new home. Overall, the Aeneid is quite an intriguing work with a mix of Greek inspiration and Roman goals.
We begin this story similar to that of the Odyssey. Our hero, Aeneas, washes up at a distant kingdom and meets the ruler, in this case Dido, and recaps his story and sufferings. He tells of how he escaped Troy’s burning, escaped various Odyssey style monsters, including the Cyclopes where he arrives just after Odysseus leaves, and of how both Apollo, the god of light, music, and archery, and the Harpies, creatures with the heads of women and bodies of birds, who say they will never be at home till they are forced to eat the surface their food is on. He then ends the story with them being washed up at Carthage. All this happens while the gods are fiddling with everybody’s lives.
The main gods in this story are Venus and Juno. In their constant interferences in the fate of Aeneas, Juno being mainly responsible for Aeneas’s suffering, as she is opposed to all Trojans, and Venus, who is constantly helping Aeneas, as he is her son. Venus inflames Dido with love for Aeneas to make her more hospitable to Aeneas and his comrades. Aeneas stays at Carthage for a long time and even considers staying for good. Jupiter sees this and commands him to leave with his comrades so they can found their great country. When Dido hears of this, as they leave, she, heartbroken, commits suicide.
After leaving Carthage, Aeneas stumbles upon the grave of his father, Anchises, and holds funeral games for him, which are reminiscent of those of Patroclus in the Iliad. After this, Aeneas goes to the underworld and sees old friends, relatives, and a parade of future Romans.
After this episode, Aeneas and his comrades finally make it to Italy and as they are eating a flatbread with toppings one of the comrades remarks that they are eating the surface their food is on and Aeneas recognizes this as a fulfillment of the prophecy the Harpies gave him and the crew and the Trojans settle down in Italy. The local king, Latinus, offers his daughter, Lavinia, in marriage. But Juno, opposed to the Trojans, disrupts the marriage by telling Turnus, a local prince, who is also in love with Lavinia, and hearing this Turnus flies into a rage and declares war on the Trojans.
While the preparations for war are happening, Aeneas consults the Tiber river, who warns him about Juno’s meddling, and Aeneas also visits the village of Pallanteum where he’s also warned about Mezentius, a violent Etruscan despot who was overthrown by his own people and is being harboured by Turnus. Aeneas also meets Pallas, a strong man whom he takes a liking to in battle. During this, Venus and Vulcan prepare new armour for Aeneas, which includes a shield depicting the major future events of Rome.
Now, most of the major battles take place with Turnus raiding the Trojan’s camp and Turnus meeting Camilla, a warrior woman who leads a cavalry squad and joins him in battle. Turnus also kills Pallas and takes his belt as a trophy, while Aeneas, hearing this, slaughters the Latin army and corners Mezentius, who seems doomed, until his son, Lausus, fights Aeneas instead, and is killed, allowing his father to escape. Mezentius, wounded and mourning his son, in a beautiful example of fatherly devotion, takes on Aeneas in combat again and dies with the last words, “I know the bitter hatred of my people is all about me. Protect me, I beg you, from their fury and let me lie in my grave with my son.”
With Pallas being mourned by the Trojans, Latinus begins to criticize Turnus for all the deaths in the war and not simply arranging a duel between him and Aeneas in which only one man would have died. Turnus storms off with Camilla and both their armies to finish the Trojans off, while Aeneas approaches the city with the Trojans to avenge Pallas. Camilla goes to confront the army and to lure it into an ambush with Turnus and his army lying in wait. Camilla is killed, and when Turnus hears of this, he cancels the ambush and organizes a truce and duel.
Aeneas and Turnus meet and start duelling. While this happens, an arrow is shot from the crowd and it strikes Aeneas, who is healed by Venus. Turnus, however, is not felled until Jupiter and Juno reconcile and Juno promises not to interfere with the fate of the Trojans. Turnus is defeated and begs for mercy. Aeneas almost spares his life, but when he sees Pallas’s belt on Turnus’s armour, he kills him.
After a trio of summaries, you have seen pieces of literature that started with the Iliad and Odyssey and ended with the Aeneid. They have not only inspired the writers of our times, but also those of ancient times. One of the many people who were inspired were the Romans who wrote The Aeneid. The Romans, by which I mean Virgil, saw the greatness of these epic poems and wanted to try this style of Homeric writing by incorporating elements from the Iliad and Odyssey.
I will talk about some of the characters from the Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid that I found most prevalent in this commentary and share some of my interpretations and speculations on them. I will talk about how they affect the books and some moral lessons you can take from them.
In the Iliad, we saw how Achilles’ pride was his downfall, and I think Homer may have used Achilles as a way to show pride or anger as a downfall. Achilles lost his best friend and eventually died because he let a fight with Agamemnon anger him so much that he refused to fight for the Greeks, and even when he was offered multiple gifts to return later, his pride prevented him from returning, which caused Patroclus to go into battle and get killed. That pride made Achilles go back into battle, not out of forgiveness or remorse, but fury and grief, and that blinded him to brutally kill Hector, and mistreat and mutilate Hector’s dead body. All of these events led to Achilles falling out of favour with the gods, and the gods orchestrating his death. I think that the moral was to not be blinded by anger and to keep pride out of your life.
Another hero who deserves a mention is the Trojan warrior Hector. He is a great and noble warrior, a good father, and probably one of the most honourable people in the Iliad. Hector is kind and benevolent in the royal court of Troy and he is a superb father and husband. Hector does not support the war, but he fights in it nonetheless, he is quite brave compared to his brother Paris. Hector also is one of the only characters to not lose his temper often in the Iliad. It is a shame he dies and is mutilated because he killed Patroclus. He was just trying to be loyal to his city and nobody in the story could have predicted the mad rage of Achilles after Hector killed Patroclus. Hector overall was a great, strong, and noble warrior who deserves to be remembered as more than just the person that Achilles battles, kills, and mutilates.
In the Odyssey, we saw Odysseus wanting nothing more but to get home. He was loyal to his country and against all odds, found his way home. Even when it seemed he’d found paradise, he still longed for his home. He was obedient when the gods told him not to eat the cattle of the sun god, and showed self-control when he got there even though he and his crew were hungry. Odysseus’s one flaw was pride. Odysseus shouted out to the Cyclops his real name, even though he could have escaped anonymously. Still, Odysseus kept going on and even when the Ithaca he remembered was different when he returned, Odysseus was able to retake his home and restore his old home. The lesson seems to be to not give up in the face of hardships.
And finally, in the Aeneid, we see Aeneas, whose home was just destroyed. He shows perseverance and great leadership for the tired and traumatized survivors. He leads them through many dangers and finally makes it to a beautiful home. This home seems to be a hospitable utopia until war erupts. He handles it well and soon has victory in sight. After a duel, unfortunately, the book ends. But I think the book would have ended with Aeneas finally finding a home for his people and settling down to have descendants that would build an empire. So this teaches that from hard work, sacrifice, and perseverance, you can find happiness.
Now I will turn to the gods and goddesses of these epics. One of the most prominent in the Iliad and Aeneid is Aphrodite, also known as Venus. She was depicted as mainly a mother to Aeneas, which is surprising with the fact that she is often depicted in classical myth as not the best mother or wife in her relationships. Yet in these books, we see a different side of her, a side that is dealing with the fact that she had a major contribution to the beginning of the Trojan war and the deaths of so many people, and one that is trying to protect her beloved son from this onslaught of destruction that she has fueled. And even when Troy is destroyed, she still keeps shielding her son from all the dangers that he must face. Overall, it is quite interesting to see Aphrodite the goddess of love and desire struggling with her own mistakes and how she protects those she loves from them.
Zeus is another big influencer in this war. He struggles to control the gods in their squabbling over the Trojan war and the god’s divided loyalties and desires of what should happen to the survivors. A particularly interesting scene is when he bans all interference in the Trojan war. This presents a major road-block for Hera, Poseidon, and other gods and goddesses who support the Greeks. Zeus is both an overseer and a moderator in these books. But he is also an overseer of destiny, he watches and works hard to ensure the confrontation between Hector and Achilles happens, and he works to preserve Aeneas through his travels, so he can found the city of Rome. He oversees Odysseus’s journey as well, and he tries to keep Odysseus alive, even at the expense of Odysseus’s crew. He is a man of many skills, trying to calm the halls of Olympus and orchestrate the mortal world.
The last deity I’d like to comment on is Athena. I’ve always liked her influence in the Iliad and Odyssey. Athena is the guide and counsellor of many heroes, in these the Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid, and in Greek myth. She helps Diomedes in the Iliad and guides Odysseus on his quest to get back home. She is a supportive character and quite an advocate for mortals and their safety. She also is not afraid to be daring by, for example, helping Diomedes stab Ares and by confronting Zeus to let Odysseus go home. Overall Athena is a brave and adventurous character who helps the many adventurers and heroes on their way to success.
All these characters and themes have added to these epics. I believe that finding ways to understand these characters helps to better understand these stories that have influenced our own stories and thoughts for hundreds of years.
Throughout this essay, I hope you can see how the Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid have become distinguished by many groups, such as media companies like the New York Times, and by the modern Greeks as classic works that are foundational to understanding the ancient world and its cultures. Beginning with their complex characters, the stories each tell a complementary tale and form a unique trilogy. Although they were written by different authors and vary in the language they use, they are still able to build on each other in a sensible way and almost seem to have a single voice and a single story that continues on into our era.
As I said, they have built up not only each other as a trilogy, but also have built up and inspired works like The Divine Comedy, Ulysses, and Don Quixote. The Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid have been able to inspire and build up not only themselves but the rest of literature. I believe that is what truly makes these works an epic trilogy.
If you look at the writings of this world today, you can find references and recurring themes that are similar to the Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid. That is a testament to how influential these epics were. The Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid influenced and inspired the writing of both ancient times and modern times. The Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid told a tale that was not only classic in our times but has also been able to produce and form with their examples more tales that are classic to us in our times. In other words, the Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid endured and inspired in their own times, and in ours, and they have enabled others to do the same.
With this essay, I hope to have given clear and informative reviews of the Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid. I hope that through these summaries of the Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid, you have been able to expand your love, knowledge, and regard for these epic works and their impact on our history, our literature, and our culture.
Homer. The Iliad. Translated by Robert Fagles. (Viking Pr Nov. 1 1991).
Homer. The Odyssey. Translated by Emily Wilson. (W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition November 7 2017).
Virgil. The Aeneid. Translated by David West. (Penguin Rev Ed edition March 27 2003).
I would like to thank Cristina Camarano, Sam Rocha, and Maureen Wicken for their support for this essay.
About the Author
Tomas Rocha is a 13-year-old student of Latin and Greek. This is his first essay.