Achilles vs. Aeneas: The Main Differences
The heroes of the poems can represent entire nations and be the arbiters of human destinies and states. A variant of such correlation is the category of the epic hero. Heroes are endowed with the best and worst sides of their people. Achilles and Aeneas are a reflection of valor and patriotism and carry the values characteristic of the time of the poem. The main difference between these two characters is their desire for Achilles to show himself as a hero in war, in contradiction with Aeneas’ commitment to following divine will.
For the author of the Iliad, heroism has no such importance as the problem of the meaning of life and the value of a person. Achilles constantly talks about the price of human life and begins to recite morality. The Greeks talk contradictory about life, and the eternity of life comforted them. Nevertheless, the Greeks did not succumb to despondency because life is sacred. Achilles agrees to participate in the Trojan War, despite Helen’s fate being unimportant to him (Homer, 1995). The protagonist knows the prophecy about his short life, so the main goal for him is to preserve the glory of his valor for posterity.
A characteristic difference between Aeneas and Greek mythological heroes is the strict execution of the will of the gods. Aeneas is subjected to a severe duty since the messenger of the gods, Mercury, on behalf of Jupiter, is ordered to continue his journey to Italy (Virgil, 1981). He is famous not only for his exploits and valor but also for his zealous attitude toward the fulfillment of his destiny – the foundation of a new settlement and state.
In conclusion, in the image of Aeneas, created by Virgil, those moral qualities that were inherent in the heroes of antiquity and should be reborn among the modern rulers of Rome find a generalized expression. The poet paints his hero as an “ideal Roman” who reveres the gods, respects elders, puts the interests of the state above all else, and is courageous and condescending to the weaknesses of others. At the same time, Achilles is a reflection of the Greek idea of the value of human life and the valor that a hero must accomplish.
Homer. (1955). Iliad. London: New York: Dent; Dutton.
Virgil. (1981). The Aeneid of Virgil. Toronto; New York: Bantam Books.