The Role Of Human Agency In The Odyssey And Virgil's The Aeneid

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Human agency is demonstrated in Homer’s The Odyssey and Virgil’s The Aeneid through the story arcs of the characters of Odysseus and Aeneas. In the Odyssey, although Odysseus’ fate seems to be predetermined by the gods, it is actually influenced entirely by Odysseus’s own choices. In the Aeneid, however, Aeneas does not possess the same free will as Odysseus; his destiny is determined by the will of Zeus. Homer establishes the independence of the choices of mortals over the preordinations of the gods, while Virgil emphasizes the control the gods exercise over the fates of mortals.
In Book V of The Odyssey, Zeus appears to at first show his dominion over the fate of Odysseus, commanding the messenger god Hermes, “Go tell that ringleted nymph
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Polyphemus’ speech emphasizes two natures regarding Odysseus’ human agency. Firstly it portrays the control he has over his own destiny; if he had listened to his companions, he wouldn’t have had to undergo al of the remaining trials in The Odyssey. Secondly, it portrays the lack of control the gods hold over Odysseus’ fate; although Poseidon is able to make it difficult for Odysseus to accomplish his goal, he is unable to fully prevent Odysseus from reaching Ithaca. However, Virgil presents the influence of the gods over the fate of men in the very opening lines of his epic, The Aeneid. In the beginning of his epic Virgil unveils Aeneas’ destiny to the readers, describing Aeneas as “destined to reach Lavinium shores and Italian soil” (Aeneid, 981). Aeneas himself also acknowledges this god-given fate, proclaiming to his comrades, “Through so many hard straits, so many twists and turns our course holds firm for Latium. Their Fate holds out a homeland, calm, at peace. There the gods decree the kingdom of Troy will rise again” (Aeneid, 987). Aeneas’ entire journey is defined by his god-given fate to found …show more content…
Aeneas then, “thunderstruck by the warnings, Jupiter’s commands” (Aeneid, 1032), acknowledges his destiny and prepares to leave Carthage. Dido confronts him concerning his pending departure, and Aeneas expresses his reluctance, explaining to her his lack of choice in the matter: “If the Fates had left me free to live my life, to arrange my own affairs of my own free will” (Aeneid, 1034). The gods give Aeneas’ fate to him, and he is forced to ignore his own desires and accomplish his destiny.
Homer and Virgil demonstrate two different versions of human agency through fate and free will in the characters of Odysseus and Aeneas. Odysseus’ actions in The Odyssey, although they appear to be influenced by the gods, are entirely his own. In The Aeneid, however, Aeneas’ fate commands his actions. Homer establishes the free will of mortals through Odysseus’ journey to Ithaca, while Virgil portrays the influence of the gods over destiny in through Aeneas’ journey to found

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