Which epic has most relevance to a twenty first century reader, Virgil's 'Aeneid' or Homer's 'Odyssey'? Examines themes in both epics (from the english translations) and compares the two.

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Which epic has most relevance to a twenty first century reader, Virgil's 'Aeneid' or Homer's 'Odyssey'?

The very fact that I am studying both Virgil's 'Aeneid' and Homer's 'Odyssey' at A Level immediately proves to me that both epics must have contemporary relevance, else they would have been buried with the bones of their authors rather than being the subject of this essay. However, choosing which epic has the most contemporary relevance is not an easy task.

To begin with, both epics were written at different times, in different languages, in different countries, for different purposes. 'The Odyssey' was written by Homer, a Greek who possibly lived in Ionia, an island off central western Turkey. It was probably written between 750-700 BC. The epic is of the oral tradition: it was designed to be sung by bards as entertainment, hence the fact that numerous 'standard' descriptions of events are repeated for ease of memory.

Virgil on the other hand was born in Italy in 70 BC and composed 'The Aeneid' in the ten years before his death in 19 BC. Unlike 'The Odyssey', 'The Aeneid' is a written epic, designed to be read. It was written in honour of Augustus Caesar as an account of the Emperor's descent from the Gods, and Rome's great history. Virgil used Homers Odyssey', and his other oral epic, 'The Iliad', as inspiration.

As a result, many of the themes in Homer's 'Odyssey' and Virgil's 'Aeneid' are similar. I will therefore begin by examining some of the issues found in both epics that have contemporary relevance. The reason why both epics have retained their popularity over the years, except for their graphic detail and tales of heroism, is undoubtedly because as well as being fantastic story tellers, both Homer and Virgil had a...