Homer Versus Virgil

Considering the epics of Homer and Virgil will enable us to understand the epochs in which they lived and in which we live and to move toward answering them.

What do the great literary epics tell us about the epochs in which they were written? And, more importantly, what do these epics and epochs tell us about our own epoch? To what extent are literary epics the children of their own times, expressions of their own particular zeitgeist, and to what extent are they expressions of perennial truths that transcend fads, fashions, and other temporal ephemera? Considering the epics of Homer and Virgil will enable us to understand these questions and to move toward answering them. The Myth Of A Guilty N... Nock, Albert Jay Buy New $36.95 (as of 11:02 UTC - Details)

As Homer tells us in the opening lines of The Iliad, its theme is the pride and anger of Achilles and the destructive and devastating consequences of such prideful anger. In other words, on the most basic level, pride precedes a fall. Yet Homer goes much deeper than this. He illustrates that pride destroys and devastates the lives of the innocent. It is not merely the sinner who suffers the consequences of sin, he also inflicts suffering on others with every prideful act. Pride does not merely precede a fall, it claims innocent victims.

And Homer goes deeper still. He tells us at the very beginning of The Iliad, immediately after informing us that his theme is Achilles’ pride and its destructive consequences, that the will of Zeus is accomplished. In other words, the hand of providence ultimately triumphs over pride in the way in which God punishes the sinner with the consequences of his sin. But what are we to make of the innocent victims? Is it God’s will that they suffer the effects of the sins of others?

Cronyism: Liberty vers... Newman, Patrick Best Price: $11.95 Buy New $15.95 (as of 07:01 UTC - Details) These questions are addressed in Homer’s other epic, The Odyssey. At the beginning of this epic, Zeus states that men are always blaming the gods for the suffering in their lives, whereas suffering is caused by their own recklessness, with the exception of that suffering which is “given.” In other words, suffering can be caused by sin or it can be a gift. The remainder of The Odyssey is a playing out of Homer’s exposition of the mystery of suffering, or what C.S. Lewis called “the problem of pain.” Odysseus and his men suffer greatly from the consequences of their own recklessness; but, in Odysseus’ case, he learns that suffering is a gift which must be accepted and even embraced as a means of growing in wisdom and humility.

Virgil’s epic, The Aeneid, was written twenty to thirty years before the birth of Christ and about 800 years after Homer wrote The Iliad and The Odyssey. Unlike the works of Homer, which address perennial truths transcending the fads and fashions of the age in which they were written, Virgil was apparently doing the bidding of his political masters, especially the Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus. The Aeneid is a patriotic poem, eulogizing the glories of imperial Rome. It is, therefore, a child of the epoch in which it was written to a degree that is much less the case with the Homeric epics. It was unfinished at the time of Virgil’s death, and his last wish was that the poem should be destroyed. It would seem, therefore, that Virgil was unhappy with it.

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