Homer’s epic poem The lliad and in Vergil’s epic The Aeneid Essay
The lliad, a masterpiece written by Homers, tells the story of a ten-year war in the plains surrounding Troy (llium). The war, which was fought by an alliance of Greek kings and the people of troy, began with an attack on troy to avenge the insults done to the king of Sparta when his wife ran off with the then prince of troy.
On the other hand, The Aeneid, written by Virgil, is a Latin epic poem, which tells of the story of Aeneas, the ancestor of the Romans. This article compares and contrasts two characters, Hera and Juno, of The IIiad and The Aeneid respectively in an attempt to demonstrate the change of Mediterranean culture.
Hera was the Goddess of fertility and women and sister to Zeus, the Greek king of the Gods. She is described as being jealous of Zeus’ lovers. In most places, she is described as being vengeful (Fagles, 2006, p.45).
She is also described as a hater of Trojans who always sides with the Greeks expressing uttermost hate and resentment for Paris. Her hate for Paris originates from his decision to name Aphrodite as the most beautiful goddesses in Greece leaving her out. He later married Helen who is described as the most beautiful woman in the world at his time (Fagles, 2006, p.47).
In Virgil’s epic, The Aeneid, Juno, the goddess, resented the Trojan people. She is described as being “wrathful because she was not chosen to judge Paris and because the descendants of Aeolus would presumably destroy her favorite city of Carthage” (Fagles, & Knox, 1990, p.31).
Her hatred for the Trojans was also increased by the fact that a Trojan known as Ganymede had replaced her daughter Hebe as the cupbearer of her husband Jupiter (Fagles, & Knox, 1990, p.31). She tries to bribe one of the Gods to prevent the Trojan fleet headed to Italy from reaching. She achieves this in a storm.
The two women represent two ages of the Mediterranean culture with distinct differences and similarities. For the case of Hera, her husband Zeus supports the Trojans because his mortal son is a hero in Trojan while Hera hates the Trojans (Fagles, 2006, p.24). These gods find themselves therefore in two opposing sides in the Trojan War. They follow it faithfully at times interfering in the battlefield to support their sides.
The war threatens to cause domestic wars in the family with Zeus cautious not to support the Trojans against the Greeks. Hera, on the other side, is secretly supporting the Greeks, and puts an idea in Achillleus’s mind to assemble the army in the war (Fagles, 2006, p.36). Athene however stops him from killing Agamemnon by holding his hair and advising him to abuse him verbally.
The two goddesses demonstrate a common Mediterranean culture in the two eras in which they existed. The role of families, unions, honor, and duty are distinctly portrayed with family bonds being put to the test. The women take a stand in weighty matters that opposes that of their husbands due to different reasons.
This demonstrates that the Mediterranean culture remained the same in these eras with only a change in the characters and situations involved. For Hera, she displays a jealous character that is consistent with most goddesses at the time, and she goes a step farther to protect her interests and family from even her husband (Fagles, 2006, p.24).
Both of them are cautious in dealing with matters sensitive to the family. They prefer using secretive means to achieve their desires while at the same time maintaining their family bonds. None of them is described to challenge their husband directly with the most effective method of challenge being the use of other Gods and mortal men.
Juno was against the Romans. She did all she could to prevent Aeneas’s victory, which she did not achieve (Fagles, & Knox, 1990, p.38). She is however successful in one front by delaying the Aeneas in their journey, but accidentally kills people she supported in the war. She also interferes with Aena’s life to achieve her personal political interests. This is characteristic of her, as she is described as making Dido a victim of her schemes and uses Allecto, an underworld power, to vanquish her enemies (Fagles, & Knox, 1990, p.67).
She does this with the help of her colleague Juturna. Juno is described as being stubborn and always plotting evil plans against the Trojans. She however tells her husband to take her three favorite cities to crush them without her defense. She does this to convince her husband that there is no enmity between them to serve as an example for other gods. In this claim, she invokes her father Saturn and claims that it is an honor to be among the gods.
This demonstrates the Greeks love and value for family at the time and the importance of family roots. It also demonstrates the position of women in the society at the time with her description being that of a strong willed dedicated ruler though at the same time a merciless god with the desire to see her intentions through.
Hera, on the other hand, is a loving mother with deep respect for her husband besides her overprotection for her family. She is jealous at the children that her husband Zeus has with other women. She advises her children not to interact with them. She also claims that these children have no right over her own to inherit their father’s estates and powers. This demonstrates a change in the Mediterranean culture over the family relationships and value for children, the value of monogamy, and close family ties.
In the Greek era, Hera is described as being the queen of all the other gods and one who is responsible for the unity of the Olympians. She is also the god of marriage, family, and childbirth with most people praying to her for unity and fertility.
On the other hand, Juno, the Roman equivalent of Hera, is the queen of all the other gods at the time. She is the leader and patron of the army who commands all the soldiers in the land (Fagles, & Knox, 1990, p.31). She is more vigilant and violent compared to Hera with a more active role in virtually all the wars taking place in the land.
Women in the Roman times are portrayed as being patriotic to their country. They played a central role in decision making indicating a change from Greeks’ culture where women influenced only those in their families and close relatives. The Mediterranean region is therefore under transition in the two periods with the gods playing a vital role in this case.
In the two challenging eras in the history of the Mediterranean era, honor is challenged with both instances showing differing levels of loyalty. For the Greek era, Hera is described as showing honor for her children though she denies the same to her husband by supporting his rivals. In the Roman times, Juno does the same. She openly criticizes her husband besides working against his interests.
In their reign as gods, Hera and Juno have similar actions even though their lives are 800 years apart. It is therefore difficult to demonstrate any significant difference between the Greeks and the Romans. In Hera’s time, the Greeks had built up cities and segregated themselves with many of them having kings ruling over them. These brought about conflicts amongst themselves and frequently required the intervention of their gods.
However, they are described to unite against a common enemy as they did against the kingdom of troy. The gods here took sides and even risked breaking family ties with most of them doing it against their husbands and relatives’ wills. In the Roman time, there is unity with only one ruler over them. Similar to the Greeks, the Roman gods also had split opinions and ideas on the wars being fought. This demonstrates the similarities between the two times.
In conclusion, the Mediterranean culture at two different times is explored through two characters, Hera and Juno, who lived at different times with a space of about 800 years between them. In both eras, there is a similarity in the characters of the two goddesses existing in the city-state based Greeks’ period and the Roman Empire, which had united centuries later.
Both periods in the Mediterranean are turbulent with family ties being challenged by the differing loyalties. There is little change in attitudes towards honor, duty, and family based on the different characters of Hera and Juno used to demonstrate this inference.
Fagles, R., & Knox, B. (1990). The Iliad. New York, N.Y., U.S.A.: Viking.
Fagles, R. (2006). The Aeneid. New York: Viking.
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