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The Tragic Heroes and their Effect on Humanity in Homer's "the Iliad" and "the Aeneid"

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During their reading of the Iliad and the Aeneid, scores of readers only see the two great poets commenting on the nature of war and destruction. What countless do not see, however, are there passionate outcries on behalf of the tragic heroes and humanity itself. The author of the Iliad, Homer, has been theorized by some to be a collection of writers working in collaboration. Nevertheless, this author had an immeasurable effect on ancient Greek culture. The Aeneid was written by Virgil, who was born in 70 BCE and had two other works in addition to his epic masterpiece. Through their use of tragic heroes in The Iliad and The Aeneid, Virgil and Homer comment on humanity’s flaws, the oftentimes seemingly hopeless future and the courage necessary to face it, and the outcome of a tragic hero’s journey and its effects on others. This serves the purpose of illustrating that tragic heroes are perfect representatives of humanity as a whole because of what they experience in their lives.
The tragic heroes created by Homer and Virgil are continuously beset by their archetypal flaws, which ultimately lead to death and/or misfortune for them. These primordial flaws, present since the beginning of time, have ever since plagued mankind and brought hardship upon men and women alike. One of the most noticeable flaws in the two epic poems is the sin of pride. The same pride that will not allow Hector to retreat inside the walls of Troy leads him to gloat against the Achaean warrior Achilles when he misses his spear throw. When he rashly boasts “A clean miss. Godlike as you are / you have not yet known doom for me from Zeus. / You thought you had by heaven. Then he [Achilles] turned / into a word-thrower, hoping to make me lose”, this only serves...


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... future they thought of as hopeless, and have negatively affected others, such as King Priam and Dido, through their actions. These disastrous flaws just further serve to prove that tragic heroes are ideal vehicles for an author to use when he wishes for readers to be familiar with a character. In fact, one can make a strong case that The Iliad and the Aeneid are portrayals of life itself, complete with sacrifice, flaws, and a life that may be without hope, but must be lived nonetheless.


Works Cited
Hamilton, Edith. Mythology. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1942. 232,236.

Homer. The Iliad. World Literature. Trans. Robert Fitzgerald. 3rd ed. Holt, Rinehart, and Winston: New York, 2001. 251, 255, 256, 254, 249, 248

Virgil. The Aeneid. World Literature. Trans. Robert Fitzgerald. 3rd ed. Holt, Rinehart, and Winston: New York, 2001. 387, 391, 386, 398,


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