Odysseus and Aeneas are two of the most prominent characters in Greek Mythology. They are considered to be two of the greatest heroes of their respective races. Obviously, these two characters have several similarities and, inevitably, some differences, as well, for several reasons.
First, as a similarity, they're both survivors, able to keep going when everything is stripped from them. At first, Aeneas is wandering the Mediterranean as the Aeneid opens, with everything that remains of his past loaded into his ships. Fresh from the Trojan War, it is given that Aeneas already lost his wife, Creussa, and left everything else, except his armor and sword, in the fallen city of Troy. On the other hand, Odysseus is stripped of his crew and his direction many times, from storms taking out his ship, specifically the one conjured by Poseidon upon Athenas plead to him, to winds blowing him off course, brought about by the leather sack, given to him by King Aeolus, containing all the Storm Winds.
In addition, both these heroes fought at Troy during the war, and both spent a great deal of time sailing around, being frustrated by a divine nemesis, Hera and Athena respectively. Both were also delayed by women: Aeneas by Dido and Odysseus by Circe, Nausicaa and Calypso.
Next, they both have divine blood in their veins; Aeneas is the son of Aphrodite while Odysseus is the great-grandson of Hermes. Even though Hermes' blood is only one eighth of Odysseus, the family craftiness still shows. However, in Aeneas, the divine lineage tends not to show as apparently as it does in Odysseus.
Furthermore, they are both unique among epic heroes in that their strength comes not from inhuman powers or exceptional physical ability, but mainly from their will. Sheer willpower and bravery was the foundation upon which they based several of their next actions and decisions on. In the Odyssey, countless events where such determination was employed and a concrete example of this could be the events that took place on the Island of Ithaca. As Odysseus reached his home, he found out about the situation his wife and son currently were. Merely realizing the fact that there was a chance that his own family could be taken away from him definitely angered the Greek hero, even if it wasnt visible at first. However, the action that Odysseus took in order to finally free his household from the presence of these scums and leeches in the end made it all crystal clear. Odysseus took part in the competition himself; he alone was strong enough to string the bow and therefore, he won. Then, he suddenly turned his arrows on the suitors and with the help of Athena, Telemachus and Eumaeus, all the suitors were killed. Odysseus and Telemachus killed twelve of their household maids, who had slept with the suitors, by hanging them; they mutilated the goatherd Melanthius, who had mocked and abused Odysseus. In the Aeneid, certain events clearly portray Aeneas determination as well; a concrete example of this his acceptance and willingness to go into the Underworld to ask his father Anchises for advice and wisdom in establishing his own kingdom. This is a task undertaken by only a few heroes in mythology, including Heracles, Orpheus, and Odysseus himself. However, Aeneas is not allowed to enter the underworld without the fabled golden bough, and only men specially sanctioned by the gods may fetch it at all. Previously, he has also been warned by the Sibyl that even though the descent to the Underworld maybe easy, resurfacing back to the human world will require courage and effort. Despite all these, he still proceeds and doesnt back out at all. Even though he has to descend through a gloomy region haunted by dreadful spirits and monsters, he still moves on.
However, differences are also apparent throughout their respective epics. With regards to women and, by extension, facing bad situations, Odysseus has more grace. Odysseus owns up, telling the women straight out how he belongs in Ithaca, whereas Aeneas tries to sneak behind Dido's back. Also, both Odysseus and Aeneas travel to Hades. They do and they also see a character to whom they call out to, but who ignores them because of an incident in the past. Odysseus sees Ajax. Aeneas sees Dido. Odysseus and Aeneas repent over their wrongdoings toward Ajax and Dido, but it is too late. The shades of the deceased turn away. These are only some of the minor differences between the two.
Onto more serious and important ones, it is clear to see that Odysseus has more cunning, and intellect than Aeneas. Odysseus intelligence is a mix of keen observation, instinct, and street smarts. He is extremely cautious. All of these can be concretely seen during the events that took place on the Island of the Cyclopes. A scouting party, led by Odysseus, landed on the island and they discovered a large cave; they ventured into the cave and feasted on food they find there. Unfortunately, this cave was the home of Polyphemus, who soon returned. Odysseus and his crew attempted to befriend him in the cave but he trapped them instead. Eventually, he proceeded to eat several crew members, whereupon Odysseus devised a cunning plan to escape. To make Polyphemus unwary, Odysseus gave him a skin of very strong, unwatered wine. When Polyphemus asked for his name, he tells him that it is Outis, Greek for no man or nobody. Once the giant fell asleep as a result of being drunk, Odysseus and his men took a spit from the fire and drove it through Polyphemus only eye. Awaken by the sudden surge of unbearable pain, he cried for help; however, they turned away from upon hearing that nobody was the cause of his agony. Evidently, Odysseus manages to get past through the obstacles thrown at him mainly by flexing his brain, not his biceps. The ways the mind can triumph outnumber the ways the body can do so by a considerable margin and are a lot more interesting. How exciting would it be to read an Odyssey where Odysseus decided, at every turn, to say, "Well, it's go time"? On the on the hand, Aeneas can be seen as someone who has a hard time making decisions for himself and instead, he waits for certain divine signs ad interferences before acting. Also, Odysseus is good at disguises and at concealing his feelings. As is necessary for his line of work, Odysseus is a very fast and inventive liar. In these respects, his random lack of integrity put him in sharp contrast with Aeneas and his actions on his journey.
Also, while Odysseus has much in common with Aeneas, I believe he also can be on a different level, that of the great heroes of myth or even greater. He can truly be counted among Heracles, Achilles, Theseus, Perseus and other heroes who are more godlike than mortal. Greater I say because what sets him apart from these heroes is that they on this level often tend to be impulsive, arrogant and violent, while Odysseus is calm, collected and thoughtful. A good example of Odysseus' moving onto that higher level is the story concerning the Palladium, a statue of Athena held inside Troy. It was prophesied that Troy would never fall while it had this statue inside the city walls. Odysseus, disguised as a beggar, made his way into the city and managed to carry the statue off out of the city. This really goes beyond the scope of some heroes and puts Odysseus in the higher ranks. This is pretty comparable to Hermes' stealing of Io from Argos as they both stole an object that is being watched by a hundred eyes or more.
Finally, I believe that the most striking difference between the two is that while Odysseus was a hero trying to find his old life and in a sense, trying to return to his old self or identity, Aeneas was actually a hero in search of his own identity. The Aeneid was very much of a spiritual quest, which greatly differentiated it from the Odyssey, wherein Odysseus was driven through his journey beginning with apparent self-confidence and continuing with a vengeful vigor. In the storys earlier stages, the character of Aeneas was obviously unsure of himself, always seeking instructions from his father or from the gods before committing himself to any course of action. In the Underworld, he saw a perspective of the future Rome and that vision gave him the self-confidence to act on his own initiative. Aeneas always fulfilled his duty to his family, to his country, and to the gods, even when he was depressed. In that way, his actions throughout his journey to the Underworld were, in a way, different from Odysseus. The result is that the Aeneas we see at the end of the Aeneid is determined, confident in himself, and sure that he knows what is right. He has become a great leader who is able to impose order on people who display more selfish and unruly emotions.
Odysseus and Aeneas really are two of the greatest heroes in Greek mythology. Their wits and will are more interesting than some other champions physical prowess and these makes them more complex characters than others, than most physical heroes who tend to show up in Greek mythology. Theyre not just your generic, average or clich type of heroes as it has been shown and proven time and time again that they have truly surpassed that level. Though one may be better than the other in certain aspects, concluding who is superior to the other is certainly impossible to do. They have achieved things that no ordinary mortal could do in his whole lifetime; they have gone through countless dilemmas and troubles that involved the gods and goddesses themselves. Truly, they are at par with each other when it comes to greatness. Theyre definitely in a two-way tie for first in my book.