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Humanities Essay 4
Jack Mao
Comparison of Aeneas and Hector
The Romans claimed that they were descended from the line of Aeneas. Although the
theory has no basis in science, the Aeneid and the Iliad advocate similar ideal through two
Trojan heroes. The Aeneid was the national epic of Rome written by Virgil, whom Augustus
commissioned. This epic traced the roots of Rome to the Aeneas of Troy, the hero who escaped
the Greek onslaught during the Trojan War. In Book Four of the Aeneid, Aeneas reflects the
ideals of the Roman citizens, especially stoicism. Likewise, Hector of Troy displayed similar
characteristic as Aeneas in Book Six of the Iliad. Aeneas and Hector are both responsible leaders
who are willing to sacrifice personal pleasures for the greater good, and both accept their fate
rather than trying to escape from it. Although Aeneas and Hector display characteristics of
stoicism, Hector is a more ideal stoic than Aeneas.
Hector and Aeneas are leaders loyal to their country, people and gods. Aeneas is the son
of the prince Anchises and goddess Venus. Hector is the son of King Priam of Queen Hecabe of
Troy. Their noble legacy requires them to be great leaders. Hector was mindful that if he did not
return to the battle to defend his city, he would bring shame to his family. If Troy fell, and the
Trojans would suffer greatly. Hector’s sense of duty and honor toward the Trojan people drove
him to return to the battlefield.
“I would feel deep shame before the Trojans, and the Trojan women with trailing
garments, if the like a coward I were to shrink aside from the fighting... there will come a
day when sacred Ilion shall perish...”
Likewise, Aeneas feels a strong loyalty toward the gods and the future of Rome. For instance,
while Aeneas was building fortresses, Mercury came to him with a message from Jupiter:
“Are you now laying the foundation of high Carthage, as servant to a woman, building
her a splendid city here... The very god of gods... has asked me to carry these commands through
the swift air: what are you pondering or hoping for while squandering your ease in Libyan lands?
For if the brightness of such deeds is not enough to kindle you – if you cannot attempt the task
for your won fame – remember Ascanius growing up, the hopes you hold for Iulus, your own
heir to whom are owed the realm of Italy and land of Rome.”
Granted, Aeneas delayed his journey to Rome, where he was destined to rule. As soon as
Mercury delivered this message, Aeneas remembered his duty to conquer Italy and find Rome.
“This vision stunned Aeneas, struck him dumb; his terror held his hair erect; his voice held fast
within his jaws. He burns to flee from Carthage; he would quit these pleasant lands, astonished
by such warnings, the command of gods.”
Aeneas and Hector both show great sense of responsibility. However, Aeneas needed the
reminder of a god to persevere in fulfilling his responsibility, making Hector the more
responsible of the two.
Aeneas and Hector were willing to sacrifice personal happiness for the greater good. For
instance, when Hector was returning to the battlefield in Book 6 of the Iliad, his wife
Andromache pleaded him to stay behind the walls of Troy.
“Dearest, your own great strength will be your death, and you have no pity on your little
son, nor on me, ill-starred, who soon must be your widow; for presently the Achaeans,
gathering together, will set upon you and kill you; and for me it would be far better to
sink into the earth when I have lost you, for there is no other consolation for me after you
have gone to your destiny – only grief; since I have no father, no honored mother...”
The poignant pleas of Andromache are heartrending because Hector is the only person left alive
in her family. Beyond doubt, Hector loves Andromache with all his heart, which he confesses to
“But it is not so much the pain to come of the Trojans that troubles me, not even Priam
the king nor Hecabe, not the thought of my brothers who in their numbers and valor shall
drop in the dust under the hands of men who hate them, as troubles me the thought of
you, when some bronze-armored Achaeans leads you off, taking away your day of
liberty, in tears...”
As portrayed in the Iliad, Hector loves Andromache more than he loved his father, mother, and
brothers. Despite this fact, Hector dismissed the desperate pleas of his wife because he was
determined to return to the battlefield to defend Troy. Similarly, Aeneas dismissed Dido’s pleas
even though Aeneas would rather spend more time with Dido.
“I never shall deny what you deserve, the kindnesses that you could tell; I never shall
regret remembering Elissa for as long as I remember my own self, as long as breath is
king over these limbs.”
However, he overcame the desire for personal happiness at the commands of Mercury, an action
worthy of praise for a stoic. Although both Hector and Aeneas sacrificed personal happiness for
the greater good, Aeneas was distracted for too long before remembering his duty. Hector,
however, sacrificed personal pleasures immediately after being tempted. Therefore, Hector is
more abstinent than Aeneas.
Aeneas and Hector both embraced their fates. When Hector was talking to his wife,
Andromache, she cried because she thought Hector might die on the battlefield and would never
return to her again. Hector responded bravely, explaining that he would not die unless he is fated
to do so. Since no one has yet escaped the designs of fate, Andromache should not lament over
things that are beyond her control.
“Poor Andromache! Why does your heart sorrow so much for me? No man is going to
hurl me to Hades, unless it is fated, but as for fate, I think that no man yet has escaped it
once it has taken its first form, neither brave man nor coward.”
Aeneas embraces his fate, even though he does not like it. The discrepancy between his wish and
what the gods want for hum is made apparent when Aeneas is confronted by Dido regarding him
leaving Carthage in secrecy.
“If fate had granted me to guide my life by my own auspices and to unravel my troubles
with unhampered will, then I should cherish first the town of Troy, the sweet remains of
my own people and the tall rooftops of Priam would remain, m hand would plant again a
second Pergamum for my defeated men. But now Grynean Apollo’s oracles would have
me seize great Italy, the Lycian prophecies tell me of Italy: there is my love, there is my
While Aeneas accepted his fate, his fate is less severe than Hector’s because it does not involve
dying. However, Hector’s fate is a much graver because his fate is related to his life or death.
Because Hector displayed indifference to such a grave fate, Hector displays the characteristics of
stoicism better than Aeneas.
Of the two heroes, Hector is the better stoic. Regardless, both Aeneas and Hector are
paragons of stoicism, reflecting the virtues of responsibility, altruism, and indifference to fate.
Stoicism was an important philosophy in the ancient Roman world, as it was one of the most
prevalent guiding philosophies for how people should live. Stoicism influenced the Romans in
such a way that they were able to expand their empire to great extents. Rome fell because the
stoic way was lost, and the succeeding empires could not equate to the glory of the Roman
Empire because they lacked stoicism.