Week 7: Odysseus and Aeneas in the Underworld

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Background Reading

Depending on the week's assignment, you may have several pages of Background Reading. This week, you have THREE PAGES of Background reading.

  1. Homer and the Odyssey
  2. Vergil and the Aeneid
  3. Characters You Will Meet

Characters You Will Meet

Homer's Odyssey is from ancient Greece, but the English translation you will be reading uses the Roman rather than the Greek names for the characters. So that means that for both of the underworld readings this week - Homer's Odyssey and Vergil's Aeneid - you will find the gods and heroes referred to by their Roman names. Some of these names will already be familiar to you from the Ovid readings last week!


Apollo: One of the Olympian gods of Greece; his prophet is called a "Sibyl."

Circe: A divine being with many magic and supernatural powers, like a witch.

Hades: The king of the underworld (the underworld itself is referred to as "Hades", and "Erebus" is the region of Hades where the ghosts of the dead are found).

Hecate: An ancient and powerful goddess associated with magic and with death.

Jupiter, Jove (Zeus). The supreme god of the Greek pantheon of Gods who live on Mount Olympus (Olympos).

Neptune (Poseidon): The god who rules over the seas; he is the father of the Cyclops Polyphemus (Polyphemos).

Proserpine (Persophone): The daughter of the goddess Demeter (Ceres) who is queen of the land of the dead.


Achates: A loyal companion of Aeneas.

Aeneas: A hero of Troy, founder of Rome; his father is Anchises; his wife is Creusa; his son is Ascanius (also called Iulus).

Cassandra: A daughter of King Priam who prophesied the fall of Troy, but no one believed her; when Troy fell, she was given as a slave to Agamemnon.

Deiphobus: A prince of Troy; after his brother Paris was killed, he took possession of Helen.

Misenus. A Trojan warrior, famous also for his trumpet.

Palinurus: The steersman of Aeneas's ship.

The Greeks:

Achilles: the greatest of the Greek heroes; son of Peleus, lover of Patroclus, father of Neoptolemus

Agamemnon: leader of the Greek expedition to Troy; brother of Menelaus; husband of Clytemnestra

Ajax: Greek hero; after Achilles died, Ajax competed for the right to possess Achilles's weapons, but Ulysses won the content

Clytemnestra: The wife of Agamemnon, and sister of Helen; she arranged Agamemnon's murder upon his return home

Elpenor: One of the companions of Ulysses.

Helen: The wife of Menelaus; she had come to Troy with the Trojan prince, Paris, and this event provoked the Trojan War.

Ulysses (Odysseus): The Greek hero famous for his trickiness and cunning. His wife is named Penelope; his son is Telemachus (Telemakhos). They live in Ithaca (Ithaka). Odysseus' father is Laertes; his mother is Anticleia (Antikleia).

Other Mythological Characters:

Daedalus: He and his son Icarus tried to escape from the island of Crete on wings made of wax; Daedalus succeeded, but Icarus fell into the sea.

Hercules (Heracles): The son of Zeus and a mortal woman, Heracles was a "demi-god" (half-god). Because Heracles was half-divine and half-human, he led a split existence after death: his divine part dwelled with the gods in the heavens, but his human part dwelled in Hades with the other ghosts of the dead.

Leda: Leda was seduced by Zeus in the form of a swan; she was the mother of the twins Castor and Pollux.

Minos: The King of Crete; his wife Pasiphae gave birth to the monstrous Minotaur

Oedipus: Without realizing it, Oedipus killed his father and married his mother, Jocasta (also called Epicaste).

Rhadamanthus: The judge of the dead.

Sirens: Bird-like creatures who seduce sailors with their irresistible song, and then kill them.

Sisyphus: For having revealed one of Jupiter's affairs, Sisyphus was condemned to roll a rock up a hill in the land of the dead, and to watch it roll back down every time.

Tantalus: Tantalus killed his son Pelops and served him as food to the gods; for this crime, he was condemned to look at water and food, but never to be able to eat and drink.

Teiresias: An ancient prophet from the city of Thebes.

Theseus: The hero who defeated the Minotaur, with the help of Ariadne.

Tisiphone: Tisiphone is one of the demon female guardians of the underworld.

Tityus: He was punished for having tried to rape the goddess Latone (Leto) by having vultures eternally pluck at his liver.

  1. Homer and the Odyssey
  2. Vergil and the Aeneid
  3. Characters You Will Meet

Modern Languages MLLL-2003. World Literature: Frametales. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.
Page last updated: October 9, 2004 12:48 PM