Destiny and fate play a critical role in shaping the life of ancient heroes such as Oedipus in “Oedipus the King” and Aeneas in “The Aeneid.” Thus, both Sophocles and Virgil put a particular emphasis on the determinative power of Gods’ will that is indulged to assist the heroes in fulfilling their high missions or to place obstacles on their ways to the target goal. In the meantime, the interference of the supernatural forces does not exclude the importance of the personal factor. Otherwise stated, both characters remain responsible for the choices and decisions they make throughout the life journey. As such, it might be suggested that fate and destiny serve to outline the context within which Oedipus and Aeneas are free to act to their own discretion.

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Oedipus – The Role Of Personality

In order to understand the role of personality opposite to that of fate and destiny, it is, first and foremost, critical to analyze Sophocles’ and Virgil’s interpretation of free will. In this frame, it should be pointed out that the ancient would not normally contrast the two notions. As such, there are no external forces that oblige Oedipus and Aeneas to rely on the prophecy and the omens that the Gods send to them. Meanwhile, both heroes prefer to follow the prescribed life patterns. As such, at the very beginning of the “Oedipus the King,” Oedipus is impatient to hear the God’s commands from Creon and he does not consider the alternative of ignoring the God’s will – “but when he comes, then may I prove a villain, if I shall not do all the God commands” (Sophocles, 2012, p. 13). Likewise, Virgil’s Aeneas chooses to leave Dido since his affection is less significant than the sense of duty. The duty here, as well as in Oedipus’s case, is outlined by the prophecy. Therefore, it might be suggested that it is the specific personalities of the two heroes that make them submit to their fates.

Leadership Power Of Both Characters

Another point that needs to be discussed is the leadership power that enforces both heroes to behave in a certain manner. From this perspective, Aeneas proves to be a better leader prioritizing the needs of his people. Thus, for example, his primary concern in the North African harbor is his peoples’ comfort and safety. Oedipus is likewise focused on the wealth of the citizens; meanwhile, his leadership approach is more authoritative. As such, Aeneas prefers to ask for other leaders’ advice in his decision-making, while Oedipus does not admit alternative points of view fully relying on his own vision. The stories’ outcomes show that Aeneas’s approach is more effective than that of Oedipus’s.

Finally, it is heroes’ self-perception and their attitude to others that determines the stories’ outcomes. Aeneas is depicted as a highly determined man that is mainly focused on the future of Trojans. In this frame, he eagerly sacrifices his personal interests and suppresses the impulses for the sake of fulfilling the honorable mission.

Oedipus Final Fate

On the contrary, Oedipus is more concerned about his own motives which he admits by saying “helping the dead king I help myself” (Sophocles, 2012, p. 17). From this perspective, the story’s outcome seems to be determined by Oedipus’s desire to best his fate, as well as his rush toward fame and recognition rather than the schemes of the supernatural powers.

It might be concluded that the heroes’ destiny is, to a large extent, the outcome of their personality. While fate has a powerful impact on their lives, Oedipus and Aeneas are still free to decide which step to take next. As such, their actions are largely determined by their personal motives and the inborn proclivity to leadership.

  • Sophocles. (2012). Oedipus the King (D. Grene, Trans.). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.