Homer, Virgil, Luke

On Wednesday I was lecturing to my Greek and Roman History course for which I am a TA on Books V and VI of the Aeneid. This is one of my favorite pieces of ancient literature, particularly Book VI, and so I was excited to share with them all the neat literary and historical tidbits contained therein (or, at least as many as I could think of and cover in a 50 minute lecture). One thing I pointed out, in hopes that this would spark their interests, is a parallel between Homer, Virgil, and Luke –

Odyssey, Book X.553ff

Ἐλπήνωρ δέ τις ἔσκε νεώτατος…(ὤν) οἰνοβαρείων..ἀλλὰ καταντικρὺ τέγεος πέσεν.

There was a certain young man named Elpenor…(who being) drunk…fell headlong off of the roof.

Aeneid, Book V.859ff

…liquidas proiecit (eum) in undas


And he (Sleep) threw (him = Paulinurus) headlong into the flowing waves…

Acts of the Apostles, XX.9

καθεζόμενος δέ τις νεανίας ὀνόματι Εὔτυχος ἐπὶ τῆς θυρίδος, καταφερόμενος ὕπνῳ βαθεῖ…..κατενεχθεὶς ἀπὸ τοῦ ὕπνου ἔπεσεν ἀπὸ τοῦ τριστέγου κάτω…

There was a certain young man named Eutychos sitting upon the windowsill, falling into a deep sleep…brought down into a deep sleep he fell down from the third floor.

Granted, Paulinurus doesn’t die from his fall (but rather from Barbarians killing him as he climbs up a cliff – rough life!), but I think Virgil is definitely thinking of Homer there (and in the story of Misenus as well), and Luke is probably thinking of both.  I think it’s interesting that Luke twice mentions that Eutychos is taken over by sleep – perhaps he doesn’t want someone thinking poor Eutychos is a lush like Elpenor, or he might be excusing the fall like Paulinurus’ – or both!

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