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The Heroes In Ancient Greek Myths

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Ancient Greek myths are the best known mythological stories because they involve colossal characters that are easily recognisable. Myths are stories to teach people about morals, they were also often used to teach people about events such as diseases and deaths and natural disasters like earthquakes and floods. In Greek tradition, a hero was a human, male or female, of the remote past, who was endowed with superhuman abilities by virtue of being descended from an immortal god. Rather than being paragons of virtue, as heroes are viewed in many modern cultures, ancient Greek heroes had all of the qualities and faults of their fellow humans, but on a much larger scale. Further, despite their mortality, heroes, like the gods, were objects of cult worship – a dimension which is also explored in depth in the course.

Hero and heroine came to refer to characters who, in the face of danger and adversity or from a position of weakness, display courage and the will for self sacrifice that is, heroism for some greater good of all humanity. This definition originally referred to martial courage or excellence but extended to more general moral excellence In mythology and legend, a man or woman, often of divine ancestry, who is endowed with great courage and strength, celebrated for his or her bold exploits, and favoured by the gods.” Somebody who does something dangerous to help somebody else. Greeks needed heroes that could example an exceptional trait, but also show signs of weakness.

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Achilles is probably synonymous to a fearless and strong warrior. He is known due to the Trojan War. While still a baby, his mother dipped him in the River Styx to make him immortal and invulnerable. However, she was holding him from his heel and this part was the only vulnerable part in his body – the one that led to his death as well. Achilles was the fear of the Trojans during the War but was killed by Paris, when Aphrodite advised him to aim at Achilles’ heel. Achilles was freakishly strong, fearless, and an absolute master of combat. His sense of loyalty to his cousin, Patroclus, and his mercy to King Priam showed a benevolent and compassionate side of the warrior. On the other hand, Achilles was also fierce, quick-tempered and, in some instances, capable of great cruelty, as evidenced by his treatment of Hector’s body. His arrogance and pride were constant sources of consternation for his fellow Greeks, as is best displayed by the feud with Agamemnon. Achilles’ character suffers from similar scrutiny for his role in Homer’s The Iliad. He is by far the greatest warrior for the Greeks. His exploits on the battlefield are well-known, showing such strength and courage that his enemies fear even his presence. Achilles is in every sense of the word a hero. Yet when one thinks of his actions in The Iliad, such as his public humiliation and defilement of Hector’s corpse, whether his actions can be defined as heroism is questioned.

As a male, the typical hero build is tall, muscular and imposing, golden hair flowing in the breeze and armed to the teeth. Odysseus was none of this. He was a relatively slim (fit guy slim, not stick like slim), short and of red hair. He was proficient with the bow and quite noble, although he was more likely to charge in sword in hand like his kinsman like achilles. But unlike achilles, behind the red hair lies a masterful, strategic and analytical mind. It was his cunning that made the theft of Athena’s talisman from troy possible, his mind that gave birth to the trojan horse and his wit that allowed him to escape polythemeus. Quite contradictory to the greek ideal of charge in, think later, like achilles or Heracles. These are the defining characteristics of Odysseus.

To the Ancient Greeks Odysseus was the perfect hero; intelligent, strong, pious and a favourite of the gods. It’s he who thought of the Trojan hose trick which won them the war and his adventures in the Odyssey only further demonstrates his ability as a hero by slaying beast like the Cyclops and returning home and putting an end to the suitors horrific behaviour. Odysseus’ main characteristic is metis, or resourcefulness, cunning. He does have military prowess as we see particularly in the Iliad, and then later in the Odyssey with the slaughter of the Suitors, but his cunning is his main praised trait. The Romans found this dishonourable, but it does help Odysseus get out of various sticky situations! He’s also a good speaker, tactful with words and manipulative. He’s a stark contrast to Achilles. One of the main aims of a Greek hero is to attain kleos, or glory. This is a renown through stories and song, usually achieved after dying an heroic death – Achilles gets this, hence Odysseus’ praise to him in the Underworld, when Achilles ruefully admits that he’d rather be living and working on another man’s land, than be king over the lifeless dead.

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The Heroes In Ancient Greek Myths. (2021, September 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 1, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-heroes-in-ancient-greek-myths/
“The Heroes In Ancient Greek Myths.” Edubirdie, 17 Sept. 2021, edubirdie.com/examples/the-heroes-in-ancient-greek-myths/
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The Heroes In Ancient Greek Myths [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2021 Sept 17 [cited 2022 Dec 1]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-heroes-in-ancient-greek-myths/
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