Leadership is a word that has been viewed and defined in different ways in society. Some of the best definitions are from some of the most well-known leaders in history. In philosophy, Aristotle answers this question, saying, “He who cannot be a good follower cannot be a good leader’. From the eye of a dictator, ‘A leader is a dealer in hope.’ –Napoleon Bonaparte. Aswell a statement from a technology tycoon, “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.’ –Bill Gates. Leadership is shown in someone who inspires others through ambition and advises people to come together to accomplish an overall goal. In Western Civilization, we have learned about many figures who have manifested leadership. In The Aeneid by Virgil, Aeneas shows his strive to stick with his destiny and lead his family and people to a new land to start a new life. In the Bible, Moses has aspects of the virtue of leadership through leading the Israelites to the promised land from Egypt under the guidance of God. Finally, In Beowulf, we see the tragic hero, Beowolf have leadership in leading the charge in defeating Grendel and the other monsters attacking the Danes.
In the Roman epic, The Aeneid, Aeneas is a Trojan hero who shows excellent leadership by bringing his people to Italy and allowing his descendants, Romulus and Remus, to find Rome. At the beginning of the book, Aeneas helps lead his family out of Troy when it gets taken over by the Greeks with the Trojan Horse. When Aeneas sails with his men toward Italy, Juno creates a storm to bring Aeneas off track from his duty and brings him to Carthage. Juno does this because she knows that the descendants of Troy will destroy Carthage in the future. The God of Wind, Aeolus, is commanded by Juno to make the fierce storm that results in the loss of many of Aeneas men. We see his morning when Aeneas says, “My comrades, hardly strangers to pain before now, we all have weathered worse… Call up your courage again. Dismiss you grief and fear”(I, 233-234,238). Even though he lost many of his men, he shows courage and leadership by staying positive in encouraging his men to keep their heads up. Virgil narrates about Aeneas, “Brave words. Sick with mounting cares he assumes a look of hope and keeps his anguish buried in his heart.”(1, 245-246). Aeneas is also saddened by the loss of his men. He makes sure that what his men see is a brave man who is there to lead them in creating a new realm in Italy. We see this leadership again when he hunts enough food for all his men and to honor his fallen men when Virgil says,
“First the leaders, branching antlers over their high heads… no stopping him till he stretches seven hefty carcasses on the ground–a triumph, one for each of his ships– and makes for the cove, divides the kill with his whole crew and then shares out the wine” (I, 223,226-230)
Aeneas men are struggling and mourning, and Aeneas takes care of them, knowing that the best way to rally their spirits is to show generosity to the crew that has helped him along the way. This generosity is a trait that all good leaders demonstrate.
In Carthage, the queen, Dido, is a widow to a husband that was killed by her brother. She swore that she would never marry again and will stay ahead of her responsibilities as queen. Then when she meets Aeneas, Juno sends down Cupid to hit Dido with an arrow so that Aeneas and Dido fall in love and stay in Carthage. Jupiter learns of Juno’s plot and sends Mercury to remind Aeneas of his destiny. Virgil states,’his hackles bristle with fear, his voice chokes in his throat. He yearns to be gone, to desert this land he loves, thunderstruck by the warnings, Jupiter’s command… ‘ (IV, 347-349). Aeneas understands that he has to leave Carthage because his duty is not to be there but to continue to lead his people to Italy even if it means he has to leave Dido in Carthage. When Aeneas leaves, he responds to Aeneas saying,
“If the Fates had left me free to live my life, to arrange my own affairs of my own free will,… with my own hands I would fortify a second Troy to house my Trojans in defeat. But not now. Grynean Apollo’s oracle says that I must seize on Italy’s noble land”(IV, 424-425, 429-432)
Aeneas has to stick to his fate and make sure that he creates the foundations for a new Troy in Italy even if he has to risk everything. He does not want to leave Dido under his own free will, but he has a broader mission that is going to go down in history, which will make him remembered for years to come. His legacy is that he is the leader who created Rome, the new Troy.
Aeneas finally makes it to Italy and lands in the kingdom of Latium. There he requests from the King Latinus for a part of the land to set up the new city. The king also offers his daughter’s hand in marriage to Aeneas, which angers a possible suitor, Turnus, of a nearby kingdom. This conflict creates a massive battle against Turnus’s army and the Trojans. Aeneas leads the Trojans into battle full force, mainly after Turnus kills his friend Pallas. Turnus and Aeneas fight and Aeneas is about to spare him, but he sees Pallas’s belt on Turnus and decided to kill him on the spot. Aeneas made sure that the battle was over and that the land will be his kingdom, and nothing will stop him till his destiny completed.
In the Old Testament, Moses manifests the virtue of leadership before he is called on by God. He noticed the poor conditions the Hebrews had in Egypt and how the Egyptians treated them and knew it was wrong. In Exodus, it states, ‘He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his kinsfolk. He looked this way and that, and seeing no one he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. When he went out the next day, he saw two Hebrews fighting; and he said to the one in the wrong, “Why go you strike your fellow Hebrew?” (Exodus 2:11-13). Moses knew that he was a Hebrew and saw them struggling and knew he had to fight back and protected his people by killing the Egyptian soldier. Aeneas became a leader the moment this event occurred. Aeneas wanted them to work together and not fight against each other but go against the common enemy, the Egyptians. He then fled from Egypt and had a humble life of a shepherd. God realized that he is the chosen one to bring the Hebrews to the promised land in Canaan. He approached him through a burning bush. God called down to him, saying that he has watched over him and that Moses will free the Israelites and lead them to “the land of the Canaanites,… a land flowing with milk and honey”(Exodus 3: 17).
God sends Moses to talk with the Pharaoh with no success. As a result, God responds with the plagues, and the Hebrews knew that God had given Moses the power to provide them with their freedom. After nine plagues, Pharaoh does not give in. Moses commands the Israelites to take the blood of the lambs they have killed for Passover and put the lamb’s blood over their door frames so they will not be affected by the tenth plague, killing of the firstborn sons. The Israelites see the power that Moses has and trust him by obey his command. God says, “For I will pass through the land of Egypt the night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you” (Exodus 12: 12-13). God passed over the houses of the Israelites and killed only the firstborn sons of the Egyptians, including the firstborn son of the Pharaoh. The Pharaoh summons Moses and Aaron and says to them, “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord as you have requested. Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me.” (Exodus: 31-32). Moses does precisely this and leads the Israelites out of Egypt and onto the desert road toward the Red Sea.
The Pharaoh changed his mind and sent out the chariots and men after the Israelites. Moses is commanded by the Lord to “Stretch out your hand over the sea, so that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots and chariot drivers.” (Exodus 14: 26). Moses does as commanded, and parts the Red Sea to guide the Israelites across the sea. Then as the Egyptian army approached, the Lord brought the sea back together on top of the Egyptians. The splitting of the Red Sea shows Moses’s leadership and following his destiny of bringing the Israelites to the promised land. Another time Moses shows the virtue of leadership is when he receives the ten commandments on top of Mount Sinai. In Deuteronomy 31, Moses wrote the laws and instructions in a book and gave it to the Israelites so that they will be obedient to God’s command. Under God, Moses brings his people to the promised land and completes his goal.
The last figure that has manifested the virtue of leadership is Beowulf. Beowulf is mostly known as a leader when it came to fighting the three monsters, Grendel, Grendel’s mom, and the dragon that was terrorizing the Danes and Hrothgar’s kingdom. Beowulf is a perfect warrior leader who showed signs of courage, bravery, and loyalty to the Danes while fighting these monsters. He shows his leadership when Beowulf would not stop fighting until Grendel is dead even if he loses his life when he says,
‘I had a fixed purpose when I put to sea. As I sat in the boat with my band of men, I meant to perform to the uttermost what your people wanted or perish in the attempt, in the fiend’s clutches. And I shall fulfill that purpose, prove myself with a proud deed or meet my death here in the mead-hall.’ (Beowulf, 43, 632-638)
Grendel, a descendant of Cain, began his pillages as a result of hearing the Heorot banquet’s songs of God’s creation of Earth, which frustrated the monster. The killings and attacks continued for many years, and they needed a leader to step up and defend the people. This hero being Beowulf. Beowulf defeats Grendel with superhuman strength because weapons do not injure the monster. In Beowulf, it says that the beast “discovered himself in a handgrip harder than anything he had ever encountered in any man on the face of earth. Every bone in his body quailed and recoiled,” (Beowulf, 51, 749-752), which shows how mighty Beowulf was. He leads the attack by wrestling with the monster and ripping his arm out of his socket, which helps boost his men’s confidence in defeating the monster. The Danes look up to him as a leader as well when it comes to fighting his next challenge, Grendel’s mom, to save them from the same terror that Grendel left behind.
Beowulf is called on by Hrothgar to lead the fight against Grendel’s mother after she kills Hrothgar’s friend, Aeschere, in revenge for her murdered son. Beowulf and his men depart to her swampy lair. Beowulf dives down to the bottom and fights her with the sword that Unferth gives him but with little success. He uses his bare hands as he did against Grendel, but realized he matched evenly. Beowulf noticed “a sword in her armoury, an ancient heirloom from the days of the giants”(Beowulf, 107, 1558-1559) that was very large allowing “only Beowulf”(Beowulf, 108,1562) can use. He then proceeds to kill the monster by slicing “deep into her neck-bone”(Beowulf, 108,1566), killing the beast. He saved the Danes again by himself, defeating the monster with superhuman strength through wielding the sword of the giants.
As a result of Beowulf triumphs, Hrothgar awards him not only with treasure, but declares him king of the Geats saying, “I firmly believe the seafaring Geats won’t find a man worthier of acclaim as their king”(Beowulf, 127, 1850-1851). After Hygelac dies in battle Hrothgar’s prediction is correct, and Beowulf takes the throne as a great king. We see Beowulf as a great king because he rules over the Geats for fifty years. Then terror strikes again when an intruder steals a goblet from a dragon cave, angering the dragon. Beowulf challenged the monster, his hardest test yet, and with help with Wiglaf, Beowulf finally defeats the monster after many attacks by getting enough “strength and drew a stabbing knife he carried on his belt, sharpened for battle. He stuck it deep into the dragon’s flank” (Beowulf, 183, 2702-2703). This final blow killed the dragon and saved the Geats from a fiery purge.
Aeneas, Moses, and Beowulf show similarities as leaders. Aeneas and Moses were both led by fate and divine powers. For example, Aeneas was guided by Jupiter to remain on track in making it to Italy. Moses, on the other hand, was guided by God to free the Israelites from Egypt and present them the ten commandments, the laws to govern them. Both Aeneas and Beowulf had to fight monsters to achieve their goals. Aeneas faced against harpies, half-bird and half-woman creatures, Scylla, the six-headed monster, and the Cyclops. In comparison, Beowulf had to fight the monsters, Grendel, Grendel’s mom, and the dragon. Aeneas and Beowulfs obstacles displayed their leadership in saving their men and people from being hurt or killed. Moses and Beowulf showed superhuman powers when defeating their enemies to help save their people and complete their quest. We see their abilities when Moses split the Red Sea and crashes it down on top of the Egyptian soldiers. In connection, Beowulf uses superhuman strength to kill the monsters with his hands and the sword forged by the giants.
In society, leaders are hard to come by; as stated by Nelson Mandela, “It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership” — this rare breed which sets themselves apart and guide others to a goal. Aeneas, Moses, and Beowulf manifested the virtue of leadership through sacrificing their own lives to help others, and future generations have an experience of opportunity and livelihood.