Greek Heroes Essay, Research Paper
Heroic Greek Warriors
Heroes take arduous journeys, confront mythical creatures, discover lost treasure, and change the nature of the world with their acts of courage and selflessness. They are legendary figures, endowed with great strength and ability, who dare to heed the call of adventure. These heroes endure much opposition, hardship, and danger to transcend the average man. Ultimately, the hero emerges as an invincible warrior who, by asserting his will, changes the world.
Every civilization throughout history has had its heroes those who represent the values of their society to the highest degree. In today s society, we think of heroes as super-humans who can run faster than a speeding train or leap over buildings in a single bound. In ancient Greece, heroes were people who demonstrated great strength and tremendous courage in battle. Greek heroes possessed honor, strength, and courage that earned them respect in the community. In the Iliad, Homer tells the story of two warriors, Achilles and Hector, both of whom exhibit many qualities of a Greek hero.
According to the ancient Greeks, living and dying with honor was of prime importance to one s heroic status. Achilles shows his honor throughout The Iliad. In the beginning of the story Achilles questions King Agamemnon s involvement in the war. This inquiry leads to his ultimate rebellion against the King and all social norms. Achilles actions were uncommon because honor within the community is a vital part of being a hero. One did not question the orders of their superior regardless of the situation. The hero s whole world revolved around his relationship to his family and the city. If this personal honor awarded to him by the community was lost, he felt life had lost its meaning. For example, Achilles feels he has lost his honor when Agamemnon takes Briseis away from him. Later, he even refuses Agamemnon s gifts to compensate for his previous actions, because he feels it will be even more detrimental to his honor. Achilles also centers many of his actions around the utter fear of disgrace. He does, however, break the heroic code of society by threatening to kill Agamemnon, and by showing disrespect for his superiors. For the main part, Achilles actions revolve around his pursuit for honor and glory, and for his sense of loyalty to the community and society in which he lives.
The Iliad also discusses Hector s honorable life and death twice. In Hector s conversation with Andromache, she tells him that she wants him to stop fighting because he is fated to die and she doesn t want to be left a widow. He replies to her that he would feel great shame in front of the Trojan warriors and the Trojan women if he did not continue to fight. Hector clearly would rather accept his fate and die than be dishonored and not fight. His mindset is the same as he stands at the Skian Gates and decides whether or not to retreat into the city. He shows his honor and pride by leaving the safety of the city to go out and fight. Pride and honor play a role in preventing Hector from backing down. Hector s fearless confrontation with his destiny is an extremely heroic act. Homer s description of Hector s courage, even in the face of death, shows his willingness to preserve his honor at all costs.
Another aspect of Greek heroism that is displayed in the story is the strength of the two warriors. In the story, Hector is described as the greatest of the Trojans. In Helen s conversation with Hector, she appeals to Hector and makes several statements about him being the best among the Trojans, especially better than her husband Paris. She says that she wishes that she were the wife of a better man, and that better man she is referring to is Hector. He also received praise at his funeral from his wife Andromache. She says that many Greeks fell to the greatness and strength of Hector. She makes it clear that he fought bravely and dominated the Greek forces. Even the gods concede Hector s greatness in their speeches. Homer s description of Hector s power and strength lays a solid foundation for proving Hector s heroism.
Homer s concept of a hero is also present in his discussion of Achilles strength as a warrior. Achilles is often referred to as superior to others, and serves as the best warrior in the Greek army. The Trojans are so afraid of the strength of Achilles that they retreat at the sight of his war gear, thinking that he has reentered the war. The Trojans are even scared at the sight of his armor, though it is really Patrocalos. He shows his strength, as he is able to overcome the power of Hector and defeat him one on one. He demonstrates his deadly fighting style when he gruesomely kills Hector and then proceeds to mutilate his body. Achilles reputation as a power warrior is referenced throughout the story. The tales of his strength in earlier battles are proven by the amount of goods that he has collected. His strength is also noted by the fact that Agamemnon pleads with him to return and fight for the Greeks. Agamemnon knows that he will be unable to defeat the Trojans without the strength of Achilles on his side.
Both warriors also possess the third hero trait of courage. Each man shows their courage by continuing to battle in the Trojan War though they are both fated to die. Each believes that their cause is worthy fighting for regardless of the outcome. In the case of Achilles, he does not back down to any opponent. Each new opponent he faces might be his last. That thought apparently does not enter his mind as he continues to fight. He reenters the war knowing that he will have to face Hector, the greatest of the Trojan warriors. He knows that the deck is stacked against him because his fate is to die in the war. His courage shines through even in the face of death.
Hector s courage is likewise based on the fact that he too does not fear death. This idea is seen as he waits at the Skian Gates and contemplates reentering the war. His courage is inspiring to his men as they see their leader out amongst them fighting the opposition. They are able to pin back the Greeks until Achilles reenters the war. Hector does so knowing full well that he might not be returning to the city of Troy again. His courageous spirit is once again shown as he goes to battle with mighty Achilles. He tears through the ranks of the Greeks as he awaits his chance at Achilles. He shows courage as the two are fighting even when the end is near. Achilles put Hector through a slow and painful death, yet Hector is able to take it like a man.
To be a hero, one must display honor, strength, and courage. In the Iliad, Achilles and Hector both display all of these qualities. Each embodies what their society defines as being a hero. They are admired for their noble qualities as well as the difficult tasks they perform. Ultimately a hero is a person who can overcome great odds, defend the good of their community, and show valor and strength in the face of controversy.