Throughout the ages, there have been many epic heroes in which we hear about through stories. However, there is a rather common question of what makes them an epic hero. Not only do humans look for the bravery and good deeds in a hero, but they go deeper than that. They wish to know what lies beneath the skin. Literally, what makes them act the way they do. Psychologically speaking, there is no sure way to tell why each person acts the way they do. However, what people can analyze is the actions within a story. Of the numerous heroes in which one could extrapolate upon, there are a few who are ideal for finding the true characteristics that make a hero, those being: Achilles, Odysseus, Aeneas, Socrates, Gilgamesh, Beowulf and of course Arthur.
The first hero to analyze for characteristics is Achilles. Although some do not necessarily believe him to be the grandest man, he is still the basis of a lot of stories in which young men feel they should model. Achilles has certain qualities, such as willpower and a care for his men, as Graham Zanker says, “The loss of his armor would among normal heroes be considered a loss of honor, but Achilles makes no mention of honor in this connection, instead lamenting the loss of his friend, as the dominant theme of his speech, and denying that Zeus’ restoration of his honor gives him any pleasure now that Patroklos is dead.” (Zanker). This is also displayed plainly within the Illiad, “Why have you come to me here, dear heart, with all these instructions? I promise you I will do everything just as you ask. But come closer. Let us give in to grief, however briefly, in each other's arms.” (Homer). Speaking of the first quality, Achilles is quite often remembered for his stubbornness; however, it did have a good effect. Through his willpower, he was able to fight the war. When his men and army needed him, he finally got himself up and into the fight. As for a care for his men, he is devastated when one of his closest men dies in the fight.
Next to find characteristics in is Odysseus. The very first subject I must put forth is the fact that he never gives up on going home. He says within the text, “….the gods brought me to the island Ogygia, where Kalypso lives, with ordered hair, a dread goddess, and she received me and loved me excessively and cared for me, and she promised to make me an immortal and all my days to be ageless, but never so could she win over the heart within me.” (Homer). Though he could have very easily stayed on Calypso’s island paradise forever, he longed for home and never stopped trying to get there. As it is described by Irad Malkin, “Leaving behind the wondrous and terrible lands of the Beyond, unknown and unsought, a Nostos- a returning hero- came home to a familiar reality on the island of Ithaca.” (Malkin). Also, Odysseus is extremely clever. He is able to trick many people and beings and is very intelligent as far as war tactics goes. All together, Odysseus makes a good hero.