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What Is A Hero? Essay

2418 words - 10 pages

The Value of Heroic Nature: Ancient versus ModernWhat is heroism? Is it being able to slaughter an entire army singlehandedly? Is it being a good father to your children? Or is it being able to do what is right, even if the choice is hard to make? The Oxford English Dictionary defines being heroic as "Of or pertaining to a hero or heroes; characteristic of, or suitable to the character of a hero; of a bravery, virtue, or nobleness of character, exalted above that of ordinary men." In the Iliad, Homer presents two very opposing sides of heroes. On one side, there is Achilles, the manly man, invincible to all mere mortal men; on the other, there is Hector, a true family man who defends his ...view middle of the document...

It is apparent in his backstory supplied by The Achillied is reference of his demi-god status and the dip within the River Styx. However, it is the bravery, the virtue, and the nobleness of his character that is being questioned. From the ancient viewpoint, Achilles was the epitome of heroism. He was strong, led the Greeks to victory, and died a tragic death in order to spur his fellow Myrmidons to fully take Troy. He is remembered as the greatest warrior that ever graced the earth, which in the ancient times, qualified him as the greatest hero of their time. However, modern readers take a different twist on the legend. What is his true motivation? Is it self-interest or is there a depth to Achilles that modern readers sometimes fail to grasp?To fully start to comprehend the complexity that is Achilles, one must look at the significant events that are presented by Homer. When The Iliad first begins, readers are first introduced to Achilles by his argument with Agamemnon over the war prize, Brieses. After a battle, women are given out to the soldiers as gifts; Brieses was Achilles's, whom Agamemnon stole to reclaim his own honor, which prompts Achilles to withdraw from the war. He sees Agamemnon as "always skulking behind the lines, safe in his fast ships-and he would take it all, he'd parcel out some scraps but keep the lion's share" (Homer, 9. 190-192). The question is if it is Brieses herself, or the idea of her that he is upset about. Both sides are equally supported by the passionate speech he gives as his rebuttal of Agamemnon's offer. On one hand, he talks about her as if they are a man and woman in love, constantly referring to her as his wife, his bride. Phoenix, his friend, even blames her as the reason he doesn't return to battle, saying it's "All for a girl, just one, and here we offer you seven…" (9. 671-672). Contrary to modern opinion, Brieses must mean something to Achilles. The movie, Troy, even focused in on their relationship, making her honor as well as his the reason he withdraws from the war. Some critics of the movie even say this is in line with the Achilles that Homer wrote of, a man so passionate he could not control it. However, this is the result of Hollywood, one of the greatest influences of the modern era. Many readers of the past generations could see Achilles through Hollywood's rose colored glasses. He could in reality not care at all about the lady he refers to as "his wife" (9. 195) and see her as nothing more than a "prize of honor" (9. 328). Within the epic, he demonstrates that honor is his reason above all to continue in whatever he does, not people or their wishes. It is somewhat self-centered and unheroic. After all, heroes are intended to be brave, virtuous, and noble men who can look into the face of life, with all of its difficulties, and still come out. It's being able to make hard decisions for the whole, even if your personal reasons are opposed. In Achilles's case, he was personally...

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