What Makes An Epic Hero? Essay

2714 words - 11 pages

References to epic hero stories are around us all the time, although we may not realize it. For example, why do we have trophies? What are they for? Well the answer to this lies in Beowulf; the trophies are put up to remember the deeds that we have done. Epic heroes have been around for a very long time, their stories born as the creation tale for the places of their origin. The people needed their epic heroes to outline the proper way to act and to tell the story of their creation. Some of the most famous epic heroes include: Achilles, Odysseus, Aeneus, Socrates, Gilgamesh, Beowulf, and Arthur. The question, however, is what makes them an epic hero? For each the story is different, yet alike. Homer’s The Iliad, and The Odyssey, Virgil’s Aeneid, Plato’s Apology, The Epic of Gilgamesh, Beowulf, The Story of King Arthur all present epic heroes that we still idolize today.
Achilles is called out of hiding by Agamemnon to fight in the Trojan War because he was such an outstanding warrior. Nothing could kill him because his mother had dipped him in the river Styx when he was a baby so he would be immortal. He was in hiding because he was told that he would die if he ever returned to battle; despite his efforts, however, he returned to battle with the Achaeans in the Great War at the walls of Troy. Achilles traveled to Troy to fight not because he was invested in the cause, but because it was his duty. However, once he got to the battle, Agamemnon and he got in a fight over some girls and Achilles withdrew from battle. Odysseus went to the tent of Achilles and tried to convince him to continue fighting. To these attempts Achilles responded, “But why must the Argives fight the Trojans? Why did Atreus' son assemble and bring us? Wasn't it for Helen's sake? Are Atreus' sons the only men who love their wives?” (Lines 336-340; Book Sixteen) After more convincing, Achilles returned to battle and was eventually killed by an arrow, guided by Argos, to his only week spot; when his mother submerged him in the river Styx, she did not cover his heel where she held on to him, making it the only spot that could harm him. “So - Achilles has most of traits of a great warrior. He is openly acknowledged as the best of the Greek warriors. However, he does not have control over his emotions and impulses. His rage/anger in the start of the poem keeps him from acting completely heroic early in the story. He has "Hubris" - overwhelming pride in knowing just how great he is) Achilles knows that he can either live a long and anonymous life or die young and brilliantly - obtaining a form of immortality in the Greek World because of his great feats as a warrior. Ultimately, he sacrifices everything so that his name will be remembered.” (Doxiegal, Linda.)
Odysseus is often who we think of when we recall what it is to be an epic hero, mostly because of the characteristic journey. The Odyssey is about the ten year journey that Odysseus must make after the ten year Trojan War to...

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