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The Notion of Hero in Homer's Epics

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Many myths of different countries are mostly about gods. The myths of Ancient Greece are about the heroes. They are the sons and grandsons of gods that are in relations with mortal women. They were heroes, because of their lives full of adventures, wars and magnificent deeds. These men punished the guilty and satisfied their desire for glory in wars and battles. When the Earth became overwhelmed with such heroism, the gods made their choice and the heroes faced each other in the Trojan War.

Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey are connected with each other by the cycle of stories about the Trojan War. The epics are full of adventures, historical and mythic heroes. The epics are bound by the motif of death, challenge of the heroes, their voyages and travelling to different worlds. There are numerous men in Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey, but there is no need in remembering them all. They appear and disappear during wars and adventures. Homer shows them as a passive mass, because they cannot be opposed to the magnificent heroes and warriors. Thus, the most prominent heroes stand in glory and respect. They are Agamemnon, Menelaus, Achilles, Odysseus, Hector, Aeneas and others.

The heroes of the epics are courageous and glorious. They do not know fear in front of their enemy. Homer’s heroes are, first of all, the warriors that live in the society of constant wars and searches. Here comes the need for military valor. Moreover, the notion of a hero also presupposes grace, which means that they were glorious due to the gods. All Homer’s heroes are gifted with gods’ support and favor. For instance, Achilles was the son of the nymph Thetis; Odysseus was always supported by Athena, but hated by Neptune. Thus, gods did their course of events. Ares was for the Trojans, while Hera and Athena fought for the Greeks. 

Furthermore, the hero in Homer’s understanding is not only a warrior. He is also able to hesitate and fear, but he always overcomes weakness. These brave men overpower the human for the divine and die as heroes. The death makes them heroes. The most prominent in Homer’s The Iliad are Hector and Achilles. They are different, but magnificent. Achilles is one of the strongest Greeks. He is fearless to his enemies, severe and proud. He is ruled by his rage and passion for glory and his name is praised in songs, “…mightiest of them all; we did not fear even their great champion Achilles, son of a goddess though he be, as we do this man: his rage is beyond all bounds…” (Homer 113). Hector, on the other hand, is a Trojan hero. He is a true idol for his nation, a father and a husband, who faces Achilles without god’s support. Hector, on the contrary, hesitates and fears Achilles. Thus, he is full of self-denying heroism and responsibility. However, his fate was determined on the Olympus. “I know you what you are, and was sure that I should not move you, for your heart is hard as iron; look to it that I bring not heaven's anger upon you on the day when Paris and Phoebus Apollo, valiant though you be, shall slay you at the Scaean gates” (Homer 437).

Odysseus is a different hero. He is a courageous warrior as well. However, it is not his main trait. Homer describes him as a very intelligent and sharp. It was his idea was to create the Trojan horse. Due to his intelligence and Athena’s support he could escape many creatures and obstacles on his way. His most prominent features are love to Ithaca, adventures and victory. He is a powerful fighter. Thus, after such long adventures he appears to be long-suffering for his homeland, loving wife and son.

To sum up, the notion of a hero in Homer’s epics is rather diverse. He endows his heroes with many traits. Thus, desire for glory, courage, victory and fearless devotion to war is what unites them. The heroes are simultaneously majestic and powerful and at the same time tragic and doomed for the death.

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