You are on page 1of 6

DeMar 1

What is a hero? So many people would render so many different responses to this simple question. A three year old boy would tell you his daddy was his hero or the local police, or fireman. Any teenage girl would tell you that an actress or a model was her hero. A religious man would tell you that his God or gods is the greatest of all heroes. No matter what your idea of a hero is, what do all heroes have in common? They are all people or figures that live a life for others to look up to or model their own lives after. The use of heroes in epic poems and ancient written works, such as the Iliad and Iphigenia, is to give others a hope and reason for living. The definition of a hero back in the ancient Greek times and the definition of a hero that anyone would give you today really have not changed too greatly. Today someone would tell you that a hero is someone who goes above and beyond what is expected of them. Beyond their personal duties, and they would typically take risks to their own life. We believe that the main characteristic of a hero is courage. Courage is not merely a lack of fear, but rather being terrified and doing the job anyways. Idealistically, a modern hero exemplifies great courage, decisiveness, helpfulness, determination to do what is right, and most of all selflessness. In Ancient Greece, a hero excels in skill, strength and courage. He makes quick decisions and takes on tasks that no one else would dare to attempt, sometimes involving unnecessary risks. Most important of all characteristics, a Greek hero values honor and glory. Although the ideas of a hero may have changed, the discipline behind the life of a hero has not. A hero holds himself to a higher standard to which others would strive to be more like him in their actions and words. A hero will always be a hero, but some do not deserve this title as much as others do. For example, Achilles is considered the number one hero of the Iliad. As Katherine King

DeMar 2

states in her book on Achilles, the features that are given to Achilles by Homer make him the best and the beast. She goes on to contrast his positive and negative characteristics; such as, the youngest, handsomest, swiftest, and mightiest warrior as positive characteristics, and the most pitiless slayer of the battling or defenseless enemy, uncontrollable wrathful, and arrogantly proud and rebellious as his negative characteristics (King, 292). I couldnt agree more with her very detailed description of his character. His positive characteristics are what make him the well-known greatest hero in the Iliad, but a hero needs to exhibit more than just physical traits to warrant him a title of a great hero. Achilles overly proud and rebellious attitude is what makes him less of a hero. To some extent pride is necessary, but there is a line that cannot be crossed for a great hero, because a hero should not have excessive pride in their life. Achilles cannot control his pride or his raging anger if his pride is hurt. An example of this lack of self control is when he leaves his soldiers and the war completely and begs Zeus to allow the Trojans to kill them all. Excessive pride proves that the hero is focused on himself rather than the people he is serving or protecting. An example of this type of hero in the modern day is someone to whom every young boy and man looks up to and watches on a daily basis. I am talking about athletes. Everyday young boys are updated on the life of his athletic hero through SportsCenter and ESPN. Every athlete should not be considered a hero. There are few athletes who contain the true qualities of a hero. Athletes should be viewed as entertainers rather than heroes, but in todays society they are held to a totally different standard in the lives of our young people. The popularity of athletes has altered the definition of a hero to being someone who has great

DeMar 3

fame and is well known, rather than being someone worthy of others living up to them by changing or saving lives. My point is that so many times our view of a hero is altered because of the way our society has grown. We believe whatever society tells us is true rather than decided on our own terms what will be truth. Just as an athlete is no more than a hero than an entertainer, so Achilles is more a ruthless murderer than a man I would encourage my son or daughter to model their life after. Unfortunately, I live in a decade where entertainment is more valued than the life and character of any man. Imagine being told that you will need to be sacrificed as an offering to the gods to provide fair winds to allow your countries army ships to set sail. Not only are you told that you are to be sacrificed, but you are also lied to in the process. Iphigenia is told to make her way to Aulis with promise that she is to be married to the warrior Achilles. Upon arriving at Aulis, she finds that there is no plan of a wedding; in fact, she is to be sacrificed to allow the Greek army to resume their journey to Troy. Iphigenia is a true heroine. Fear and confusion set in after the immediate shock of the truth and in realization that her father had deceived her. Iphigenia runs off and later is found by the Greek men. She is brought back to camp, where she begs and pleads her father to save her life (Euripedes). I would have done nothing different up to this point. Running away is a result of fear and being overwhelmed. All of a sudden, Iphigenias attitude makes a complete one hundred and eighty degree turn around. One moment she is begging for her life and the next she is willingly walking toward the altar. After Achilles tells Iphigenia that he will fight to the death to save her, even if he is the only one to fight against the entire Greek army, she realizes that she is merely the first soldier to die in the Trojan War. Iphigenia realizes that it is her duty to lie on the altar

DeMar 4

and be sacrificed for her country (Euripedes). This brings me back to the definition and characteristics of a hero. I said a hero is anyone who contains abundant courage and who takes risks to their own lives for the sake of others. Iphigenia knows that if she does not go to the sacrifice willingly, her entire family will be killed and at the end she will be sacrificed anyway. It takes an incredible amount of courage for a young girl to look her mother in the eye and tell her that she must go willingly and her mother must not fight her or hold her back. This is the model of a true hero. A hero may not always like what he or she has to do, but he does it regardless. Another example of a great hero is Hector. Hector is the son of Priam and the Prince of Troy. If there is anyone in the Iliad that deserves the title of hero, it would be Hector. Hector is the only hero in the Trojan War to place everyone else above himself and his own personal needs. The only reason Hector fights is because the safety of his country is being threatened. His brother caused the entire war by bringing home Helen, the wife of Menelaus. Instead of sitting back and blaming Paris for the war and expecting everyone else to protect his nation, Hector is in the front lines to protect his country and his family. While Hector is out fighting for Troy, Paris is inside hiding away in his bedroom. Homer develops Hector into man with a tender heart and sincere love for his wife and child. Above this love for his family, Hector never forgets his responsibility to his country. The character qualities the Greeks deemed as most important for a hero is honor and glory. Hector fights in a duel with Achilles, because he had killed Patroclus, Achilles best friend. Hector goes into this duel knowing that the gods no longer favored him, but he fights anyway to maintain the honor of his nation and his family (Homer).

DeMar 5

Today, in a society so messed up and skewed, it is amazing that these types of heroes are not hard to find. There are approximately 371,700 house fires per year, and an average of seven deaths per day. Have you ever sat back and thought about those men and women who dedicate their own lives to save the lives of others? Both men and women work as fire fighters either fulltime or part time because they care about saving other people in their country. Without firefighters, where would our country be? Life would be chaotic. Either everyone would have to drop what they were doing in order to help those with the fire problem, which is what firefighters do, or people would continue whatever they are doing and only worry about themselves rather than the people in need. It is nice to have people that are willing to sacrifice themselves to help others, especially in a society which teaches us not to care about anything but ourselves and what we want and need. Firefighters are not the only people who lay down their lives for others. Soldiers also sacrifice their lives to protect the lives of those in their country. Soldiers are probably the first people you think of when you think of a modern day hero, especially if you have a family member involved in the army. Fighting for your country is the most selfless act someone can perform. Joining the army and fighting in battle is dangerous, no doubt, but the men and women who do so are true heroes exhibiting unending courage and pride in their own nation. Both firefighters and soldiers sacrifice themselves for the sake of their country. One protecting and saving lives here on the home front, and the other going out and fighting for the countrys freedom. Iphigenia and Hector portray great examples of the great heroes in the Ancient Greek days because they do not hesitate to do the right thing even though it seems

DeMar 6

impossible. No man or woman wants to die, but when it comes to the fate of their country or even their family, they do what they have to do to protect those to whom they love. So, who would you choose to be your hero or your childrens hero? The society may have brainwashed us into thinking a hero is to act one way, but in all reality we are losing grip of what a hero truly is. A hero in my life, just as many other lives of young people, is someone who is a role model for my way of living. It is someone I want to be like when I grow up. As I experience more in life and gain more wisdom, I may look back someday and realize that I was foolish for the heroes that I may have had, but that is what life is aboutmaking mistakes and learning from them. I want my hero to hold the qualities like that of Iphigenia and Hector by exemplifying great courage, decisiveness, helpfulness, determination to do what is right, and selflessness. I want my life to form around these qualities so that I may be a hero one day also.

Euripedes. Trans. E. P. Coleridge. N.p.: Publishing, 2012. Print. Homer, Robert Fagles, and Bernard Knox. The Iliad. New York, N.Y., U.S.A.: Viking, 1990. Print. King, Katherine Callen. Achilles: Paradigms Of The War Hero From Homer To The Middle Ages. University of California Press, 1987. 292 p.