Heroism in Greek Culture
A hero is a normal human being or a main fictional characters who, in the face of danger, battles adversity by feats of courage, ingenuity, or strength. Like many formerly only gender-defined terms, the hero has been widely used to describe any gender, although hero only applies to women. However, the hero still retains its gender-free status even today.
While the study of heroes has been underway since the ancient times, most of the existing definitions have come from recent studies. These studies include statistical data on crime rates, demographics and individual personality traits. These studies also help researchers understand how heroes act, what motivates them and why they become heroic in the first place. Thus, many psychologists, sociologists, and others have conducted a lot of research on the subject in order to create new and better definitions.
According to some sources, heroism can be defined as an exceptional emotional state that is motivated by a personal need. In this sense, the term hero can be related to emotional bonding. Heroes are considered to be those who overcome tremendous personal challenges and undergo extraordinary challenges with unrivaled grace and courage. Some historians believe that true heroes do not only have superhuman physical traits but also qualities of social intelligence, tolerance for pain and suffering, and the ability to pursue noble goals without regard for the risks involved.
Some historians also believe that hero emerged out of the fantasies of everyday life for youths. They believed that boys often acted like brave men during their play and this led to the concept of bravery. Likewise, girls often acted as dutiful wives and mothers so that their parents could fulfill their dreams of becoming powerful heroes. Examples of heroic deeds are seen in the stories of Achilles in Greek and Lycus in Roman Mythology.
Another school of thought believes that heroics was the product of intellectual culture which was born out of the shadow of the city of Athens. This view believes that Greeks were really influenced by the theories of ethics, sociology, psychology, and mathematics while studying in Plato’s Academy. One of the most cited characteristics of a hero may be his or her extraordinary courage as exemplified by the characters in Homer.
Modern scholars however are not totally in agreement about the antiquity of the idea of a hero. One reason for this debate is that classic Greek plays did not feature any real heroes. Instead, all the great characters of the classical period were superheroes created by the Greek playwrights. In contrast, modern scholars believe that a Greek play may contain a real story, but it may just be a myth. The tragic elements in the play act as the perfect catalyst for the development of a hero concept that would motivate more legends to come out of the shadows.