Learning to Think of Achilles As a Hero
In our popular usage, the word “hero” is applied to a protagonist that acts heroically in the face of unbelievable odds and acts of bravery. A hero is usually a human being or an extraordinary main fictional character that, in the face of adversity, consistently combats adversity by overcoming feats of strength, courage, or ingenuity. However, like other formerly exclusively gender-specific words, hero has become commonly used to describe any gender, although hero only applies to females. The original meaning was more specific to males, however, as in the standard definition, a hero is someone who acts heroically: to excel above others in athletic competition, to surpass others in talent or art, to persevere when suffering from injuries, and so on.
In more modern times, the word “hero” has become vague and is used to apply to numerous heroic traits. The more flexible usage is probably due to the increase of heroic roles in literature, movies, and television. Heroes are sometimes humanized, sometimes mythological, and sometimes superhuman. Often times, heroes are archetypes or common figures from a particular culture or nation. Heroes are also sometimes inspirational role models for younger generations of children.
A few scholars believe that heroes, more than other fictional characters, have attained immortality. This is because heroes, in a sense, are able to do great things without dying or disappearing from the earth. These are not scientists or technicians or even politicians, but are ordinary people who achieve deeds that are unmatched by any previous generation. According to recent research, however, the concept of heroism may be tied to certain forms of pluralistic universalism, which denies the existence of a single monolithic humanity. Some researchers see heroic action as a kind of mythic advancement within contemporary multicultural societies.
The most common mythological motifs associated with heroes include the story of Achilles in Greek mythology. Achilles is a Greek hero who is held up as a model for the virtue of bravery by the Trojans. His exploits earn him the respect and admiration of the Greeks and eventually the rest of the Mediterranean world. Achilles’ death at the hand of the Trojan prince Paris causes his reputation to disappear but allows him to leave an inheritance to his son Achilles, who uses it to train future warriors. When the Romans capture Troy after the sack of their city, they burn Achilles’ tomb and bury him with all of his belongings burned to ashes.
There have been a number of attempts to identify specific characteristics of a hero. Most scholars believe, however, that one essential quality shared by many heroes throughout the history of Western society is the courage to endure adversity and the ability to persevere. In order to be a hero, according to some researchers, a person must feel an intense sense of personal honor and dignity, regardless of societal status or physical condition. Another essential quality of a hero is a dedication to the cause he believes in; this can either come from within the individual himself or from a responsibility to serve others.
One of the most fascinating characteristics of Greek and Roman culture, according to historians, is the idea of heroic behavior. After all, countless ancient Greeks and Romans are said to have willingly put their lives on the line for their friends, loved ones, and the Greek and Roman communities they served. Classical Greece and Rome are also famous for their creativity and their literary creations, which span a broad spectrum of topics, genres, and time periods. Finally, Achilles, because of the character he portrays and because of his role in Greek and Roman society, has become a beloved figure for many students and educators who study heroic behavior.