What Is A Hero?

A hero is a pure character or an actual human being who, in the face of adversity, compels himself to overcome adversity by feats of strength, courage, or imagination. Like many formerly only gender-defined words, hero is frequently used today to describe any sex, although hero only refers to girls. Calling someone a hero or a heroine, is a way to boost their self-esteem. By identifying with and respecting heroes, we are taught that we can overcome our personal weaknesses and setbacks, that we can overcome threats or difficulties, and that we can be and do anything we set our minds to. A hero inspires confidence and pride.

Most definitions of a hero refer to the Greek ideal of the hero Achilles breaking the thousand-year reign of Troy’s god ruler Paris. Aeneas fled from Troy and was rescued by the Trojan prince Hector, who was also destined to be a hero in his own right. In the legend, Hector fell in love with Aeneas. Recognizing the hero’s abilities as a warrior, Paris tried to crush Achilles’ dream of crossing to Italy, but he was saved by his friend Patroclus, who killed Troy’s first ruler, Paris. Thus, the word hero has various interpretations, depending on the time period and culture from which it comes.

According to classical literature, some of the greatest classical heroes were often fond of wine and women. Greek hero Achilles was famous for being skilled with both, fighting mostly with his lance and taking part in tournaments for choosing the most beautiful woman among all the women of Troy. He was famous not only for his victories over the Greeks, but for his hospitality toward strangers and his courage in battle.

In modern times, the philosopher Aristotle argued that every human virtue and attribute are born out of human vulnerability and the need for immortality. Therefore, every man is born with the capacity to be a hero, to have heroic acts and to be heroic in deed. According to Aristotle, a hero is one whose actions are intended to save his country or his mankind, to protect them from danger. As an element of the plot, the character of the hero becomes essential in creating a heroic drama.

According to the Greek poet Homer, there were seven ideal Greek heroes, namely, Odysseus, Patroclus, Hercules, Antigone, Achilles, and Python. Homer based these characters on actual historical individuals. Antigone was the grandmother of Odysseus, and Patroclus was the founder of a city, Troy.

It was not until the nineteenth century that American author Mark Twain made use of the word hero in his book. Twain noted that although the hero and heroine are often misconstrued, there really were something historical behind them. According to Twain, both Odysseus and Antigone had been born with a ‘Genius’ which were a kind of ‘humanity,’ and which, according to Twain, was their individual secret. Thus, it appears that from antiquity to the present, the idea of the heroic personality has been with us – and we are just waiting for its comeback.

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