Ancient Greek Heroes Vs. Modern Heroes

1879 words - 8 pages

Ancient Greek Heroes vs. Modern Heroes
The word hero brings to mind different things to different people, since people tend to have different concepts of heroism. This is particularly the case with regard to the concept of heroes in ancient and modern societies. As times have changed, the definition of heroes has also changed, in keeping with the changes in the modern society. However, ancient and modern heroes do share some similarities, which act as the basis of heroism regardless of one’s perspective. In view of this, a hero can be described as a courageous person, who deliberately sets out to conquer obstacles for the benefit others or one who ...view middle of the document...

The other aspect that sets apart ancient Greek heroes from modern heroes is that after their death, they were usually immortalized, achieving the status of gods. Consequently, they continued to perform heroic deeds after their deaths owing to their immortal status. Hercules, after living a heroic life on earth ascended to Olympus, after which he attained immortality, living among the gods. In keeping with his godly status, he could still influence people’s lives, since he had attained supernatural powers upon death. Modern heroes on the other hand do not attain a godly immortal status, but they become immortal by virtue of their achievements. It is their lifetime achievements that become immortalized, rather than their status as human beings. In addition, modern heroes are usually remembered for their achievements during their lifetimes, rather than what they achieve after their deaths (Jalkotzy & Lemos 364).
Greek heroes also differ from modern heroes in that they were both feared and admired at the same time. Owing to their supernatural powers, they had the capacity to protect or destroy the people depending on the prevailing circumstances. This is clearly illustrated in the story of Medea, who was the daughter to the king of Colchis. As is the case in Greek mythology, she had supernatural powers, being the granddaughter of Helios the sun god. She was considered a heroine, since she used her supernatural powers to help Jason to get the Golden Fleece from her father’s kingdom. She ran away with Jason to Iolcus, after which she became his wife. However, when Jason decided to take a second wife, she killed the prospective bride as well as her own children with him. It is therefore apparent here that Greek heroes could use their power to destroy or to protect the people (Scott 56). This contrasts with the modern heroes, who are only acknowledged based on performing good deeds towards humanity. Modern heroes are objects of admiration rather than fear, and are not associated in any way with deeds that could harm humanity. In the case of Mahatma Gandhi for instance, he is remembered for his non-violent activism, which ensured that the well-being of humanity was safeguarded. In the modern concept of heroism, people performing deeds that harm the well-being of human beings cannot be considered heroes (Berman 142).
As previously noted, just as there are differences between modern and ancient Greek heroes, there are also similarities between them. One of the main similarities between modern heroes and ancient Greek heroes is that they both encounter great difficulties to accomplish their tasks. In addition, ancient Greek heroes also had to perform outstanding acts of bravery that were beyond human abilities. To illustrate this further is the example of Theseus, who was the son of king Aegeus of Athens. Though he had many adventures in which he killed many supernatural creatures, his most memorable heroic act was the killing of the...

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