Before going to compare my personal notion of heroism with some of the ancient heroes, let us get a better understanding of what heroism actually is. A hero is a person who does something memorable and in the benefit of a person or a society. “True heroes may be ordinary people doing extraordinary things and then resisting the temptation of personal glory” (Desiree). Some real-life examples of modern world’s heroes include a firefighter who rushes into a building on fire and takes people out or a person who saves a child’s life who comes in front of a fast-moving car.
Let us now make a comparison between contemporary and ancient heroes in order to know how the perception of real heroes has changed with the passage of time. The ancient heroes, which we will discuss in the paper, include Odysseus, Oedipus, Rama.
Contemporary Heroes and Ancient Heroes
Odysseus and Rama are some of the good examples of ancient heroes. Odysseus was one of the great Greek heroes. He was the king of Ithaca and was recognized as a famous Trojan War hero. “Odysseus’ supernatural strength and bravado represent qualities that were greatly esteemed in Homer’s time” (Desiree). Odysseus was a clever and confident king. Odysseus was a great man on the battlefield. He proved his courageous mindset on a number of occasions. It was Odysseus who devised the Trojan Horse trick which the Greeks used to win the war. Here we can say that if Odysseus was a hero because he devised the Trojan Horse trick to win the war, then all people who have invented new weapons and technology should also be called heroes because they help the armies get control of the enemies. From this example, it is clear that the current perception of a hero is somewhat the same as that of the ancient heroes.
True heroes are those who give priority to other people’s interests. “They lead by example – and often the example is of placing one’s self last rather than first” (Desiree). The way Odysseus returned home, the way he escaped from the bad intentions of Cyclops and his men, and the way Circe became his mistress prove the heroic personality of Odysseus. The concept of heroism that today people have in their minds is a person with qualities of social responsibility, humility, compassion, and less glamour.
Let us talk about another ancient hero, Oedipus. Oedipus is commonly known as a tragic hero. “Oedipus the King fits the definition of a tragic hero. He is not perfect, and has some flaws, just like anybody else” (Scott). Oedipus was an influential man who, in case of wrong decisions, used to bear the consequences of his actions instead of putting other people in trouble. The way Oedipus questioned Teiresias to disclose his destiny and the name of his father without caring for the consequences makes him a good example of a tragic hero. Oedipus was not good at taking correct decisions due to which he suffered huge criticism on some occasions. “Oedipus is put to shame in front of his entire city because of his incestuous act of marrying his mother” (Sample). Today, such a person is considered a hero who does not take any incorrect decision; rather his decisions play the role of stepping-stones for the people. Contemporary heroes do not take any illogical step and hide the negative prospects of their personalities. On the other hand, Oedipus used to expose some unflattering human behaviors, which included, pride, arrogance, and being driven by self-importance and personal emotions. These are the behaviors, which distinguish Oedipus from contemporary heroes.
Let us talk about Rama, who was a great Indian hero. Rama lived his whole life obeying the teachings of Dharma. He is considered an excellent example of a hero because he proved to be a perfect son, an ideal husband, and a highly responsible ruler of Ayodhya. “Rama’s destiny was to destroy Ravana, who has held all of the eternity captive” (Luipen). Today, people consider such a person a hero who takes on the responsibility of doing something adventurous and daring. Rama’s efforts to protect his people, his wife and the Goddess Sita truly make him a hero of his time. Rama is considered a hero because he was a true observer of his religion and played a considerable role as the ruler of Ayodhya. The heroism of Rama reflects the qualities of a true hero. Even today, people consider those people to be the heroes who are not only socially responsible but also take good care of their families and the people around them.
Summing it up, there exist some differences between ancient and contemporary heroes. Ancient heroes used to be courageous, performed extraordinary feats, and had noble characters. On the other hand, the current perception of a hero is a person who takes bold steps to save the lives of others. Today, we call every person a hero who does something out of the ordinary, whereas in the past, people used to view such people as heroes who had some respectable place in society.
Desiree, Lehman. “Hero Today, Gone Tomorrow: Odysseus v. Todays Heroes.” Bc.edu, 22 Jul. 2009. Web. 21 Oct. 2011.
Luipen, Jason. “When Did Rama Become a Hero? An Analysis Using Joseph Campbells The Hero with a Thousand Faces.” Associatedcontent.com, 07 Dec. 2006. Web. 21 Oct. 2011.
Sample, Yvonne. “Aristotle’s Ideal Tragic Hero.” Monm.edu, 2005. Web. 21 Oct. 2011.
Scott, Kimberley. “The Tragic Hero in “Oedipus Rex”.” Associatedcontent.com, 29 Jul. 2009. Web. 21 Oct. 2011.