Epic Heroes In Beowulf, Achilles, And The Odyssey

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Throughout the history of human existence, scholars have wondered what characteristics found in ancient literature exemplified in their corresponding ancient societies and how these classical works influenced said cultures. One way to answer these questions is to look at famous literary works and the epic heroes that comprise them. Characteristics of epic heroes such as those found in Beowulf, Gilgamesh, the Iliad, and the Odyssey often reflected traits that were seen as favorable within the societies in which they were written, which, in turn, led to these archetypal heroes greatly impacting surrounding societies. When comparing and contrasting epic heroes such as Beowulf, Gilgamesh, Hector, Achilles, and Odysseus it becomes evident that…show more content…
This can be done because epic heroes often embody the characteristics found to be ideal to the society in which they were created. For example, Homer and the Greeks likely regarded skill in battle to be an honorable and ideal characteristic. The Iliad clearly depicts this through the epic battle between Achilles and Hector when the two charged at each other and Hector “...drew the whetted sword that hung at his side” (Beers 62) while Achilles “...bursting with rage” (Beers 62). This same idea is shown at several points throughout the Odyssey when Odysseus must overcome challenges presented by the most deadly of monsters. Similarly, the ideal characteristics of Anglo-Saxon society are present throughout the epic of Beowulf. Beowulf himself demonstrates how the Anglo-Saxons found traits like strength, courage, faith, and gratitude to be so important (“Character Analysis” 9). Be that as it may, epics tend to also give insight into various aspects of different structures present throughout these societies as well. In Beowulf, the idea that people followed and served a leader who protected them in return, a key concept present throughout Anglo-Saxon society, is seen when Beowulf defends Herot and is named “The mighty protector of men...” (Beers 23). Another example of societal structures or beliefs being present in epics was seen by the importance of kleos, a Greek term used in reference to glory or renown, in the Iliad. Some moments from the text that demonstrate this importance are seen when Achilles chooses to remain in Troy rather and win glory by killing Hector rather than returning home to live in ease with his ailing father, essentially choosing glory and revenge over family ("The Two Kinds of Warriors: Hector & Achilles." 23). The idea of
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