Heroes in the World’s History
What makes heroes, and how we define them can change depending on who we are or what context we are in. A hero is usually a prominent original character or a major fictional character who, against all odds, battles adversity by feats of strength, courage, or ingenuity. In a broader sense, heroes are usually thought of as those whose deeds transcend time and place. In contrast, a villain is someone whose deeds do not change history, but rather because they are a creation of the writer or the artist. Because villains are usually very bad people, it is difficult to like them; thus, a person who is a villain is almost always an anti-hero.
Over the centuries, however, the idea of heroes and villains have changed. In most societies, the concept of a hero is associated with bravery, while a villain is typically endowed with cunning, Machiavellian schemes, grandiose acts of violence, or an over-the-top, evil mindset. Over time, this perspective has softened somewhat, but heroes still generally evoke images of exceptionalism – egotistical boastfulness, a need to assert one’s self-worth, and so on. For some time, the idea of heroes was associated with vanity fair, and heroes were almost always white.
The modern day hero is no longer primarily a Caucasian male; he may be Asian, Native American, African-American, or an Asian-Pacific Islander. Modern day heroes come from all different backgrounds and ethnicities, but they have one thing in common: they are considered to be selfless, self-respecting, courageous, and above all, great human beings. In some cultures, a true hero is a revered individual who lives by the proverb that states, “Do what you love.” True heroes make the world a better place.
One of the most important traits of modern day heroes is courage. A heroic personality is daring in the face of adversity and the unfamiliar. A hero who is not afraid to take risks, who is not intimidated by darkness or a seemingly desperate foe, and who is not afraid to make a personal sacrifice for the greater good is truly a hero. Courage gives one the will to become, to stand up for what one believes in, and to persevere. Without courage, there is no value judgment, no positive effort towards a desired goal, and no real meaning in life.
Classical heroes are generally honorable, kind, and considerate. Their philosophy often revolves around a singularity of idealism, which encompasses beauty, strength, goodness, and virtue. In contrast, the classical ideal of virtue is usually connected with a particular culture and is typically associated with power, glory, and an appreciation of life. Because of their universal views, classical heroes can be considered to be truly universal and timeless.
Achilles, Hector, and the Trojan heroes embody the characteristics of courage. They were all confronted with obstacles in their path that put them in danger and forced them to take action. The Achilles heel of classical heroes is the fact that they eventually found themselves on the safer side of the equation. It was the acrobatics and the sense of humor that kept them from taking off running from their dangerous situation, and it was the unique combination of personal greatness, personal honor, and personal courage that kept them on course.