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The Defining Characteristics of Heroes in Greek Myths of Perseus and Heracles

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In today’s world, when people hear the word hero, they often imagine Spiderman, Batman, Superman, even a police man, which is acceptable as they possess some incredible qualities but what we think of hero in our society is quite different to the heroes in Greek. The modern dictionary defines hero as a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities but in Greek mythology one would not call someone a hero with just by the qualities that are defined by the modern dictionary. In order for someone to be idealized as a hero he had to fulfill the requirements for hero.

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The characteristics of a Greek hero are the following: He has to be born in a royal family, he has to be born in an unusual way, he has to be part of one immortal parent and one human parent, Gods should favor him, Hero has to accomplish difficult tasks at young age. Hero has to fall in love with a virgin and marry her. Hero has to be related with prophecy and He has to slay a monster to be a monster. So, considering this, today’s definition of hero has taken a complete turnaround as they call everyone hero. Heroes we idealize now would not have been called heroes by the Greek standards. All the Greek heroes that existed fulfilled these requirements and became role model for people. For most of the heroes, it is obvious that the obstacles they go through as a child have had a big impact on their future and led them do accomplish impossible feats, which is known as Psychoanalytic theory.

One of the major heroes in Greek mythology is Perseus. His mother (Danae) had to go through lot of struggles to give birth to him because her father Acrisius, who was the king of Argos. Acirisius was always sad because he doesn’t have a son to give his Kingdom after he dies so he goes to Oracle at Delphi and was told an oracle that the son that your daughter will give birth to will kill him and take his kingdom as he does not have a son that could inherit the kingdom. So after hearing this prophecy, king was horrified and imprisons his daughter in a chamber in his palace to prevent her from being with a man.

The Greek god Zeus was really disturbed by her beauty and entered into the chamber as golden shower and made love with her, as a result of this Perseus was born. Later king finds out that his daughter has a child when he hears him crying but contribution of the Greek god Zeus denied him from killing the baby but however he places the baby in wooden box and throws it in the sea. So his birth itself meets four requirements to be a hero since he was related with a prophecy, which led to his grandfather’s attempt to imprison his mom and later caused his unusual birth. He was also born in a royal family and has mortal and immortal parents as he was born in a king’s family and the parents being Danae, who is a normal human being and the Greek god Zeus. The next criteria of Peruses being a hero meets right after he gets thrown in the sea by his grandfather, he did not get drowned as his father zeus had his eyes on him and kept him under his wings. This ticked off the requirement of Gods should favor the child.

Later a king named Polydectes’ bother, who is a fisherman rescue mother and the child from the sea and like Zeus, Polydectes is also gets attracted to Perseus’ mother’s beauty and tries his very best to make her his, but the young Perseus did not want that to happen. Then, the king Polydectes however plans to eliminate him from his life so he can marry his mother. He gives him an impossible task hoping that he would get killed. The king orders Perseus to kill a dangerous monster named Medusa, which has hair full of snakes and has the tendency to turn anyone that looks at its way to stone. Since Perseus us was loved by gods and goddesses, Goddess Athena appeared to him and gave him a shield which can prevent the monster from seeing him, so he would not turn to stone. God Hermes also helped him with winged sandals and a sword. So, with the help of the flying sandals and shield he flew to her invisibly and beheaded her. This brave act by Perseus ticked off yet another two characteristics to be a hero, since once of the characteristics mention the hero will achieve incredible achievements in his early age and the other one being hero slaying the monster.

Later enters a love in his life when he returns home from Africa, where he killed the monster. As he was passing Ethiopia to return home, he sees a attractive maiden Andromeda who was captured by a sea monster and was waiting to be eaten by him because Andromeda was a daughter of a queen and she was bragging about her daughter’s beauty and insulted the spirits of the sea also known as Nereid. So out of jealousy, Nereids complained to Poseiden. So Poseidon takes revenge by sending a sea monster that was craving to eat her alive. Since Peruses fell in love in first sight with Andromeda, he grabbed this opportunity with his two hands and made a deal with her parents. The deal was if he saves her from the monster, her parents had to give permission for him to marry Andromeda and take her back to home and the parents chose what any parents could have chosen in a situation like that.

So he uses to equipments that were given by god to slay the sea monster. He also goes through challenges as Andromeda was already promised to marry her uncle by her parents, so Perseus uses Medusa’s head that he slew to turn her uncle into a stone. Then the couple head to Persius’ homeland and live happy with their six sons. His marriage successfully meets three aspects to be a hero as he falls in loves with the virgin; ends up marrying her and for the second time hero Perseus can be seen slaying the monster. Later the prophecy his grandfather was fulfilled as Perseus accidently stroke him with a discus. So in the myth of Perseus, he fulfilled all the aspects to be considered as a Greek hero. Thanks to his struggles as a child for his achievements. One could clearly see how psychoanalytic theory played its part in Perseus’ life. His mother could not even go out when he was in her womb as his grandfather locked her daughter in a chamber and even after he was born his grandfather tried hard to destroy his life and threw him away in the sea. He lived a fearful life as he already been through the edge of his life because of his grandfather. So his old life took the fear off him and made him forget about death as he experienced it as a child everyday, which led him to slay the frightening Medusa and the sea monster. In Greek mythology, Perseus stands among the heroes as a hero with incredible courage although he had bit of help from the gods because one would not simply kill something that is extremely harmful at young age even when with support.

The hero next on line is Heracles. Incidentally, his mother happens to be Alcmene, who is a descendant of Perseus and father happens to be the immortal Zeus. His birth was a deception as Zeus changed his appearance into Alcmene’s husband and seduced her, then her real husband also comes home and sleeps with her.Zeus had already made a promise to his wife Hera that the next baby of Perseus descendant will be crowned as the king because he knew that it will be a baby from his descendant (Hercules).Later finds out that her husband had deceived her by sleeping with another woman and she seeks help of birth gods and delays Hercules’ arrival to earth and fastened his twins birth. However after all struggles, Alcmene gives birth to the twins although they looked completely opposite to each other and did not share anything in common.. So jealousy Hera comes up with all sorts of plans to crown the other twin named Iphicles. One day unknowingly, Hera breastfeeds Heracles, which strengthens the baby and he was way too strong for his age. Later, to kill Heracles for the second time Hera seeks the help of Poseidon who sends two snakes to kill Heracles. So plan goes in vain as nothing happens to Hercules as he was strong enough to deal with snacks but his twin Iphicles gets his rib broken. In his birth itself, he has achieved four qualities that would make him hero. He has an immortal and mortal parent, secondly he is the great grandson of Perseus and grandson of Electryon who also a king. So since he his ancestors were king he is classified into royal family. Then, his birth is considered as an unusual one because there were two sons from two different fathers in his mother’s womb and god of birth played so many tricks to kill the child in his mom’s womb.

Last aspect of a hero is that as a child he played with the snakes as if they were toys that were sent by Poseidon to kill him, that’s a difficult task to overcome. Then another trait of loving and marrying a virgin gets fulfilled when we heard about the battle in the kingdom of Thebes and their army had fallen powerlessly, Heracles led his warriors and rescues the kingdom. The king returns the favor by giving him his eldest daughter Megara. He loved her and the union had three children. Hera could not resist all these. So again the aggrieved Hera messes up his mind and leads Heracles in a tragedy as he killed her beloved wife and children.

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