Iliad, line 187 From book The Babylonian Creation Epic

Iliad, line 187 From book The Babylonian Creation Epic

“You actually like fighting and war.”

Iliad, line 187

This week we’re given an introduction to some of the most famous heroes in literature. In Homer’s work, we’re introduced to Achilles, Odysseus, Hector, and Paris. In Valmiki’s work, we learn about Rama, who was Mohatmas Ghandi’s “personal hero.”

In our society today, we often use the word “hero” to refer to someone who does brave deeds, such as a fire fighter. In the classic literature, though, the concept referred to someone whose deeds had the potential to change the world. The heroes who are the central characters in the epics had abilities that were far beyond that of ordinary human beings, and often they were noted as being at least half god, half human, to emphasize this distance. Their actions and ideas mattered to their society at large, not only to individuals who benefitted from their work.

Choose two of the heroes from the works this week (one hero per work, so you are discussing two of the three works read for the week) and discuss their differing characteristics. Some of the heroes are noted for strength, for instance, while some are noted for intelligence. Some are noted for high moral character, while others struggle to do the right thing. In your discussion, reflect on what lesson the works are giving to their readers (or listeners). These heroes are so great that people cannot hope to imitate their deeds completely, but in what ways might ordinary people emulate them?

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