In the ancient Greek period, heroes were defined as individuals chosen by the gods through fate to complete tasks, which are considered impossible to complete. The heroes achieve their goals with the aid of the gods. The heroes gained admiration from the common people as well as the nobles and the ruling elite. They were considered as individuals who could overcome death because they had the ability to accomplish tasks, which could only be accomplished by immortal beings. All of the three characters attribute their accomplishments to the existence and support of the gods (Buxton 54).
Thesus was the son of the sea god or the King of Athens King Aegeus “son of Aegus”. His father left Athens when he was still a baby. His father placed sandals and a sword under a rock, which were to be taken to him by his son Thesus when he was able to lift the rock where the goods lay. After he became of age, he lifted the rock and took the sword and sandals to his father. During his journey to deliver the goods to his father he encounters villains such as Procrustes, the cruel highway man who forced travelers to lie down on a bed and then pulled them to fit it.Thesus manages to use Procurstes own trap to kill him. He persuades his father to let him be one of the seven young men and women who were to be sacrificed to the Minotaur (Payment 34)
He encounters the King of Crete, Minotaur, who he managed to kill with the help of the King’s daughter, Adriane who he later abandons her on his way back to his father’s kingdom in Athens. His selflessness to volunteer to be part of a sacrifice .he was given a golden thread, which led him to the labyrinth, and he follows the same thread back to the entrance of the labyrinth. His ability to come back to the world from the labyrinth is considered as a great fete in the Greek culture and is associated with a superior being. He managed to kill the Minotaur, a task that had proved to be elusive from many warriors of the time. However, his betrayal to Adriane is thought to be a sign of weakness because heroes are expected to be very loyal to their women. In addition, he lost his kingdom to rebels (Buxton 33).
Jason was a leader of the Argonauts, who were the fifty men who voyaged in search of the Golden Fleece “the voyager, who seeks the fleece, put to task to prove his worth”. His tasks are the most fascinating because all the odds are against him and his men. On their voyage, they encounter storms, vicious sea creatures and attacks from other hostile warriors. He is aided by the daughter of the King, Medea who is conversant with magic to obtain the Golden Fleece. The tasks to be completed were impossible in terms of human capability. These tasks could only be achieved by the use of magic and this is necessitated by the presence of Medea who practices magic (Payment, 47). He manages to fulfill his tasks and because of this, he is considered one of the greatest characters in the Greek literature because he accomplished what he considered .However all his efforts are eroded by the fact that he lacks the loyalty to stick to one woman. He eventually becomes a wanderer because of his lack of legality on divorcing Medea in an effort to marry another woman. He also becomes a victim of love and he loses his status as a hero because he fails at the simplest issues in life. He does not fulfill the real description of being a hero as he is supposed to fulfill prophecies with the support of the gods.
Perseus is a son of Zeus and Danae “Son of the greatest god ruler of the heavens” (Nardo, 11). His grandfather had been warned by an oracle that his son would have a child that would try to kill him. he decided to take the child and his mother into a chest and threw then to sea. The chests drifted to King Polydectes kingdom where there king is said to have found the two and helped them. The king fell in love with Danae but was offended by the presence of his mature son Perseus and thus he hatched a plan to kill him easily without having to compromise his relationship with Danae.Perseus in his journey was instructed to return with the head of the Gorgon Medusa (Nardo, 14). However the gods were in favor of Perseus and thus he was set to succeed. Hermes made him a curved sword; Athena gave him shield that resembled a mirror whereas Hades made him an invisible helmet. All theses favors by the gods show that they were by his side in his voyage. Perseus was able to cut off Medusa’s head abut was not so successful in apprehending the other gorgons who were medusa’s sister.
Perseus was able to use the head of the Gorgon to his advantage by turning the sea monster into stone and Atlas after he refused to direct him to the location of the Gorgons. The use of the head he was given shows his intellectual capacity .For example he used the mirror shield to view medusa. Medusa was regarded, as being impossible to kill but Pereus was able to achieve this easily “she of many heads, turns to rock, he who dares stare”. Perseus on return killed his grandfather, fulfilling the prophecy. This is a sure characteristic of a hero because he achieves tasks that are impossible to kill and in doing so fulfills prophesies that were inevitable. His grandfather had thrown them away in efforts to avert his death but was later to die of the same person as foretold by the oracle. The gods were on his side during his voyage. This is a sure sign of a hero because he has the favor of the gods to enable him achieve tasks that were beyond the human capabilities (Nardo, 25).
Perseus is the greatest hero of the three because of the historical lineage that he held. He was to have children who later are the source of a grandchild who would be Hercules’s grandfather. This shows that he held great blood in him. Based on the definition of a hero from a Greek perspective none fulfills the description other than Perseus because of his contacts with gods. However, they all are presented with impossible tasks but they all prevail. Heros fall because of the weaknesses of the flesh, which reminds the common people that they are just flesh and blood like all other people in the world. They do not achieve such tasks on their own but because they are favored by the gods.
Buxton, R G. A. The Complete World of Greek Mythology. London: Thames & Hudson, 2004. Print.
Payment, Simone. Greek Mythology. New York: Rosen Pub. Group, 2006. Print.
Nardo, Don. Greek Mythology. San Diego, CA: Kidhaven Press, 2002. Print.
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