The Difference Between Ancient and Modern Heroes

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A hero is an individual who acquires strength and endurance in challenging times. Written about two thousand years ago, Odyssey is still of significance in modern storytelling. The legendary Greek king of Ithaca and the central character of Homer’s epic poem the Odyssey was a great hero of his time (Nardo). He was visible for his unique qualities such as a sharp intellect, the thirst for glory and superior strength. The traits are still replicable in modern day fictional heroes such as Spiderman. Based on that, our paper would analyze the difference in qualities and characteristics between the heroes in modern and ancient times.

            An evident trait between both classical and modern heroes is that both demonstrate the significant things that man can achieve. When they combine the right attitude and hard work, nothing is impossible and unachievable. The aspect was of significance in the Greek culture to demonstrate that human could realize their potential without the help of gods. Most heroes were either demi-gods or ordinary humans. Being of godlike prowess often came with a sense of honor and divinity. Famous ancient figures often carried out outrageous and dangerous activities to achieve greatness and delight the gods. Besides that, they were cunning, determined, smart and unafraid of any circumstance. The characteristics to a large extent influenced modern hero culture. Based on that, the heroes in diverse timeframes present distinctions in many aspects.

            There were numerous differences in the inspiration behind a hero’s deeds. Classical heroes were from a period where life was tough and people had to be egoistic to survive. They were to inspire people of the time to go out and achieve their desires through glorious actions. Based on that, the classical hero’s actions were more from a personal perspective as they sought to see what they would gain from their actions. An example is Odysseus extensive journey. The quests that he engages in only serve to fulfil his goals and ensure that he arrived at his destination. Some of the feats included the defeat of Polyphemus, outsmarting Circes and leaving Calypso (Schein). They were all meant to assist Odysseus and his people arrive at Ithaca.

            On the other hand, modern superheroes were people who did good not for themselves but for the benefit of the entire society (Reynolds). Furthermore, actions targeted those who were in dire need. In most cases, there is personal inspiration but it is more on a selfless level than classical heroes. With reference to that, Spiderman devotes his life to saving others who are in need. His allies are citizens of New York and Queen’s who believe in him being more of hero than a villain. The idea is comparable to other contemporary characters who sacrifice their lives for others due to prior experiences that shaped their destiny and ideologies (Amster). Frequently, they hide their faces behind a mask to conceal their identity. The move reaffirms their quest of not seeking personal fame for heroic deeds and shy away from the glory.

            The other difference is the change in qualities of a hero. A hero is a distinguishable character of courage, brave deeds and noble qualities. With the classical heroes, significant emphasis was on their potencies and the outcome of their pursuit. It was primarily as a result of the influence technology had on their time. Battles during the period used swords and other traditional means. Thus, the stakes were high and the result relied on how good a warrior was that translated to them either living or dying (vanTulder). Odysseus got praised for his intellectual capabilities when it came to handling different scenarios. In comparison to the present times, the attributes considerably changed hence depicting the influence of classical heroes over modern heroes. Modern superheroes such as Spiderman and Rambo are not scrutinized based on their suitability to actualize their missions (Reynolds). War and destruction are the predominant approaches used to gauge their success. There is no application of intellect as they rely on technological advancements and superiority to pacify and subdue their enemies. It is in relation to aspects such as superior and advanced weapons.

            The narratives develop over time to fit the preferred audience. Classical hero myths were existent at a period when the society was less developed. The world operated in such a way that death was a common phenomenon. The society was lawless which is evident from narrations of how gods raped women and punished many innocent people. The scenario is evident in Homer’s the Odyssey whereby the suitors schemed murder plots to win over Telemachus’. Moreover, Odysseus response was the assassination of people who went against his wishes. Odysseus views his activities as a right aimed at seeking justice against betrayers.

            In contrast, the acts are unacceptable and considered brutal in the present society. Classical tales promote personal gain of wealth, influence and status so that the hero could lead a comfortable life and obtain absolute immortality (Schein). However, modern stories promote the ideology of being comfortable in one self and doing the appropriate things to assist those around us. Spiderman highlights the attribute in how he takes it upon himself to get rid of evil in the society. There is the depiction of how it is unnecessary to assist people with major problems or undertake the impossible to help those around us. The characters offer an entertaining experience that is appropriate across different demography besides covering crucial topics with deeper meaning.

            The other difference in their qualities is the presence of heroines and the religious background of the characters (Hansen and William). Odysseus shares traits of attraction to women comparable to the modern-day Rambo. There are numerous instances when Odysseus comes across women before proceeding with his journey. Examples include Calypso, Circe and Nausicca. They tried to bring him down but he was able to resist their powers. He then decides to spend time with her before proceeding with his endeavors. Similarly, Rambo has a similar trait towards women in his films. In just about every movie, Rambo comes across beautiful women and ends up spending intimate time before going to save the world.

            On the same subject, Greek mythological heroes served a social and religious role. On the other hand, modern superheroes represented more of a social and political role. In ancient period, the gods dictated every aspect of the society and humans worshipped them. For any hero to thrive, they required their guidance. The heroes were demigods and their attributes were evident from an early stage in their lives (Hansen and William). Contrary to the present characters, they required no intervention from any source. The society already has powerful entities and thus help comes from higher institutions such as police, science and law.

            In conclusion, ancient and present heroes were distinct in various spheres. Despite evident similarities, the distinctions were more. Their ideologies got influence from their periods which served in shaping the society.

Works Cited

Amster, Carly. "Batman, Superman, and Spiderman: A Cross Cultural Study of Hero Mythology."(2010).

Hansen, William, and William F. Hansen. Classical Mythology: a guide to the mythical world of the Greeks and Romans. Oxford University Press, USA, 2005.

Nardo, Don. Odysseus. Mitchell Lane Publishers, Inc., 2015.

Reynolds, Richard. Super heroes: A modern mythology. Univ. Press of Mississippi, 1992.

Schein, Seth L. The Mortal Hero: An Introduction to Homer's Iliad. Univ of California Press, 1984.

vanTulder, R. J. M. "With great power comes great responsibility: Max Havelaar Lecture 2010."The Partnerships Resource Centre (PrC) (2010).

December 12, 2023

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