Heroism: Hero and Ar Te

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Heroism is a quality many aspire to but few achieve. Depending on the current culture and view of a particular society the definition of what it means to be a hero varies. Greek culture shared many values and ideals throughout all of its cities. However, some differences can be seen in cities such as Athens and Sparta. The readings from Homer, Xenophon, Aristophanes, and Thucydides explain the Greek ideals about heroism. While the religious groups of Christians, Muslims, and Jews shared some basic concepts they differed greatly from the Greek vision. The Christian Sermon on the Mount, the Jewish Hebrew Scriptures, and the Muslim Koran all praise a similar version of a hero.

Greek life during the time of Homer was filled with war and conflict, which greatly influenced the Homeric hero. Homer exalts arête the Greek ideal of excellence, which to him means a hero that is brave in battle as well as honorable in life. A strong allegiance to ones family as well as to the state is seen as an important value. He stresses the importance of going off to battle for the state despite the chances for winning the battle. As is the case in the Illiad Hector goes off to battle knowing his defeat at the hands of Achilles is eminent. "Surely I take thought for all these things, my wife: but I have very sore shame of the Trojans and Trojan dames with trailing robes, if like a coward I shrink away from battle. Moreover mine own soul forbiddeth me, seeing I have learned ever to be valiant and fight in the forefront of the Trojans, winning my father's great glory and mine own." Hector was a great man, he was a hero, and thus went off and fulfilled his duty to the state, which is another aspect of heroism. A hero as seen by Homer has courage, strength, bravery, and honor.

Continuing with the Greek tradition of the importance of the state, Pericles remarks on the ideals of strength and greatness within the state. However the differences between the Athenians, who...
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