Both Virgil and Homer depict their epic heroes as leaders with courage and compassion while developing specific characteristics that are necessary for the title of an epic hero. Virgil’s Aeneid develops Aeneas as an epic hero as he enters the underworld in pursuit of helping his people by discovering the fate of Rome. Virgil shows that a hero must be looking out for the common good in hopes to better their lives, even facing death. Homer’s Iliad reveals the ultimate epic hero is strong and courageous by fighting and displaying valor. He uses Achilles to serve as a warrior and hero who is relentless in the war against the Trojans. As each hero progresses in the story, Virgil and Homer reveal why they are necessary to the people, whose livelihoods depend on their respected heroes.
Virgil’s Aeneid illustrates Aeneas, a Trojan hero, as he embarks on his journey which takes him from Carthage and into his newly founded empire. Along the way Aeneas helps his fellow people and leads them to safety, risking his own life in an attempt to better the lives of his people. He is ready to take on this assignment from the gods with courage and ease even though it is not what he expects. Also, Aeneas does not hesitate to appease the gods and leaves the “sweet life behind” because he is “duty bound,” as he tells Dido. Aeneas shows his faith in the gods by his prayers to Apollo during his mission to establish a place to call home for his people and discover the fate of Rome from his father. Further, Aeneas shows his faith when he has to enter the underworld. He can break the golden bough off the tree “easily because he is called by fate.
” Most importantly, Virgil reveals that he is a loyal man to his people, his fate, and his family, a hallmark of an epic hero. Later, when he comes across Dido in the underworld, he finds out that she has committed suicide because he left her. At this moment Virgil reveals his compassionate nature by his justification to Dido to try to make amends.
Without his steadfast faith in his fate and courage, he shows when entering the underworld he would not be the epic hero Virgil depicts. Virgil’s depiction of Aeneas’ dedication to his fate set by the gods, despite challenges along the way, allows him to be the ultimate epic hero by helping his people have security and faith in him by his compassion. In Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, he illustrates Achilles and Odysseus as epic heroes by their leadership and courage among other traits. In particular, Homer’s Iliad reveals Achilles as a hero because of his capability and skillset in the Trojan War which proves he is indispensable.
Achilles is a fighter, and by far the best fighter for the Greeks, his enemies on the battlefield fear his presence because of his strength and courage, even with his life on the line. His efforts in the war are what keep the Trojans at bay, and even Agamemnon refers to him as “godlike.” Despite Agamemnon knowing he is necessary to their success, he does little to appreciate him. This, of course, frustrates Achilles who has immense pride in his heroism against the Trojans.
Homer reveals Achilles to be a hero when he says he will return home if Agamemnon and others continue not to honor his deeds. Homer does this by developing the idea that he will not just take words to appease him, and actions speak louder than words to him in this case. This takes courage on Achilles part because he shows how his skill set is necessary for their survival, he shows that he has self-respect despite his desire for glory that would come from fighting. Secondly, Homer illustrates Achilles as an epic hero in his battle with Hector.
In the battle scene Achilles is chasing Hector around the city in a circle, fortunately for Achilles, the gods are in his favor. They deceive Hector into believing that Athena is Deiphobus, which leads to his ultimate death at the hands of Achilles, who knows the armor’s flaws that he had taken from Patroclus’s body. This battle depicted by Homer shows Achilles fighting capabilities that are unlike any other mortal which make him a hero that shows courage and leadership. Both Homer and Virgil illustrate their epic heroes similarly regarding characteristics. Epic heroes, in both authors eyes, show courage, strength, determination, loyalty, and faith in fate.
These epic heroes do not fear death like the mere mortal might, but they embrace it and know that their end is near. They do not run from death they move towards it in hopes of bettering the common good along the way in pursuit of success.