Clearly defined in The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Aeneid, and The Ramayana are the indispensable traits required by an epic hero. Through these works, each epic hero undergoes a series of particular events that illustrates the essential traits to being an epic hero: being a great warrior, piety, and knowledge.
The first distinct quality of an epic hero, illustrated through the multiple characters, is his ability to be triumphant in war. One instance where great feats and divine actions are prominent is in The Epic of Gilgamesh when Gilgamesh and Enkidu defeat Humbaba and the Bull of Heaven. Gilgamesh and Enkidu are able to prevail against Humbaba’s “mouth [which is] fire; his roar [which is] the flood water; [and] his breath [which is] death.” (The Epic of Gilgamesh) This characteristic is also evident in The Aeneid. Aeneas presents his superiority at war when he overcomes Turnus and “plants his iron sword hilt-deep in his enemy’s heart.” (The Aeneid) The final example of a hero showing his dexterity at war is in The Ramayana, when the epic hero, Rama, triumphs over Ravana. Rama is another great warrior who “with his arrows like flames of fire single-handedly annihilated the forces . . .” (Sandahl) In conclusion, all these epic heroes share the common trait of being exceptionally skillful warriors.
The second quality essential to an epic hero is his piety. The first example of piety is in located in The Epic of Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh and Enkidu show their dedication, loyalty and belief to the gods through their actions after they triumph the Bull of Heaven. After Enkidu and Gilgamesh killed the Bull of Heaven, “they ripped out its heart and presented it to Shamash. They withdrew, bowing down humbly to Shamash...
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...n the epic, Aeneas wanders off course from his destiny and falls madly in love with Dido. With the help of Jupiter, Aeneas realizes his mistake and how he has lost sight of his destiny to found a new city – so he leaves. This illustrates that Aeneas is knowledgeable enough to know that leaving Dido to follow his destiny will eventually lead to his duty of founding a new city. The last example of a knowledgeable epic hero is Rama from The Ramayana. Rama, is known to be knowledgeable because of the time spent with Sage Viswamithra. During Rama’s time spent with Sage Viswamithra, Sage Viswamithra enlightens Rama with many stories including: Thaka’s Story, Mahbali’s Story, Ganga’s Story, and Ahalya’s Story. Through these stories, Rama becomes more knowledgeable and furthermore a greater epic hero. To conclude, all these epic heroes share the characteristic of knowledge.
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