Epic Heroes Compared: Achilles, Sundiata and Rama

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Introduction Who is a hero? In contemporary times, usage of the term has become somewhat of a cliché. Over the years, the term “hero” has become representative of a wide variety of individuals, each possessing differing traits. Some of the answers put forth by my colleagues (during our in-class discussion on heroism) as to whom they consider heroes pointed to celebrities, athletes, teachers and family members. Although the occupations differed, each of their heroes bore qualities that my classmates perceived as extraordinary, whether morally or physically. Nonetheless, Webster’s defines “hero” as “a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities.” Thus, it is worth considering that individuals become heroes relative to the situation with which they’re faced. Using the above definition of hero and heroism, this essay attempts to assess three famous heroic characters portrayed in arguably the three greatest literary epics known to humankind, Achilles of Ancient Greece, Sundiata Keita of Ancient Mali and Rama of Ayodhya in what is today Modern India. With references to Stanley Lombardo’s translation of Homer’s Iliad, D.T. Niane’s Sundiata and R.K. Narayan’s translation of Valmiki’s Ramayana, this essay seeks to compare and contrast the attributes of these heroes, the morals associated with their heroism and their reasons for engaging in battle. Achilles The Greek army’s greatest warrior during the Trojan War, Achilles was born of the goddess Thetis and the mortal Peleus. (Murnaghan, 1997, p.xxv)“Strong, swift and godlike” as Lombardo translating Homer puts it (1997, p.5), his presence on the battlefield reverberated fear through his enemies. Being a general in the Achaean army, his original rationale as to engage... ... middle of paper ... ...ry characteristics which ultimately shaped the outcome of their campaigns. Although they utilized different morals and approaches in some instances, they were successful in their strife. Moreover, their attitudes also highlighted the characteristics of their cultures. Achilles mutiny as well as Sundiata and Rama’s humility points to what constituted the code of ethics in each culture. However, the trio are each a heroic representation of their respective cultures, thus inducing the conclusion that heroes are born relative to the situation they face. Works Cited Homer (1997). Iliad. (S. Lombardo, Trans.). Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. Narayan, R. K., and Kampar. (2006). The Ramayana: A Shortened Modern Prose Version Of The Indian Epic (suggested by the Tamil version of Kamban). New York: Penguin Books. PDF e-book. Niane, D. (2006). Sundiata. Harlow: Longman.

In this essay, the author

  • Explains that the term "hero" has become representative of a wide variety of individuals, each possessing differing traits.
  • Analyzes how the essay compares the attributes of the heroes, the morals associated with their heroism, and their reasons for engaging in battle.
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