In The Iliad, written in a 3rd person omniscient point of view, Homer gives a very serious account of the tenth and last year of the Trojan War. It was in Homer's account that the very idea of becoming a legendary hero reached its pinnacle; the choice of the better hero was not decided on the events they participated in, but rather by their characteristics. The ancient Greeks had strict criteria for individuals to follow if they were to be seen as heroes. Above all, a man needed to be a skilled warrior, but this was not the only requirement. To be a hero, a warrior had to respect authority, both governmental and religious. The Greeks gave heroes no room for pride. These men were to be modest, not only giving credit to their culture and the gods for any great deeds they had done, but also accepting everything that happened as Fate, not scenarios they had created for themselves. In other words, they did not make themselves what they were; rather, they had been predestined to become it. The final requirement of being a hero was coolness. Heroes were not permitted to be blinded by rage or have mood swings. In The Iliad, two Greeks are presented to the reader as heroes. They are Achilles and Diomedes. Although they are both good contenders for the title of hero, Diomedes is by far the better of the two. Diomedes is one of the finest and bravest of the Greek warriors. He is respectful to all authority figures and has little or no pride. Always wise and reasonable, he may be the vision of the perfect nobleman.
Both Achilles and Diomedes easily meet the first requirement, that a hero must have skill on the battlefield. Throughout The Iliad, Homer tells of their incredible (though usually go...
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...kill in battle, respect for authority, humility, and coolness under fire. Not many men met all requirements, including Achilles, but they were still viewed as heroes. Between Achilles and Diomedes, Diomedes was the better choice for the title of hero. He was one of the finest Greek soldiers. Diomedes was respectful of authority, humble about his successes, and was very levelheaded. Achilles had great fighting skill as well; however, he had trouble respecting authority and keeping his cool, both results of his excessive pride. If Achilles had not been so prideful, he could have been a much greater warrior and hero, perhaps achieving status equal to the gods. He simply had too much pride. Diomedes was humble; therefore, it was easier for him to respect authority and keep a level head.
Fagles, Robert, trans. The Iliad. New York: Penguin Books, 1990.
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