The Defining Characteristics of Heroes in Greek Myths of Perseus and Heracles
In today’s world, when people hear the word hero, they often imagine Spiderman, Batman, Superman, even a police man, which is acceptable as they possess some incredible qualities but what we think of hero in our society is quite different to the heroes in Greek. The modern dictionary defines hero as a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities but in Greek mythology one would not call someone a hero with just by the qualities that are defined by the modern dictionary. In order for someone to be idealized as a hero he had to fulfill the requirements for hero.
The characteristics of a Greek hero are the following: He has to be born in a royal family, he has to be born in an unusual way, he has to be part of one immortal parent and one human parent, Gods should favor him, Hero has to accomplish difficult tasks at young age. Hero has to fall in love with a virgin and marry her. Hero has to be related with prophecy and He has to slay a monster to be a monster. So, considering this, today’s definition of hero has taken a complete turnaround as they call everyone hero. Heroes we idealize now would not have been called heroes by the Greek standards. All the Greek heroes that existed fulfilled these requirements and became role model for people. For most of the heroes, it is obvious that the obstacles they go through as a child have had a big impact on their future and led them do accomplish impossible feats, which is known as Psychoanalytic theory.
One of the major heroes in Greek mythology is Perseus. His mother (Danae) had to go through lot of struggles to give birth to him because her father Acrisius, who was the king of Argos. Acirisius was always sad because he doesn’t have a son to give his Kingdom after he dies so he goes to Oracle at Delphi and was told an oracle that the son that your daughter will give birth to will kill him and take his kingdom as he does not have a son that could inherit the kingdom. So after hearing this prophecy, king was horrified and imprisons his daughter in a chamber in his palace to prevent her from being with a man.
The Greek god Zeus was really disturbed by her beauty and entered into the chamber as golden shower and made love with her, as a result of this Perseus was born. Later king finds out that his daughter has a child when he hears him crying but contribution of the Greek god Zeus denied him from killing the baby but however he places the baby in wooden box and throws it in the sea. So his birth itself meets four requirements to be a hero since he was related with a prophecy, which led to his grandfather’s attempt to imprison his mom and later caused his unusual birth. He was also born in a royal family and has mortal and immortal parents as he was born in a king’s family and the parents being Danae, who is a normal human being and the Greek god Zeus. The next criteria of Peruses being a hero meets right after he gets thrown in the sea by his grandfather, he did not get drowned as his father zeus had his eyes on him and kept him under his wings. This ticked off the requirement of Gods should favor the child.
Later a king named Polydectes’ bother, who is a fisherman rescue mother and the child from the sea and like Zeus, Polydectes is also gets attracted to Perseus’ mother’s beauty and tries his very best to make her his, but the young Perseus did not want that to happen. Then, the king Polydectes however plans to eliminate him from his life so he can marry his mother. He gives him an impossible task hoping that he would get killed. The king orders Perseus to kill a dangerous monster named Medusa, which has hair full of snakes and has the tendency to turn anyone that looks at its way to stone. Since Perseus us was loved by gods and goddesses, Goddess Athena appeared to him and gave him a shield which can prevent the monster from seeing him, so he would not turn to stone. God Hermes also helped him with winged sandals and a sword. So, with the help of the flying sandals and shield he flew to her invisibly and beheaded her. This brave act by Perseus ticked off yet another two characteristics to be a hero, since once of the characteristics mention the hero will achieve incredible achievements in his early age and the other one being hero slaying the monster.
Later enters a love in his life when he returns home from Africa, where he killed the monster. As he was passing Ethiopia to return home, he sees a attractive maiden Andromeda who was captured by a sea monster and was waiting to be eaten by him because Andromeda was a daughter of a queen and she was bragging about her daughter’s beauty and insulted the spirits of the sea also known as Nereid. So out of jealousy, Nereids complained to Poseiden. So Poseidon takes revenge by sending a sea monster that was craving to eat her alive. Since Peruses fell in love in first sight with Andromeda, he grabbed this opportunity with his two hands and made a deal with her parents. The deal was if he saves her from the monster, her parents had to give permission for him to marry Andromeda and take her back to home and the parents chose what any parents could have chosen in a situation like that.
So he uses to equipments that were given by god to slay the sea monster. He also goes through challenges as Andromeda was already promised to marry her uncle by her parents, so Perseus uses Medusa’s head that he slew to turn her uncle into a stone. Then the couple head to Persius’ homeland and live happy with their six sons. His marriage successfully meets three aspects to be a hero as he falls in loves with the virgin; ends up marrying her and for the second time hero Perseus can be seen slaying the monster. Later the prophecy his grandfather was fulfilled as Perseus accidently stroke him with a discus. So in the myth of Perseus, he fulfilled all the aspects to be considered as a Greek hero. Thanks to his struggles as a child for his achievements. One could clearly see how psychoanalytic theory played its part in Perseus’ life. His mother could not even go out when he was in her womb as his grandfather locked her daughter in a chamber and even after he was born his grandfather tried hard to destroy his life and threw him away in the sea. He lived a fearful life as he already been through the edge of his life because of his grandfather. So his old life took the fear off him and made him forget about death as he experienced it as a child everyday, which led him to slay the frightening Medusa and the sea monster. In Greek mythology, Perseus stands among the heroes as a hero with incredible courage although he had bit of help from the gods because one would not simply kill something that is extremely harmful at young age even when with support.
The hero next on line is Heracles. Incidentally, his mother happens to be Alcmene, who is a descendant of Perseus and father happens to be the immortal Zeus. His birth was a deception as Zeus changed his appearance into Alcmene’s husband and seduced her, then her real husband also comes home and sleeps with her.Zeus had already made a promise to his wife Hera that the next baby of Perseus descendant will be crowned as the king because he knew that it will be a baby from his descendant (Hercules).Later finds out that her husband had deceived her by sleeping with another woman and she seeks help of birth gods and delays Hercules’ arrival to earth and fastened his twins birth. However after all struggles, Alcmene gives birth to the twins although they looked completely opposite to each other and did not share anything in common.. So jealousy Hera comes up with all sorts of plans to crown the other twin named Iphicles. One day unknowingly, Hera breastfeeds Heracles, which strengthens the baby and he was way too strong for his age. Later, to kill Heracles for the second time Hera seeks the help of Poseidon who sends two snakes to kill Heracles. So plan goes in vain as nothing happens to Hercules as he was strong enough to deal with snacks but his twin Iphicles gets his rib broken. In his birth itself, he has achieved four qualities that would make him hero. He has an immortal and mortal parent, secondly he is the great grandson of Perseus and grandson of Electryon who also a king. So since he his ancestors were king he is classified into royal family. Then, his birth is considered as an unusual one because there were two sons from two different fathers in his mother’s womb and god of birth played so many tricks to kill the child in his mom’s womb.
Last aspect of a hero is that as a child he played with the snakes as if they were toys that were sent by Poseidon to kill him, that’s a difficult task to overcome. Then another trait of loving and marrying a virgin gets fulfilled when we heard about the battle in the kingdom of Thebes and their army had fallen powerlessly, Heracles led his warriors and rescues the kingdom. The king returns the favor by giving him his eldest daughter Megara. He loved her and the union had three children. Hera could not resist all these. So again the aggrieved Hera messes up his mind and leads Heracles in a tragedy as he killed her beloved wife and children.
A Study Of What Constitute A Hero As Depicted In Perseus Story
What makes a Hero?
Being known as a hero is a great honor. You are held in high esteem by people all over the world. You have great fame and sometimes even great fortune. But to become a hero is a challenging path. It requires you to have great strength of character, being honorable and arising to trustworthiness. Sometimes the path can be physically challenging and at times bravery and will are tested. You must be willing to sacrifice whatever is required of you to help another; to go beyond your individual self. You must be ready and prepared to die to save someone else’s life while losing yours.
Now we travel back to an era many centuries past, between 550 and 220 BC, to a modest cottage on a remote Greek island named Seriphos where a small boy and his mother were found in a locked chest floating upon the ocean. Now fast forward about 16 years. This young boy has grown up into a brave and adventurous man who is tenacious and determined to seek glory while at the same time, protecting and showing devotion to his mother. He is named Perseus, the son of Zeus. Perseus is technically considered a hero according to the ways of the gods; he being born of a god and the son of the god of all gods. But will he turn out to be a true hero? I say that this is a no.
The dictionary defines a hero to be someone of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities. Perseus does not fit this definition or description. It is true that he is admired because of the tasks and situations he had to overcome, even though it could be stated that he did nothing but walk by himself. He had a lot of assistance and support along the way throughout his many adventures.
All throughout Perseus’ heroic quest, he has gods holding each of his hands, protecting and aiding him in his journeys. In fact, when Perseus started his escapade, he didn’t even bring a sword or a shield knowing that he would have to eventually have to fight and slay Medusa, the evil, snake-haired Gorgon with very hard scales who with a look that could turn men into stone. Medusa also had her two sisters which are immortal and would eat any man whom they caught in their clutches. All three of them lived on a desolate island that was very difficult to find. Knowing his quest was to find Medusa and slay her, he wandered around Greece searching for someone whom had information about the Gorgon sisters. His travels were in vain and his inquisitions were fruitless.
Perseus was in so much despair after his searching that he was contemplated giving up his pursuit. Unexpectedly, the God Hermes, who was the god of travelers, and the Goddess Athena, who is the goddess of wisdom and strategy, stood before Perseus and offered their help. They were sent there by Zeus to assist him on his quest to eradicate Medusa. They presented him with two gifts, the breastplate of Athena which was used as a reflective surface to gaze at Medusa and an unbreakable sword.
Hermes flew Perseus to the island where three witches lived. The witches had one eye that they shared between themselves. While the witches were in the process of exchanging whom had the possession of the eye, Perseus snatched it from them and threatened to throw the eye off the mountain unless the witches told him where to find Hera’s garden. There in Hera’s garden, Perseus would be able to find even more items to assist him in his mission. The witches told Perseus where the garden was located. After he received the information Perseus threw back the eye towards the witches which confused them, giving Perseus the opportunity to escape and set off towards Hera’s garden.
When Perseus found Hera’s garden, he was welcomed by many different nymphs that gave him three objects; Hades’ helm of invisibility, flying sandals, and a magic wallet that grew and shrunk to fit whatever item it was to hold. The nymphs sent Perseus on his way. He was encouraged and prepared to destroy Medusa. Still Perseus did not know where to find the island where the Gorgons lived. Hermes told Perseus to simply to follow him because Hermes knew where the Gorgons lived.
So Perseus flew to the island of the Gorgons and lucky enough he finds the three Gorgons asleep. Now Perseus has to choose the correct sister to slay. He has a one of three chance of choosing the right Gorgon. If Perseus chooses the wrong Gorgon, his sword will just bounce off and would not harm the Gorgon which would lead to them all waking up and kill Perseus. But, of course, instead of making it somewhat hard for him, Athena and Hermes fly right above Medusa, point down, and whisper to Perseus; this is her. So Perseus flies backward, always looking into the breastplate searching for Medusa’s reflection. Perseus asks Athena to guide his hand to cut off Medusas’ head. Medusa’s sisters woke up and looked around to find Perseus but could not because he was invisible. After Perseus beheads Medusa, he places her head in the magic wallet and flew away using his flying sandals. Perseus returns home to a somewhat warm welcome. Polydectes, who had sent him on the quest to get rid of him, wasn’t very happy with Perseus’ return. So Perseus turned him to stone with Medusa’s head.
Now I ask again, is Perseus really a hero? Well by Greek definition he is. But is he a true hero? Well, let us look over the facts one more time. Perseus is not very skilled physically or mentally. Due to the lack of his abilities, Perseus has to be guided and told how to become successful. He did not have to put thought or reason into his decisions. In fact, it definitely is reasonable to say Perseus did not sacrifice or risk death. In fact the hardest thing he probably has to do was walk. So I ask once more is Perseus a true hero? No, I don’t believe he is at all.
A Study Of Peter Paul Ruben’s Painting’s Perseus And Andromeda
The painting Perseus and Andromeda or better known as Perseus rescues Andromeda was created by Peter Paul Rubens in 1622. This work of art remained in Rubens’s house until his death, and was then obtained by and housed in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. This oil painting tells the story of Perseus returning from slaying Medusa to save Andromeda. It depicts Perseus holding the head of Medusa and loosening the chains on Andromeda, while partially showing Pegasus, the goddess of glory and Cetus the Sea Monster, who was slain earlier.
Perseus and Andromeda was created by Rubens during the Flemish Baroque painting period, which lasted from 1608-1700. This painting period originated in Flanders, a Flemish region of Belgium. Flemish painters, whose paintings had Northern and Italian influences, were the basis of this time period, but it was Rubens who blended the two together and became a catalyst for this Flemish age. Oil painting was a largely exported technique in the Flemish Baroque painting period, and was used on many works such as: The Honeysuckle Bower, Prometheus Bound, and Venus and Adonis. Many paintings in this time period were also not limited to displaying various events, but were also given other significance. A good example is Perseus and Andromeda, because it was also given political significance to symbolize abuse and freedom from enemies. The use of oil painting, Northern-Italian influences, and multiple significances make Perseus and Andromeda very typical of its Flemish time period.
In his painting Perseus and Andromeda, Rubens wanted to primarily portray the liberation of Andromeda from the imprisonment of Cetus the sea monster. Pegasus partially appearing in the picture symbolizes the glory of Perseus slaying Medusa and Cetus, as well as freeing Andromeda. I think that this work by Rubens is an important piece of art because it summarizes the whole tale of Perseus and Andromeda through one painting. I also think that Cetus at the feet of Perseus and Medusa’s head in Perseus’s hand represent victory and freedom from the tyrannous rampage of the sea monster and the hideous Gorgon.
Character Essay: Hermes
The god I would like to be is Hermes, the Messenger God, because he is very loyal. This is shown in many cases in his loyalty to Zeus, his father, and will almost do anything for him without second thought. As an adult, Hermes was named the Messenger God because he could run and fly as fast as the wind with his winged hat and sandals. Hermes would always get his tasks done and deliver the messages he was assigned from the gods.
Although Hermes was very loyal he had a downside; he was also the god of thieves. Even as a newborn, his thievery was displayed when he stole the cattle from Apollo. When he was questioned by his father, Zeus, he denied everything. Hermes continued his mischief throughout his life and wouldn’t tell the truth very often. Hermes also wasn’t a very good father because his son, Autolycus, also ended up becoming a thief.
Hermes would set a great example in today’s world because of the good characteristics he possesses. He would inspire people to show great loyalty to their superiors and also motivate dedication in the world. Hermes would be a great addition into today’s world because people would be encouraged to work harder because of him, and the world would start turning into a much better place than ever seen before.