Heroism

In Mythology

Heroism is an important element in both Roman and Greek mythology. Honored as a
man of cunning and a master of strategy, Odysseus is a beau ideal of Greek
heroism. Being a man of sacrifice, rational thinking, and discipline, Aeneas is
a praised counterpart to Odysseus. Both were victims of savagery and temptation,
examples of heroism and valor, and recipients of struggle and satisfaction. Even
when they are characters of different authors, they share common characteristics
and abide by certain personality traits that define them to be heroes. A hero,
almost by definition, is an example of heroism and intelligence. In times of
danger and desolation, a hero must remain strong, brave, and think of his
survival, as well as the survival of his men. Odysseus, being a man of many
schemes, intoxicates and blinds the mighty Cyclops, Polyphemus in order to
obtain a chance to escape. Odysseus acted calmly and bravely and thereby
succeeded in obtaining freedom from the dreaded Cyclops. Romans, however, praise

Aeneas for his rational and less extravagant thinking. When he and his men
encountered the blinded Cyclops, Aeneas' crew simply rowed away in their ships
seeking refuge. Aeneas augmented to the definition of a hero by acting
rationally. Bravery, strength, tranquility, and rationale are a few
characteristics that appear from a hero at times of peril. Yet another
characteristic of a mythological hero is an unselfish attitude toward fulfilling
one's function in life. "...Scylla caught my six companions, lifted them up
to her den, and threw their writhing bodies behind her into her hollow
cave...they screamed and reached toward me with their hands, begging me to the
last to save them, I watched the monster sit in the doorway of her den, and
devour them." (96) This rather gruesome scene depicts Odysseus allowing six
of his men to be consumed by the unimaginable barking monster. If his sense of
responsibility disappeared, he very likely would find happiness somewhere else
to evade this situation all together. Nonetheless, his duty was to bring as many
of his men as well as himself safely to Ithaca, raise his young son as a
warrior, and restore order in his kingdom. Aeneas also sacrifices his desires in
order to be the founder of the Roman race. "'Tell him,' the lord of Olympus
commanded, '...He must set sail at once!'". Here Zeus commands Aeneas to
leave Dido and to go to Italy where his son will be the ruler of a new race.

Aeneas causes the suicide of Dido after he insists on his departure to Italy.

Aeneas has no choice; he cannot indulge in his interests while his
soon-to-become nation's future is at stake. Both men show valor and commitment
by neglecting their desires for the future and well-being of others. Odysseus
with his bravery and Aeneas with his rational thinking exhibit authentic
heroism. Almost every piece of mythology has a hero or heroin because he/she
facilitates in the cohesion and flow of the story. Heroism is an essential
factor of Greek and Roman mythology as well as the basis for the reader's
satisfaction.