According to the Greek tradition, for one to be considered a hero, he/she had to follow their traditional pattern. A hero was often born under unusual circumstances, had to face danger during his/her early life and had to have extraordinary powers. After maturity, in a quest to test the extraordinary powers, the hero had to embark on a series of expeditions through which he could be able to learn about the universe, society and understand him/herself better. Apart from that, he was also expected to make an underworld trip which was regarded as “descending into the Earth’s Goddesses’ womb”.
This trip could connect the manly ego of a hero to the unconscious, realm of the instincts or to the principle of feminine. The physic could be made whole through animus and anima rejoining (Bromiley, 1995). A hero used to be isolated by his/her uniqueness in his efforts towards immortality and excesses. This isolation could extend up to the relationship with women because domestic contentment used to be considered a distraction to the hero’s task. Heroes used to be considered as phenomenon to the fallen world and that they had a redemptive duty.
Through the glorious deeds, their godly nature and the persistent pursuit of immortality, heroes could uplift humanity from its miserable conditions which could remind them of their godly nature. Apart from the protection role that they used to play in society, heroes were also considered as divine beings. Sometimes in ironic twists: heroes could become destructive and dangerous considering the great warrior skills, violence potentials and rash nature that characterized them (Colum, 2008). Perseus: According to Kingsley (2008), Perseus was one of these heroes of the Greeks.
He was one of the earliest heroes and like other heroes; he had followed the traditional pattern. Although he shared most of the characteristics with other heroes, he was different because despite him being a hero, he had maintained mutual relationships with women. He is thought to have been born during the time when goddesses were widely being worshiped. He was the son to Danae. When he was an infant, he together with his mother was thrown into the sea in a chest by Acrisius. The chest sailed up to a small island called Seriphus. Perseus grew up there until when he was an adult.
The king of Seriphurs, who at time had desired Danae Perseus’ mother, tricked him into an agreement in which he was supposed to obtain the head of Medusa who was the only one who was mortal among the Gorgons (Storrie, & Yeates, 2008). Perseus with the help of Athena and Hermes managed to press Graiae who were the sisters to the Gorgons to help him in his scheme. He had taken away the one tooth and eye that the two sisters were sharing and threatened not to return them unless they could give him winged sandals that he could use to fly, cap of Hades which could make him invisible, a curved sword or sickle that he could use in beheading Medusa.
They gave him all he wanted after which he set out to accomplish his mission. Because Medusa could turn all who looked at her to stone, Perseus guided himself with the shield that he had been given by Athena and managed to behead Medusa while she was asleep (Kingsley, 2009). He went back to the island where King Polydectes had kept his mother with Medusa’s head and turned the king and his descendants into stone using Medusa’s head. This was his first rescue mission that was attributed to him in which he had managed to rescue his mother.
The second rescue mission was when he managed to rescue an Ethiopian princess by the name Andromeda on the way home with Medusa’s head. The mother to the princess by the name Cassiopeia had annoyed Poseidon: by claiming that she was more beautiful than the Nereids or Nymphs. Poseidon had decided to punish Ethiopia by bringing floods and a sea monster to the country. King Cepheus who was Andromeda’s father was informed that the only way he could stop the ills was through exposing Andromeda to the sea monster. The king decided to do so. When Perseus was passing by, he saw Andromeda and loved her.
He decided to save Andromeda by turning the monster into stone using Medusa’s head which he was carrying after which he married her (McCaughrean, 2005). Perseus later decided to accompany his mother back to Argos, his father’s place. He gave Athena Gordon’ head which she placed in her shield and the other accouterments he gave them to Hermes. He decided to accompany his mother to her native home Argos where his father lived. While they were there: Perseus accidentally killed his father while he was throwing a discus thus fulfilling prophesy that had been given earlier on.
He left the place and established his capital city in a place called Mycenae. He was an ancestor to the Perseids and the Heracles (Storrie, & Yeates, 2008). Hercules: He was one of the strongest and most known heroes of the Greek myths’ to date. Despite him becoming famous, he did not achieve the status easily; he had to show to the Greek gods his heroic qualities. He had strength that cannot be compared, he was brave, arrogant and it is because of these qualities that he was able to proof that indeed he was a hero. Hercules was the son to Zeus.
Hercules was outstanding because of the ability to defeat things with ease. His strength could not be compared to anything. His strength started becoming evident while he was an infant. Hera was jealous of him and had decided to kill him by sending two snakes to kill him. The scheme did not succeed because Hercules survived by killing the two serpents. It is said that he managed to strangle the two snakes each in his hands (Guerber, Smith, & Zorzos, 2009). When he was an adult, the king of Mycenae gave him an assignment to go and kill a great lion.
The lion was not just an ordinary beast: it was impenetrable to both spears and arrows. Because of the nature of the lion, he was left with no other option other than to use his feet and hands to kill it. Because of his strength; he went ahead and managed to kill the beast. This made him gain respect among the people and was regarded as a hero (Woodward, 1937). Despite the physical strength that he possessed, he also had mental strength. This two helped him emerge victorious from the frightening and difficult challenges he was facing.
After he had managed to kill the lion, he was again assigned to go and kill Hydra. Hydra was a creature with many heads that lived in the Lerna swamps. The creatures’ breathe and smell from its footprints was deadly. Because Hercules was the son of Zeus, he could be able to withstand small amounts of the creatures’ smell. Hercules held his breath and went ahead to attack Hydra. Hydra called for assistance from his ally who was a giant crap so that he could defeat Hercules. He was almost defeated by the two creatures but his nephew Lolaus came to his aid.
They together managed to kill Hydra (Osborn, & Burgess, 1998). That was not all; he was again assigned to go and bring Cerberus from Hades from the underworld. Hercules managed to convince Charon to row him over to Styx something which was only done to the dead. Because of his mental strength, he was able to choke Cerberus and made him unconscious after which he was able to remove him from the underworld. It is because of his braveness that he was able to focus and come up with a good strategy that helped him succeed in the task (Stephanides, 2002).
Because of his bravery, he became very arrogant with his great pride helping in proving that he was indeed a hero. This arrogance could give him a strong ego which could make him misjudge his capabilities. For example, when he was battling with the creature with many heads, he could have been defeated were it not for his nephew who came forward to offer him assistance because his ego could not allow him to ask for it. Although this arrogance could have disgraced him in his battle with Hydra, it helped him while he was confronting Charon to sail him through to Styx.
He was able to glower at Charon until he changed his mind. Arrogance also gave him the strength to battle the underworld creatures. It is through this pride that he was able to gather confidence to face whatever challenges that faced him and without it, he could never had accomplished the tasks he had been given and proof to be a great hero. His traits played a huge role in his success. Although he had heroic traits that were similar to those of other heroes, he was able to more efficiently use them as compared to others (Guerber, Smith, & Zorzos, 2009).
It is said that his new wife: Deianeira was the one who caused his death because she had tried to tame him. Some myths say that his soul went to the underworld with his reputation becoming immortal with others giving an account of him being taken to heaven by the gods. They believe that his body parts remained in Hade while his soul went to live with the gods. Ways in which Perseus and Hercules were similar. They were both born under unusual circumstances just like the Greek customs stipulated that: for an individual to be considered a hero, he had to be born under unusual circumstances and that he had to face great danger in his infancy.
They were both faced with threats while they were infants. Perseus together with his mother was thrown into the sea by Acrisius but they managed to survive in an island. On the other hand, when Hercules was born, Hera became jealous of him and decided to send two serpents to go and kill him but he also survived. They both had extraordinary powers and intelligence. That was one of the requirements for an individual to be considered a hero. Perseus was strong and bold enough to go and face Medusa who was feared because her stare could turn anybody into a stone.
He was also intelligent enough to be able to lure Graiae and Athene into helping him with magic powers which he used to wrestle Medusa and managed to kill her. Heracles was also unnaturally strong, brave and had the ability to depict animal like behaviors. Because of his divided nature: half-beast half-man, he was able to battle with extraordinary beasts and emerge victorious. He was able to battle with a great lion which was considered impenetrable to both spears and arrows with his hands and feet and killed it. He also battled with the underworld creatures, a show of how extraordinary he was.
Both protected the society in one way or the other. Perseus was able to protect the princess from being consumed by the beast which her father had given her to it. He also managed to rescue his mother from captivity. Hercules also in his many acts protected the society. He was able to kill a lion that had proofed impossible to kill using spears and arrows with his hands and feet. He battled with Hydra, the creature that had many heads and lived in the valley and managed to kill it although he was assisted by his nephew. Both maintained mutually supportive relationships with women, something which was uncommon with other Greek heroes.
Women were considered a distraction to heroes but they both managed to maintain these relationships with women. Hercules married the Kings’ daughter who he had rescued from the beast and Perseus is said to have died as a result of his new wife trying to tame him. Ways in which they were not similar. Heracles was more troubling compared to Perseus. He had the ability to portray animal like behavior which Perseus did not have. Although they both battled supernatural beasts, Perseus was using supernatural powers to accomplish his mission.
He used Medusa’s head that had the ability to turn anybody and even beasts into stone while Hercules on the other hand used his hands and feet in the battles. He was able to kill a great lion with the use of bare hands and feet. Heracles had a lot of pride as compared to Perseus. Because of his pride, he almost got defeated with Hydra the beast were it not for his nephew who came to his rescue. He on the several accounts battled with beasts which was a show of how strong and extraordinary he was. He also had the journey to the underworld gaining an immortal reputation unlike Perseus.
It is therefore clear that there were several ways in which the two Greek heroes were similar to one another but also there were some differences between them in terms of personality and warrior skills. Bibliography Bromiley, W. Geoffrey. (1995). The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: Q-Z. Wm. Grand Rapids, Michigan: B. Eerdmans Publishing. Colum, Padraic. (2008) The Golden Fleece and the Heroes Who Lived Before Achilles. Charleston, SC: BiblioBazaar, LLC. Guerber, H. A. , Smith, William & Zorzos, Gregory. (2009). Heracles: Hercules. US: On Demand Publishing. Kingsley, Charles. (2008)The Heroes (or Greek Fairy Tales for My Children).
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