This is part one of a six part article exploring the Classical traditions of heroism. My high school philosopher teacher once remarked that one can perceive perfection as a balance. With that in mind, consider the idea that perfection in a hero is found in the balance of masculinity and femininity.
"We could be heroes" sings Alesso, "That's how a superhero learns to fly" sings the Script, "If I go crazy, will you still call me superman" sings Three Doors Down.
American culture and many other cultures as a whole are effectively obsessed with the idea of heroism. Heroism elevates one to a hero level and the word itself is associated with honor. Since the dawn of time, those who were a little more altruistic than usual, stronger than the norm, smarter than the rest were hailed as heroes. Modern day heroes, ranging from Steve Jobs to policemen, all have one aspect in common- immense responsibility. Some of the most successful television shows, movies, and comics are put out by Marvel and DC.
These stories all follow the dual life of a superhero, noting how hard it was to be one. Ancient Greek and Roman cultures are no different from ours in respect to the obsession with heroes. Greek and Roman mythology chronicles the unmatched strength, piety, intelligence, valor, achievements of demi-gods and "super" humans. Three of the most famous heroes are Achilles, Odysseus, and Aeneas. To this day, Achilles permeates our society through the phrase "Achilles's heel" and those who know nothing of the Classics generally have at least heard of Achilles, Odysseus, or Aeneas. Odysseus is hailed as the clever mastermind behind the Trojan horse while Aeneas, famed for piety, is credited with the founding of Rome. However, these men are accepted to some degree as fictional. They are icons of the Greek and Roman times. As icons, they reflect their respective societies, but to some degree, they define them. Vergil in his Aeneid redefines the Homeric tradition of heroism, distinguishing it from the Iliad and Odyssey, which contributes to the contrast of the heroism archetype that exists in Greek and Roman cultures.
The fact that the Iliad and the Odyssey were written through Homeric Tradition affects the way that the idea of heroism is perceived. Homeric Tradition and oral tradition in which the epics were written in is a very different concept than our modern perceptive. In modern times, it is difficult to understand the concept that these long poems were not originally written down, but rather performed and passed down through oral tradition. Homer uses dactylic hexameter, which to the minds of contemporary people is almost impossible to consider since that would mean that the oral composition was metered. The reason that Homeric tradition was so popular was its ability to spread. Word of mouth was the only way for messages and stories to be sent, so oral tradition was the solution to this problem The Homeric tradition or oral tradition defines the works of the Iliad and Odyssey since it adds more depth to the understanding developed from them.