Epics are long poems that often contain at least one heroic figure. A famous example of an epic hero is Homer's Ulysses from his epic poem "Odyssey," though there are many more epic heroes in history. Certain traits are common among epic heroes, and they help the reader to sympathize with and admire the hero.
Epic poetry comes from ancient Greece, where mythological and epic heroes possess greater strength than other men do. Epic heroes like Achilles, Ulysses and Theseus are so strong that they are able to achieve tasks that no other man is capable of, such as Theseus' slaying of the Minotaur. In "The Iliad," Achilles is responsible for the death of Troy's best warrior and prince, Hector.
Epic heroes are always attractive in some way. Ulysses is tall and broad of chest. Achilles is tall with blond hair. Epics almost invariably contain heroes who are handsome or even beautiful, with fair skin and hair.
Heroes in epics typically have authority over other men, either in right or by their mannerisms. In the second chapter of Homer's "Iliad," Ulysses tells a man who has been talking too much, "I will take you, strip you stark naked, and whip you out of the assembly till you go blubbering back to the ships." He then beat the man with his scepter and the man was thus humbled into silence.
Epic heroes tend to have military experience. They plan battles, outsmart other military men and sometimes even outsmart kings and gods. When asked about Ulysses, Helen of Troy describes him as "... a man of great craft, son of Laertes. He was born in rugged Ithaca and excels in all manner of stratagems and subtle cunning."
A hero is not an epic hero without courage. Every hero in the epic genre is a man who goes into dangerous situations either unafraid or with resolve, despite fear. Beowulf defeats the antihero Grendel; Grendel's mother, who is some sort of evil creature; and a dragon before dying himself. Aeneas is a warrior of Troy. Ulysses is an all-around adventurer, spending years at sea, fighting a Cyclops and fighting the Trojan War.
- Photo Credit Lefteris_/iStock/Getty Images
How to Create an Epic Hero
If you want to write an epic hero, don't begin by searching for inspiration in modern literature. There are many excellent modern...
How to Write an Epic Poem
An epic poem is a long narrative that tells of an epic hero's journey. Many famous works are epic poems, including Homer's...
The Qualities of a Superhero
Several thoughts come into people's minds when they hear "superhero." Typically images of a costumed do-gooder striking fear into the hearts of...
What Are the Elements of Epic Poetry?
An epic poem is a long narrative poem that describes the actions and travels of a heroic main character in elevated language...
What Are the Characteristics of an Epic Poem?
Epic poetry is a form of writing with roots stretching back into antiquity. It may be written down or performed as part...
What Qualities & Actions Make a Character Villainous?
A villain is a hero's worst enemy. He may be someone like Darth Vader in "Stars Wars" or Thomas Harris's Hannibal Lector....
Differences Between Beowulf and Superman
"Beowulf" is a heroic epic poem describing superhuman feats by a 6th-century Norse warrior. The manuscript, discovered in the 10th century, is...
The Characteristics of a Hero
There are many different definitions and interpretations as to exactly what a hero is. Sometimes heroism is attained in seconds by an...
What Are Some Qualities of a Romantic Hero?
The Romantic era in literature had nothing in common with the "romance" paperbacks you see today featuring men with rippling muscles embracing...