An Introduction to the History of Ancient Greek War Heroes Achilles, Hercules, and Theseus
Ancient Greek War Heroes
In ancient times, Greek mythology was a prominent influence in the lives of the Greek people. Their mythologies survived in the form of stories, beliefs, and rituals practiced by them. Contained within the legends are the stories of the great heroes that had lived in the times of war, and became notorious for their powers and intellect. There were a multitude of war heroes back in ancient Greece, and their stories are well documented in history. Thought as gods among men, these heroes survived many tests on their way to the Greek Heroes hall of fame. Spanning many different era’s, what follows is a breakdown of these war heroes.
The first and perhaps the greatest Greek war hero is Achilles. Achilles was the greatest hero of the Trojan War and the central character and greatest warrior as told in Homer’s Iliad. His mother was the nymph Thetis, who is said to have dipped Achilles in the river of Styx as a baby by the heel, which gave him protection from injury all over his body, except his heel. After the Trojan War broke out, Achilles didn’t want to fight, but after his best friend had been killed by Hector, the greatest soldier of Troy, his wrath awakened him, and he became an unstoppable force. After slaughtering all the men in his way, he found Hector in front of the gates of Troy where he easily killed him as well, right in front of the Trojan citizens who watched from atop the wall. In an effort to disrespect the Trojans and Hectors’ wishes, Achilles tied the body of the dead Hector to his chariot and paraded him around, taunting Troy. Hector’s brother, Paris, who was the cause of the war, in believed to have killed Achilles after he shot an arrow into his heel. His legend lived on as a fierce warrior whose wrath was an insuppressible pressure that battled unlike anything before him.
The next, possibly most famous, greek war hero is Hercules. Hercules was a Greek_divine hero, who was the son of Zeus and Alcmene. In mythology, Hercules is famous for his strength and for his numerous adventures. Hercules was outwitted by the god of strength Hera from before he was even born. After his birth she tried to kill him by putting snakes in his crib, but he was too strong even then, stronger then most of the gods, So strong, in fact, he was later the deciding factor in allowing the Olympians to win their battle with the giants. He was the last mortal son of Zeus, and he was not the smartest guy in his time. His lack of intelligence and wisdom often outweighed reason and he let his emotions get him into trouble. Before The Trojan War, Hercules had made an expedition on Troy and sacked it, starting a path of destruction, but for the good. His good deeds included killing people who stole, forced labor, and fighting off monsters to protect people, that he didnt even know, from danger. Thus, becoming a war hero in the process. After his death he is said to have floated up to Mount Olympus, where the gods lived, and Zeus made him an official god.
The next, slightly less important hero was Theseus. Theseus was the hero of Athens, and saved the people from having to send off their sons and daughters to the minotaur,a half-man, half-bull that lived in a labyrinth in Crete, as sacrifices. It all started when King Minos, king of Crete, sent his son to go to Athens and participate in the Pan-Athenian games. He did well, winning event after event and instantly become a crowd favorite, but the Pallantides became jealous and wanted him dead. And so they assassinated him, and when King Minos heard the news of his sons death, he became very angry. He sent a fleet of soldiers to go and get the assassinators, and asked the king of Athens, King Aegeus, to hand the assassins over immediately or face the his wrath. Of course, King Aegeus don’t know who the assassins were, so he was forced to surrender Athens to Minos, and then Minos put in place a new “law”. The new rule was that every seven years, seven brave kids and the seven most beautiful women get sent to the Minotaur as a sacrifice. After the third time, Theseus had enough, and he volunteered to kill the monster. After an intense battle, Theseus had managed to stab the Minotaur in the throat, killing it, and escaped with the women and children on a Crete ship. Thus ending the madness that his people had to endure, and ensuring that no longer will they have to send their precious children anymore.
The Odyssey is a very well known epic poem that told the story of the final hero, Odysseus, and his journey home. Craftier by far than any other hero, but also a very capable warrior, Odysseus was the hero of the Greeks, who considered him second only to Achilles. Odysseus was the one who came up with the idea of the Trojan Horse. The Trojan Horse quickly ended the war, when the hollow wooden horse was offered. The Trojans took it as a peace offering, and took it in the city. What they did not know, however, was that Odysseus and a few men were inside the horse and they waited until the Trojans slept so they could come out and open the gates. Thus the war ended, when the rest of the Greek army came in and set the city on fire.Odysseus was also one of the few Greeks to reach his homeland of Ithaca, after 10 years of war and 10 years of troubles at sea. On his trip home from Troy, though, Odysseus and his shipmates encountered a number of perils. At one point their ship was blown far off course, and they ended up on a small wooded island in the middle of nowhere. Their worries were justified.Odysseus had split the crew into two groups, one to go explore and one to stay with Odysseus on the ship. Led by Eurylochus, top soldier under odysseus, the crew had come upon a house in a clearing, where a woman invited them in for drinks, a woman named circe, who used her magic to turn all the men into pigs, except Eurylochus. He then rushed back to Odysseus telling him of the news, that the crazy witch that turned the men into pigs was dangerous, and advised that they should salvage the remaining crew and cast off. Odysseus rushed to Circe’s house to save his men, threatening to kill her if she didn’t change her men back, and saved the men, demonstrating his natural heroism in the process.
These men all lived glorious lives, saved many people, and shared one common trait:
they were all war heroes. Back then you don’t need superpowers to be a hero like Theseus and Odysseus, but if you had them and used them for good, like Achilles and Hercules, being a hero was simple, especially in Greece. These legends have been told for thousands of years and will be told for thousands more, as they inspire and entertain the youth for many generations.
February 2, 2023
February 2, 2023