Cultural Foundations I
18 February 2018
Heroes Among Us
A hero is a vital component to a story. When we think of heroes, we usually think of masculinity and ultimately having to save the day. However, there are also heroes who can be deemed as unconventional, and not entirely “noble”. This is known as being an “anti-hero”. The characters of Gilgamesh from the Epic of Gilgamesh and Achilles from the Iliad are anti-heroes, due to their eccentric transformations throughout the two stories.
In the first chapter of the Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh is introduced to the reader as “arrogant” and “egotistical.” For example, “Gilgamesh sounds the tocsin for his amusement, his arrogance has no bounds by day or night” (62). This quote shows that Gilgamesh doesn’t show any remorse in his actions. He is feared by the civilians of Uruk, and happens to be in a league of his own. Gilgamesh is as “strong as a star from heaven”, and still carries the masculinity trait in a conventional hero, however is one who abuses his power, and takes it for granted (63). Gilgamesh is a character who everyone might aspire to be like, due to his charming looks and strength, yet is morally incomparable amongst everyone else. Gilgamesh is blessed to be serving as King of Uruk, yet continues to disregard the people of Uruk, and is selfish for his own innate desires. Gilgamesh could also be regarded as “tyrannical” because of his selfishness and greed to take things, however and whenever he pleases to do so. This shows that despite being the central figure in the story, Gilgamesh is quite oppressive.
On the other hand, the character of Achilles from the Iliad is introduced as the greatest warrior in the Achaean army. He is described as “strong, swift, and godlike”, which is usually seen in conventional heroes, however acts very cowardly towards Agamemnon, the commander-in-chief, and his men (5). Achilles and Agamemnon engage in an argument after Agamemnon agrees to return Chryseis to her father, Chryses, if Achilles agrees to hand over his war prize, Briseis to Agamemnon. This proposition infuriates Achilles, and leads him and his troops to withdraw from battle indefinitely. This shows that Achilles is short-tempered, since his argument with Agamemnon is the sole reason for him withdrawing from battle. It also shows that Achilles isn’t someone who is “thick-skinned”, but rather sensitive to opinions or ideas that differ from his own.