Marcia Williams presents readers with a new perspective on heroes in her guest post for the FCBG today. Greek heroes were generally men fighting legendary monsters and holding God like status. As we look at our world today, the world heroes has new meaning. Read on for Marcia’s eye-opening blog.
How can you not love an ancient Greek hero? Returning to their world in “Greek Heroes: Top Ten Myths and Legends”, has been a delight, but also reminded me of how fantastical their heroes and heroines may seem to a reader today. Yet, when we dig a little deeper their intentions and core values are not really that far from our own, just a little more exaggerated as they fight off snarling, slobbering Cerberus, the terrible Minotaur or the nine-headed Hydra.
Today our heroes are fighting different monsters such as pandemics, climate change, crime and other more subtle monsters such as bigotry and boredom. We find our heroes and heroines amongst sports personalities, doctors, nurses, politicians, writers, actors and campaigners. Amazing they may be, but they are mortal. In ancient Greece, it wasn’t enough to be at the top of your profession: if you wanted to be a hero one of your parents was likely to be an Olympian god or goddess. This would make you a demigod and more or less guarantee you a taller stature, better looks, oodles of charm, bravery, wisdom and intelligence.
Along with the support of your parent god there usually came a handy gift, by way of impenetrable armour, winged sandals or lethal arrows, all of which could make the difference between the success or failure of your quest. Yes, there is no hero without a quest: killing monsters, rescuing princesses or even townships, braving the Underworld or sailing through dangerous seas to the unknown reaches of the world were the breath of life to an ancient Greek hero.
These ancient heroes do seem very different to our quieter, sometimes more domestic heroes of today. The woman next door who cares for you when you’re ill, the man who rescues your dog from a fire, the medical workers who never missed a day of work through the recent pandemic or the women’s football team who have set an example to a whole new generation of young girls and boys. But I like to think that the likes of Heracles, Jason and Theseus are also an example and encouragement to our young, and that those ancient core values can still inform and set us on an heroic path today.
My top ten Greek heroes found their quest and went for it. If they were dishonourable, in either word or deed, failed to respect their gods or became too big for their winged sandals, failure inevitably followed. It is strange really that those Greek gods had so little tolerance of vanity and dishonour and yet behaved so appallingly themselves! Today’s heroes also find, or are presented with, their own quests and have to fight for their beliefs. Whether hubris still brings about a fall from grace is more difficult to ascertain, but it seems to me a good principle.
It is no wonder that I have enjoyed my return to the ancient Greeks – I still have much I can learn from them. Perhaps our only improvement on heroism today is that women also have a chance to shine. In ancient Greece being a hero was an almost exclusively male profession and, although there are some fabulous Greek heroines in my book, it is dominated by men – reflecting society at that time. Some things do get better – even if the change is slow!
Greek Heroes, Top Ten Myths and Legends is published by Walker Books and is available from today!
Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Federation.