Over time there have been many epics written by different cultures and at different times. By reading these epics we can learn about the values of the different cultures. Some cultures were very similar, but others are very different. One way cultures can differ is their values, which can be reflected in their notions of what makes a hero. An example of this would be to compare The Odyssey by Homer to The Ramayana by Valmiki.
The Odyssey cannot be accurately dated and is attributed to the poet Homer who lived in an area of Asia Minor that was settled by Greek colonists. It was originally intended for oral recitation and was shaped into the current written form. The main character (or hero) in the poem is Odysseus who is the son of Laertes, King of Ithaka. Throughout the poem Odysseus is given many different characteristics. We are told that he is physically tenacious, well spoken, physically God-like and a good master who is kind and generous to his underlings. We can also see that he lies readily and is quick to disbelieve his wife's loyalty. There is much emphasis throughout the poem of Odysseus's physical strength and appearance. There is also emphasis of his quick wit and smooth tongue.
The Ramayana of Valmiki was put into the written format around 550 B.C.E. during India's heroic age. It was also initially an oral poem and is known as the great story of Indian civilization. The hero in this poem is Rama who is the son of Dasaratha, the King of Kosala. Throughout this poem Rama has many characteristics presented to us that are all along the same theme. He is said to be righteous, scrupulous, even-tempered, self controlled, kind spoken, upright, truthful, insightful and invincible in combat. The poem has called Rama "patient as the earth", said has "splendor as the sun" and has "vanquished the world simply by his good conduct". As you can see, much of the emphasis here is put on his righteousness and personality.