Calvin Coolidge once said, "Heroism is not only in the man, but in the occasion" (brainyquote.com). Heroes are among one of the most popular literary figures of all time. A Greek philosopher, Aristotle, wrote his notion of classic from of heroism called tragic heroism in his work entitled Poetics. In Poetics, Aristotle explains that there are certain qualities that a tragic hero has that can qualify him or her as tragically heroic. Two Grecian literary legends, Achilles from Homer's Iliad and Sophocles's Oedipus Rex, fit the description of an Aristotelian tragic hero. .
Achilles, from Homer's The Iliad, is a tragic hero. Achilles's quick rage coincides with a key characteristic of a tragic hero. Agamemnon, the king of Mycenae takes Briseis, Achilles's prize, or woman. This act is an insult to him, as it is betraying Agamemnon as a more powerful figure, which makes Achilles seem like less of a man. Achilles is enraged by this act of self-righteousness; Homer writes, "Should he draw sharp sword at his hip, thrust though the ranks and kill Agamemnon now? - or check his rage and beat his own fury down?" (371) Achilles's rage, or hamartia, is very apparent within his thoughts. Just being told that his prize was taken brought out a monstrous rage in him, a rage that contemplated killing Agamemnon because it made Achilles seem helpless. His arrogant temper, his tragic flaw, per Aristotle's Poetics, can classify him as a tragic hero. Another factor of a tragic heroism that is present in Achilles is his noble stature. His mother, the sea goddess Thetis, has gone to Olympia on the behalf of Achilles to persuade Zeus, the king of the gods, to help the Trojans defeat the Achaeans. Achilles's demigod standing is revealed when Homer writes, "And Thetis did not forget her son's appeals" (373). This refers to Achilles's mother's promise to him to let the Trojans win after he has given up on the battle against them since he was dishonored by the Achaeans.