WHY THE CONCEPT OF HEROES SURVIVES THE CENTURIES.
For centuries, society and literature have revered and idolized extraordinary individuals called "heroes." The word hero brings to mind several images: strength, bravery, determination. Heroes have been part of human cultures for thousands of years. Gilgamesh is recognized as the original superhero, followed by many others including Hercules and Odysseus, Spiderman and Rambo, George Patton and Todd Beamer. Heroes in "The Iliad" by Homer such as Agamemnon, Achilles, and Hector, all exhibit courage, strength, and perseverance. Our history books are filled with accounts of heroic actions. Daily newscasts report stories about heroes in all walks of life. Students often question why study ancient works of literature. One reason is that readers of ancient literature are treated to some of the greatest superhero stories ever written. What makes the stories even more fascinating is that the most enduring epic, "Gilgamesh," is nearly 4,800 years old. (Lawall, "Gilgamesh" 10). No matter which era, our heroes have these and other certain traits in common. The most unexplained quality is that of being a "common person" or "regular guy." These qualities explain why the concept of cultural heroes survives the centuries.
Proving that history repeats itself, some of today's superheroes pull tendencies from the legendary heroes of mythology. As an example, consider Superman. He is tall and handsome. He is smart. He can also fly, is practically invincible, and is the strongest of men. These words could describe the gods and heroes of Greek and Roman mythology. They possess incredible strength, they have horses that fly, or are immortal. "He was wise, he saw mysteries, and knew secret things, . . ." is a description of Gilgamesh. (Sandars 12) According to Sandars " . . . the gods gave [Gilgamesh] a perfect body . . . endowed him with beauty . . . endowed him with courage .