Heroism in the past was determined by the participation of individuals in great battles, leading their communities into conquering other communities and ability to encounter mysteries not initially partaken by individuals.
These were the defining events for individuals and who ever made it through these major encounters was termed a hero within his community. Heroism was marked with people’s allegiance to the person, showering of praise and presentation of the community’s maidens to serve the heroes. They were held in great pride and the wives they had were regarded highly to, on divine interventions heroes were thought to be highly favored by gods and that these gods were always listening to their cries. This is especially seen in Greek stories such as the Gilgamesh epic and Odyssey.
In the Gilgamesh story heroism is depicted in the following instances, before Gilgamesh becomes friends with Enkidu they meet in a wedding where Gilgamesh wants to sleep with the bride just as he was used to. Here he meets Enkidu whom they fight with and this is the major first incidence of heroism indicated in the Gilgamesh story. This though is misguided heroism as the course which he fights for is for self recognition as opposed to fighting for the society’s welfare. (Gardener et al 1985).
The other instance of Heroism which is quite positive is the making up with Enkidu after the weddings fights which Enkidu losses. It is common characteristic for heroes to make up and this is depicted in the story as they both become great friends after the incidence.
The other act of heroism worth noting in the story is when Gilgamesh after a long peaceful life in
his village, Uruk seeks to prove himself by visiting the Cedar forest where he wants to cut the cedar trees and kill the forests guardian. Though the idea is opposed by his now great friend Enkidu and Gilgamesh mother he sets out his mission though the friend agrees to accompany him. They succeed in killing the guardian and building a door for the gods using the felled cedar trees. The last of heroic acts is when Gilgamesh sets out to search for immortality and encounters multiple challenges and though he does not achieve it he comes back withstanding the great challenges. (Gardner et al 1985).
In the Odyssey, he sets out to fight for his community at a time his son is barely a month old depicting a true hero who is willing to do anything to ensure success of battles against his society. Though he takes a long time to return home he always remembers his family and goes through a lot of challenges but the thought of reuniting with his family makes him endure all the troubles. His heroism is in conquering battles and fighting to reunite with his family. (Baldwin 2000).
In the current times battles cannot be used to define heroism as it has become more of a state affair than an individual’s. Instead heroism is now defined from ones contribution to the society in terms of value adding and uplifting the standards of life for the people one lives amidst.
The world being global now there has arisen the need to recognize international personalities who are seen as modern heroes. These are not necessarily men as was the case in the past but women to have gotten into the league of heroism. The basic measure for this is contribution to the well being of the human race as well as conserving and ensuring peace exists in the world. This is quite different from the Gilgamesh and Odyssey where the opposite is actually the mark of heroism.
Finally the reward system for heroism has consequently changed with individuals now being awarded with internationally recognized awards such as the Nobel Prize. There also exists an award system at a lower level such as the state or national level which recognizes efforts of people at that particular level.
As the years progress and the world changes both in priority and endowments the measures for different achievements also changes. Just as seen in the essay the measure of heroism in the past is not the same as in the current times not to mention the difference in the reward or recognition of the heroic acts to. Thus though the past narratives helps us understand where we come from and appreciate the past societies there is need to look at the current times and ensure that it is better than the past.
Baldwin, S (2000).The Odyssey, Cliffs Notes New York.
Gardner, J and Maier, J (1985) Gilgamesh, Vintage Books.
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