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What Are the Characteristics of an Epic Hero?

Updated July 18, 2017

Strength

Epic poetry comes from ancient Greece, where mythological and epic heroes possess greater strength than other men do. Epic heroes like Achilles, Ulysses and Theseus are so strong that they are able to achieve tasks that no other man is capable of, such as Theseus' slaying of the Minotaur. In "The Iliad," Achilles is responsible for the death of Troy's best warrior and prince, Hector.

Attractiveness

Epic heroes are always attractive in some way. Ulysses is tall and broad of chest. Achilles is tall with blond hair. Epics almost invariably contain heroes who are handsome or even beautiful, with fair skin and hair.

Authority

Heroes in epics typically have authority over other men, either in right or by their mannerisms. In the second chapter of Homer's "Iliad," Ulysses tells a man who has been talking too much, "I will take you, strip you stark naked, and whip you out of the assembly till you go blubbering back to the ships." He then beat the man with his scepter and the man was thus humbled into silence.

Intelligence

Epic heroes tend to have military experience. They plan battles, outsmart other military men and sometimes even outsmart kings and gods. When asked about Ulysses, Helen of Troy describes him as "... a man of great craft, son of Laertes. He was born in rugged Ithaca and excels in all manner of stratagems and subtle cunning."

Courage

A hero is not an epic hero without courage. Every hero in the epic genre is a man who goes into dangerous situations either unafraid or with resolve, despite fear. Beowulf defeats the antihero Grendel; Grendel's mother, who is some sort of evil creature; and a dragon before dying himself. Aeneas is a warrior of Troy. Ulysses is an all-around adventurer, spending years at sea, fighting a Cyclops and fighting the Trojan War.

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About the Author

Shelly Barclay began writing in 1990, focusing on fiction. She has been writing nonfiction articles since 2008. Her work appears on various websites, focusing on topics such as history, cooking, scrapbooking, travel and animals. Before she began writing, Barclay was a line cook for 10 years.