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Homer was the creator of the Greek epic poem. His two most famous works - the Iliad and the Odyssey - are concerned with the quests of variuos heroes and their striving to achieve their goals and, ultimately, to establish a place in history. Homer predates the Greek authors suggested above, such as Sophocles and Hesiod. If Sophocles and Hesiod are comparable models, it should be noted that their conception of what it means to "be" a hero and the accompanying characteristics are derived from Homer's example. The "idea" of a hero and all of his virtues and moral faults are exposed for all to see...and that, in itself, it was makes the heroes, such as Achilles and Hector in the Iliad, and Odysseus in the Odyssey, so identifiable with ancient and modern audiences. They are fully depicted in all their humanness. Homer's portrayal of the hero, the idea of "virtus", displaying courage in battle, the importance of single combat in the midst of a full blown battle, all in the pursuit of glory and prestige are important factors. Heros were obsessed with these things. An interesting book that investigates this dynamic is J.E. Lendon's Soldiers and Ghosts.
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