Often, epic heroes can be characterized the same way. They are portrayed as superhuman beings, possessing strength, physical beauty, and intelligence. These heroes aspired to live by a heroic code that would ensure immortality by keeping their memory alive in the people. Homer’s The Iliad shows how the heroic code was ingrained in ancient Greek warriors. In many cases, the Greeks put this code of honor above their own lives.
During a battle, Glaukos, a Trojan, and Diomedes, an Achaian, encounter one another in a space between the two armies. By chance Diomedes asks who his enemy is. The two men then realize that their fathers were friends. To keep the family friendship alive, the men share a handshake of peace. This embrace shows how the Greek warriors were determined to live a life of principle. Then, the act of fellowship is taken even further when Diomedes suggests that they trade armor to identify each other and to prevent an unintentional fight. The warriors’ concern for each other shows the deep-rooted value of life instilled in all Greeks.
Hektor, a Trojan prince, also leads his life by the heroic code that separates the epic hero from the ordinary. Although his royal status distinguishes him from the regular citizen, his honorable deeds are what make him a model Trojan. He possesses a lack of regard for his own life, but for good reason. Hektor would rather live a short heroic life, and keep his name in good standing for his wife and son, than be known as a coward. He knows that if he is killed, Andromache will be made a slave so he feels as if he must leave her with a good name. Hektor wants Andromache to offer gifts to Athena in hopes that she will protect him. This shows his belief in the supreme power of the gods and the course of fate.
Paris is another Trojan prince that lives his life similar to Hektor’s. However, Paris seems to take the war lightly. On a visit, Hektor inspires Paris to join the ranks in the battles that are taking place because of him. He knows that thousands are dying for his cause, and feels that the responsible thing to do would be to participate. His sense of honor forces him to be a leader, so that his name is not soiled. Paris then rushes to put on his armor and follow Hektor to the battle. In the end, Paris feels it is his destiny to fight at his brother’s side and lead the Trojans to victory.
The epic hero embodies certain desirable characteristics that make him a popular leader. The most important of those is the hero’s devotion to the heroic code. He must be willing to give his life because it is his destiny. If he is strong in his convictions, then he will be remembered long after death, becoming almost immortal because of his superb deeds.