If we use today"s definition of hero, the one who risks his life trying to save somebody, or always does something dangerous, or the one with big muscles and big body, then most of the Greek heroes would not fit this profile. Most of them were selfish, and anti-social. Webster"s definition of a hero is "In mythology and legend, a man or woman, often of divine ancestry, who is endowed with great courage and strength, celebrated for his or her bold exploits, and favored by the gods". Many adaptations have been made on the qualities a hero should have, but most of them share the same characteristics. This essay will try to make a comparison between Odysseus and Achilles, using for this purpose the heroic pattern found in Harris and Platzner text. Some of the characteristics don"t apply to any of these warriors, and some apply to only one of them.
Odysseus was the son of Laertes and Anticlea, his father Laertes was king of Ithaca. Anticlea, his mother, was daughter of Autolycus. Achilles was the son of Peleus, the king of the Myrmidons of Thessaly, and his mother was the goddess Thetis, a Nereid. In both cases the fathers are rulers, both are kings, but it is not told whether either of the women was a virgin.
Odysseus birth is disputed, some traditions tell that his mother Anticlea, was seduced by Sisyphus, king of Corinth, and that later she married Laertes, other sources tell that he was son of Laertes. Achilles conception is also unusual because he was the son of a sea nymph, which usually these are just spiritual representations of nature.
Achilles" mother bathed him on the river Styx to make him invincible, only leaving the heel vulnerable. This is opposite to the point that states that usually at birth an attempt is made to kill him. Instead of killing him, his mother gives him invulnerability. Peleus gave Achilles to the centaur Chiron who took care of him and many others future heroes.