Modern day heroes compared to the ancient Greek heroes share many
similarities. They are seen as extraordinary, “god- like”, brave, noble,
powerful, invincible; the list is endless. There is one defining factor that
these heroes have in common, most of them have one fatal flaw.
The Greek hero Achilles, is a demi- god who is dipped in the river
Styx by his mother. His mother accidentally holds him by his heel and his heel
becomes his weakness. Achilles is the strongest and most heroic soldier in the
The modern-day hero Superman, shares many similarities with the
mythic hero, Achilles. Superman’s home planet is Krypton and he is rocketed to
Earth moments before Krypton destructs. Superman has a vast amount of powers,
but his fatal flaw is Kryptonite. Kryptonite drains him of his powers and if he
is exposed to it for too long, it may kill him. Both heroes endure life
changing journeys that give them their heroic qualities.
Joseph Campbell, an American mythologist, believes that for a
character to be considered a hero, they must go through certain stages of “the
hero’s journey” (Campbell). They must be called to adventure, refuse the call,
have supernatural aide, and go through a drastic ordeal (Campbell). Modern- day
authors still use this theory to base their hero stories off of because
Campbell’s theory is based off the successful and well- known Greek mythology
epic hero stories. Superman and Achilles both get a call for an adventure and
are both stopped by their mother figures. Achille’s mother had a vision of him
dying in war, and also Achilles had a feud with Agamemnon about refusing to go into
battle. Superman’s mother figure was worried about him and does not want him to
leave and wants him to refuse. Achilles obtains supernatural aide from the
goddess, Athena. Athena’s help is a turning point in the war and aides Achilles
as he defeats Hector of Troy. When Campbell was composing his theory, he
intended the stage of having supernatural aide for the Greek heroes, causing it
not to imply as much to Superman. Superman’s aide is not as direct but can be
implied as his knowledge and the crystals from his father and the ship. These
adventures that they go on play a key role in their hero status. Superman
performs heroic actions when stopping Lex Luther and also when protecting
civilians from the earthquakes. These events aid and support Superman’s
deserved title of hero. Like Superman,
Achilles goes through an episode where he fights Hector and defeats him, making
him qualify as a hero.
Both the heroes portray amazing strengths but the modern- day hero
story has an underlying difference when compared to an ancient Greek hero myth.
Superman is self- aware and knows his limits or weaknesses. Achilles did not.
He is brave and bold but his lack in awareness leads him to his death by a
poisonous arrow to his one vulnerable spot, his heel.
Superman is sometimes claimed as the modern- day Achilles. With
many similarities linking the two hero stories together, they also have a
difference. Even though they both go through the stages of a “hero’s journey”, it comes down to which
hero knows themselves better and their own limits.