Hero

Hero

[heer-oh]
Hero, Greek mathematician: see Heron of Alexandria.
Hero, in Greek mythology, priestess of Aphrodite in Sestos. Her lover, Leander, swam the Hellespont nightly from Abydos to see her. During a storm the light by which she guided him blew out, and he drowned. Hero, in despair, then threw herself into the sea. Christopher Marlowe's poem Hero and Leander is based on the story.
hero, in Greek religion, famous person, who after his death, was worshiped as quasi-divine. The heroes might be actual great men and women, real or imaginary ancestors, or "faded" gods and goddesses (i.e., ancient gods who for some reason were demoted to human status). Homer treats his heroes as nobles and fighting men, but many Homeric heroes, such as Hector and Achilles, later became objects of worship. Hero cults were distinctly different from the attendance to the dead, which was meant only to afford comfort in the afterlife. In hero worship, as in the worship of all infernal powers, rituals were performed at night, black animals were sacrificed, and blood and other liquid offerings were poured beside the hero's tomb. The worship centered in general on the supposed place of the hero's tomb; the cult of some heroes, notably Hercules, was, however, widespread.

See E. R. Farnell, Greek Hero Cults and Ideas of Immortality (1921).

Mythological or legendary figure, often of divine descent, who is endowed with great strength or ability, like the heroes celebrated in early epics such as Gilgamesh, The Iliad, Beowulf, or the Chanson de Roland. Usually illustrious warriors or adventurers, heroes are often represented as fulfilling a quest (e.g., Aeneas, in Virgil's Aeneid, founding the Roman state, or Beowulf ridding his people of the monstrous Grendel and his mother). Heroes often possess special qualities such as unusual beauty, precocity, and skills in many crafts. Often inclined to boasting and foolhardiness, they defy pain and death to live fully, creating a moment's glory that survives in the memory of their descendants.

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