Achilles was the greatest hero to the Greeks in the Trojan War, but Hercules overcame so many obstacles that it is hard to rank him second to any. Besides, in Iliad I Nestor says that all the heroes of the Trojan War are second rate compared with earlier ones like Theseus. This list is mine, however, and 21st century prejudices are in play, so Achilles supersedes Theseus. In this list I will show the major claim to fame of each of these heroes.
For fun, try my quiz: Which Greek Hero Are You?
Hercules was outwitted by his nemesis Hera from before the time he was born. After his birth she tried to destroy him by putting snakes in his crib, but he was too powerful even then. He grew up to become the hero who beat the odds time and again, performed amazing, often helpful tasks, and yet was full of human foibles, even to the point of having to expiate the horrible crime of murdering his own children (under the guidance of Hera, of course).
Achilles was the Greek's best warrior in the Trojan War. His nymph mother, Thetis, held him by his heel when she dipped him in the River Styx. This left him vulnerable in one spot on his body. When he fought in the Trojan War he was unbeatable, until the gods guided the hand of Paris to shoot an arrow into Achilles' heel.
Learn more: • Odysseus (Glossary Entry) • The Odyssey • Odysseus in the Underworld • Homeric Questions • Heroic Behavior • A Goddess for Men • The Lesser Share
Learn more: • Perseus Profile • Andromeda • Athena Favors Perseus • How Perseus Fits In
The Iliad Book VI has this to say about Bellerophon's family of origin:
"There is a city in the heart of Argos, pasture land of horses, called Ephyra, where Sisyphus lived, who was the craftiest of all mankind. He was the son of Aeolus, and had a son named Glaucus, who was father to Bellerophon, whom heaven endowed with the most surpassing comeliness and beauty. But Proetus devised his ruin, and being stronger than he, drove him from the land of the Argives, over which Jove had made him ruler."
Learn more: • Profile of Bellerophon
Learn more: • Profile of Orpheus
Learn more: • Profile of Cadmus • The Founding of Thebes • Slaying the Dragon • The Theban Stories
Learn more: • Profile of Atalanta • Calydonian Boar Hunt • All About the Argonauts • Love Apples