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Heroes and Villains

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Heroes feature prominently in the wars, myths, and literature of the ancient world. Not all these people would be heroes by today's standards, and some wouldn't be by Classical Greek standards. What makes a hero changes with the era, but it's often tied up with concepts of bravery and virtue. Incidentally, although there are women here, "virtue" comes from the word for man.
  1. Heroes From Greek Myths and Legends
  2. Achilles
  3. Trojan War Heroes
  4. Persian Wars
  5. Spartan Heroes
  6. Rome's Heroes
  1. Adversaries of Rome
  2. Plutarch's Heroes
  3. Barbarian Enemies of Rome
  4. Roman Villains and Scoundrels
  5. Villains From Myth and Legend

Heroes From Greek Myths and Legends

Hercules and Cacus

Heroes in Greek legends usually performed dangerous feats, killed villains and monsters, and won the hearts of local maidens. They may also have been guilty of numerous acts of murder, rape, and sacrilege.

Achilles

Achilles Slaying an Amazon

Achilles is the quintessential Greek hero of the Trojan War. The Iliad, attributed to Homer, tells his story.

Trojan War Heroes

Trojan War Heroes

The Trojan War story we hear about was written from the Greek perspective, so most of the heroes are Greek, rather than Trojan. The Trojan War belongs to the realm of legend.

Persian Wars

Leonidas King of Sparta

Again, the written material is mostly from the Greek perspective, so there is a bias. These heroes were historical figures.

Spartan Heroes

Agesilaus

Sparta was a military state where the boys were trained from an early age to become soldiers fighting for the common good. There was less individualism among the Spartans than the Athenians and so fewer specifically named heroes.

Rome's Heroes

Aeneas carrying Anchises. Attic black-figure oinochoe, ca. 520–510 BC.

The quintessential early Roman hero was the Trojan prince Aeneas, a figure from Greek and Roman legend. He embodied the virtues important to the Romans, including familial piety and proper behavior towards the gods.

Adversaries of Rome

Statue of Vercingetorix by Bartholdi

These are enemies of Rome. Most exemplify the kind of courage in adversity we think of as heroic.

Plutarch's Heroes

Romulus Coin

The famous men Plutarch put into his parallel lives of Greeks and Romans are often called heroes. Here you'll find our profiles of some of the men in the parallel lives not included in the lists above. You'll also an index page for Plutarch's bios of the individual heroes.

Barbarian Enemies of Rome

Sack of Rome in 410 by Alaric the King of the Goths. Miniature from 15th Century.

Here are some of the major external foes of Rome, most of whom might have destroyed either the Roman Republic or the Empire.

Roman Villains and Scoundrels

Image ID: 1707871. Nero, Emperor of Rome

Even harder than determining who is a barbarian villain when you're writing from the Roman perspective is determining who is a Roman villain. Is it the man who defiles a religious ceremony? All the men who tried to take extra legal control of Rome or only those who failed? What about the so-called bad emperors who may have been well loved by the people, but hated by the historians?

Villains From Myth and Legend

Theseus and Sinis. Tondo of an Attic red-figure kylix, 490-480 B.C.

The list of possible people and creatures to include here is almost endless, but here's a start, mostly from the exploits of the legendary heroes.

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