"Great men seem to have only one purpose in life--getting into history. That may be all they are good for."-- Will Cuppy, The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody
As they did for so many things, the Greeks had a word for it-- heros, the superior man, embodiment of composite ideals--first used in connection with the deified dead. The heros, or hero, had and has a reputation directly related to the social and political structure of his society. No one knows just when and why he comes. The gift of heaven, he is a force sent by destiny.
Different ages and cultures vary the heroic personality, but all heroes are true to their age. Whatever their situation, the motives they urge are elementary, the morality they advocate is obvious. History is not very effective without people, and people are ineffective without leaders. The search for heroes is inherent in human nature. Pre-literate societies allow men, heroes, and gods to stand on a footing of tolerable equality. In remote areas of the world men are still deified in their own lifetime. The idea of aloofness in super-human power comes late in history.
To the historian the hero is one who shapes the course of events; to the philosopher, one who alters the thinking of his times; to the folklorist, one who evokes legends and songs. Messiah, emancipator, founding father, preserver, creative genius: these are all related terms for one whose influence or personality captivates the people. The personification of predominating ideals, the hero emerges at a moment when men's emotions are deeply stirred, and appeals to both the imagination and the reason.