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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.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on hero, visit Britannica.com.