Several years ago, Gregory Nagy, referring to epic heroes from Greek, Indian, Hittite and other
traditions, commented, “These constructs – let us call them simply ‘characters’ for the moment
– are in some ways radically dissimilar from each other. Even within a single tradition like
Homeric poetry, heroes like Achilles and Odysseus seem worlds apart. In other ways, however,
‘epic heroes’ are strikingly similar to each other, sharing a number of central features. The
question is, how to explain these similarities?”1
In answering this question, Nagy demonstrates
how the similarity of epic heroes to each other can be accounted for by integrating three
comparative methods, which he describes as (1) typological, (2) genealogical, and (3) historical.
Nagy explores this idea in several specific cases (e.g., Herakles, Achilles), and underscores in
his discussion the cult hero as epic hero (and the reverse), a figure whose career is marked by
unseasonality, extremism, and antagonism toward the god to whom he bears the closest
Donum natalicium digitaliter confectum Gregorio Nagy septuagenario a discipulis collegis familiaribus oblatum / A virtual birthday gift presented to Gregory Nagy on turning seventy by his students, colleagues, and friends, Washington, D.C.: Center for Hellenic Studies, 2012.