Oedipus Rex by Sophocles and The Iliad by Homer both display an epic hero, Oedipus and Achilles, both of noble birth, characterized by a historical or legendary importance and with pride as their downfall. Their personal qualities determine which more closely fulfills the portrait of an epic hero; Achilles is selfish, while Oedipus sacrifices himself for his nation. Therefore, Oedipus characteristics are more representative of an epic heroe.
An epic hero is usually a male of noble birth. Achilles is born to Peleus, king of the Myrmidons and Thetis, a sea nymph. He knows exactly where he comes from. While Oedipus is son of Laius and Jocasta, the queen of Thebes, even though, he is unaware of his ascendance. This epic characteristic is considered relevant because when they come from an important family they are destined to build up a life that benefits their society. The importance of the place they are occupying as future leaders might change a whole nation. Therefore, they are in the spotlight.
Another similarity between Achilles and Oedipus is pride as their downfall. The Gods envy us. They envy us because were mortal, says Achilles previously when he positions himself above the gods. Even though he knows well enough his fate, his pride as an extraordinary warrior makes him compare the gods with himself. Oedipus portrays this flaw also by saying: You pray to the gods? Let me grant your prayers. He tries to position himself as equal to the gods, which is obviously impossible. In spite of these phrases and the arrogance that both heroes display, Sophocles and Homer show their main characters as puppets of the gods, revealing the polytheistic thoughts of their eras.
Achilles actions determine the fate of his nation. He knows his fate and he accepts it, Everyone dies, whether today or fifty years from now. The Greek warrior does not try to deceive his destiny. These words show how Achilles thinks about his mission on Earth. He is designed to fight, even though he remains as a coward once. The fact that he tries to accomplish his own fate, might be seen as his best virtue. On the other hand, Oedipus tries to avoid his own destiny, Hell be revealed a brother and a father to his children in his house, husband and son to her who gave him birth; wife-sharer and the killer of his father. This prophecy determines Oedipus fate, but he makes a long journey to avoid the gods outcome, which is merely impossible. Achilless acceptance and Oedipuss rejection of their respective fates produce both their greatest virtue and downfall.
Oedipuss traits reflect the ideals of his society. He speaks for his people, assuring them that he is going to find the person responsible for the plague in Thebes, Now my curse on the murderer. Whoever he is, a lone man unknown in his crime or one among many, let that man drag out his life in agony, step by painful step. This noble action makes him an amazing epic hero because even though later on he will find that the one he is looking for is himself, even still he punishes himself to maintain his word and for the benefit of his Nation. On the contrary, Achilles acts for his own benefit, without caring about his position as a leader, Greece got along, fine before I was born. And Greece will remain Greece long after I am gone. The lack of nationalism makes him not just a worse hero, but also considered an enemy to his people, because while they let him get the power, he uses it for his own benefit.
Achilles and Oedipus are excellent examples of epic heroes because both portray strengths and weaknesses which make them more humanistic. It is important to highlight that Achilles is also a great example and even an inspiration for warriors. However, Oedipus is considered the best example of an epic hero for trying to give the best to his people. Being a leader is a privilege, but also a virtue that not everybody possesses, a leader must inspire his people, which according to the development of both epics, only Oedipus accomplishes satisfactorily.