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The heroes, the wise men, like the new moon have their waxing and waning. ~ Epic of Gilgamesh

Heroes (singular: hero, or sometimes heroine) is a real person or a main fictional character who, in the face of danger, combats adversity through feats of ingenuity, courage, or strength. Like other formerly solely gender-specific terms (like actor), hero is often used to refer to any gender, though heroine only refers to women. The original hero type of classical epics did such things for the sake of glory and honor. Post-classical and modern heroes, on the other hand, perform great deeds or selfless acts for the common good instead of the classical goal of wealth, pride, and fame. Other terms associated with the concept of hero may include good guy or white hat. are persons of great courage who perform extraordinary and praiseworthy deeds.

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  • True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.
    • Arthur Ashe, in Worth Repeating : More Than 5,000 Classic and Contemporary Quotes (2003) by Bob Kelly, p. 169.


Oh, we can be heroes just for one day. ~ David Bowie and Brian Eno
  • A hero can be anyone. Even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat around a young boy's shoulders to let him know the world hadn't ended.
  • They died to save their country and they only saved the world.
  • They were no iron men, but they were heroes. Seamen and clothing workers, clerks and artists, students and fathers of families. The phrase you heard so many times- 'united in a common cause'- it meant everything, and it meant nothing. For you could not hold an abstract idea in your mind at the front. You became aware at moments that the idea had never disappeared; that it was behind everything you did, behind the necessity you felt to do the job and do it well. It was something you did not talk about; it was something you took for granted.
    • Alvah Bessie, Men in Battle: A Story of American in Spain (1939), p. 108
  • Andrea: Unhappy is the land that breeds no hero.
    Galileo: No, Andrea: Unhappy is the land that needs a hero.
    • Bertolt Brecht, Life of Galileo (1938), Scene 12, p. 115.
    • Variant translations: Pity the country that needs heroes.
      Unhappy the land that is in need of heroes.
  • I want a hero: an uncommon want,
    When every year and month sends forth a new one.


  • If everyone's a hero, then the word doesn't mean much anymore. And sooner or later we'll have to give the real heroes (the heroic ones) a new name, to distinguish them from the rest of the pack. Too bad "superheroes" is already taken.
    • George Carlin, When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops (2004), "Heroes Who Died for Their Country".
  • Worship of a hero is transcendent admiration of a great man.
  • If Hero mean sincere man, why may not every one of us be a Hero?
  • Hero-worship exists, has existed, and will forever exist, universally among Mankind.
  • Nature seldom makes a hero and Fortune does not always proclaim those that she makes.
    • Christina, Queen of Sweden, Maxims of a Queen, selected and translated by Una Birch (London: John Lane, The Bodley Head, 1907), p. 25.
  • He's of stature somewhat low—
    Your hero always should be tall, you know.
  • What has suddenly happened is that the white race has lost its heroes. Worse, its heroes have been revealed as villains and its greatest heroes as the arch-villains. The new generations of whites, appalled by the sanguine and despicable record carved over the face of the globe by their race in the last five hundred years, are rejecting the panoply of white heroes, whose heroism consisted in erecting the inglorious edifice of colonialism and imperialism; heroes whose careers rested on a system of foreign and domestic exploitation, rooted in the myth of white supremacy and the manifest destiny of the white race.


  • A hero is an average person who has done something extraordinary.


[Jews needed] a hero who could protect us against an almost invincible force. So [Siegel and Shuster] created an invincible hero. ~ Will Eisner
  • The hero is not fed on sweets,
    Daily his own heart he eats;
    Chambers of the great are jails,
    And head-winds right for royal sails.
  • Each man is a hero and an oracle to somebody, and to that person whatever he says has an enhanced value.
  • The fundamental principle underlying all justifications of war, from the point of view of human personality, is 'heroism'. War, it is said, offers man the opportunity to awaken the hero who sleeps within him. War breaks the routine of comfortable life; by means of its severe ordeals, it offers a transfiguring knowledge of life, life according to death. The moment the individual succeeds in living as a hero, even if it is the final moment of his earthly life, weighs infinitely more on the scale of values than a protracted existence spent consuming monotonously among the trivialities of cities.


  • Es gibt für den Kammerdiener keinen Helden.


Heroes as great have died, and yet shall fall.. ~ Homer
  • It hath been an antient custom among them [Hungarians] that none should wear a fether but he who had killed a Turk, to whom onlie yt was lawful to shew the number of his slaine enemys by the number of fethers in his cappe.
    • Richard Hansard, Description of Hungary, Anno 1599. Lansdowne Manuscript, 775, Volume 149. British Museum.
  • Es gibt keinen Helden für den Kammerdiener; nicht aber weil jener nicht ein Held, sondern weil dieser – der Kammerdiener ist, mit welchem jener nicht als Held, sondern als Essender, Trinkender, sich Kleidender, überhaupt in der Einzelnheit des Bedürfnisses und der Vorstellung zu tun hat. So gibt es für das Beurteilen keine Handlung, in welcher es nicht die Seite der Einzelnheit der Individualität der allgemeinen Seite der Handlung entgegensetzen, und gegen den Handelnden den Kammerdiener der Moralität machen könnte.
    • No man is a hero to his valet; not, however, because the man is not a hero, but because the valet —— is a valet, whose dealings are with the man, not as a hero, but as one who eats, drinks, and wears clothes, in general, with his individual wants and fancies. Thus, for the judging consciousness, there is no action in which it could not oppose to the universal aspect of the action, the personal aspect of the individuality, and play the part of the moral valet towards the agent.
  • Heroes as great have died, and yet shall fall.
    • Homer, The Iliad, Book XV, line 157. Pope's translation.
  • Vixere fortes ante Agamemnona
    Multi: sed omnes illacrimabiles
    Urgentur, ignotique longa
    Nocte, carent quia vate sacro
    • Many heroes lived before Agamemnon, but they are all unmourned, and consigned to oblivion, because they had no bard to sing their praises.
    • Horace, Carmina, IV. 9. 25.


  • The idol of to-day pushes the hero of yesterday out of our recollection; and will, in turn, be supplanted by his successor of to-morrow.


  • Someone can conquer kingdoms and countries without being a hero; someone else can prove himself a hero by controlling his temper. Someone can display courage by doing the out-of-the-ordinary, another by doing the ordinary. The question is always-how does he do it?


You see all these white heroes, everybody is white, all the literature classes—your Shakespeare, your poetry — everybody’s white, and you start to feel less than. ~ John Leguizamo
  • Another definition of a hero is someone who is concerned about other people's well-being, and will go out of his or her way to help them -- even if there is no chance of a reward. That person who helps others simply because it should or must be done, and because it is the right thing to do, is indeed without a doubt, a real superhero.
  • There is never any real danger in allowing a pedestal for a hero. He never has time to sit on it. One sees him always over and over again kicking his pedestal out from under him, and using it to batter a world with.
  • 'Tis as easy to be heroes as to sit the idle slaves
    Of a legendary virtue carved upon our father's graves.


  • Bob Forestier had pretended for so many years to be a gentleman that in the end, forgetting that it was all a fake, he had found himself driven to act as in that stupid, conventional brain of his he thought a gentleman must act. No longer knowing the difference between sham and real, he had sacrificed his life to a spurious heroism.
  • People would be amazed at the behind-the-scenes activity in hero-making; quarrels over which cases are most deserving; seeing that all ranks and units are properly represented; dressing up weak cases to make them appear stronger; last minute switches from one class of decoration to another. … The number of decorations is determined, not by the number of deserving cases, but by the number and types of medals the admiral totes along.
  • Tel a esté miraculeux au monde, auquel sa femme et son valet n'ont rien veu seulement de remarquable; peu d'hommes ont esté admirez par leur domestiques.
    • Such an one has been, as it were, miraculous in the world, in whom his wife and valet have seen nothing even remarkable; few men have been admired by their servants.
    • Michel de Montaigne, Essays, Book III, Chapter II.


  • Even as a kid, it wasn’t to big stories of heroism that I listened but to the everyday people on my block more than anything else. Since I thought of my father and mother as somewhat heroic in their early years, what interested me tremendously was how this whole other world of people living every day, how they lived their lives. I think most people are heroic to a degree, they’re heroic in caring for the lives of the people around them and not dumping each other or dumping on each other.
  • The real hero is the man who fights even though he is scared. Some men get over their fright in a minute under fire. For some, it takes an hour. For some, it takes days. But a real man will never let his fear of death overpower his honor, his sense of duty to his country, and his innate manhood. Battle is the most magnificent competition in which a human being can indulge. It brings out all that is best and it removes all that is base.
    • General George S. Patton, in a speech to the Third Army (5 June 1944); published in The Unknown Patton (1982) by Charles M. Province, p. 32.
  • My personal attendant does not think so much of these things as I do.
    • Plutarch, De Iside, Chapter XXIV. Also in Regnum et Imperatorum. Apothegmata, II. 28. (Tauchnitz Ed.).


Heroing is one of the shortest-lived professions there is. ~ Will Rogers
  • Heroing is one of the shortest-lived professions there is.
    • Will Rogers nationally syndicated column number 114, Monuments Are All Right But Even Heroes Must Eat (1925).
  • We all can't be heroes, for someone has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.
    • Will Rogers as quoted in The Complete Speaker's Index to Selected Stories for Every Occasion (1967) by Jacob Morton Braude, p. 16
    • Variant: We can't all be heroes because somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.
    • As quoted in Peter's Quotations : Ideas for Our Time (1979) by Laurence J. Peter, p. 240


  • Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields,
    See how these names are fêted in the waving grass
    And by the streamers of the white cloud
    And whispers of the wind in the listening sky.
    The names of those who in their lives fought for life,
    Who wore at their hearts the fire's centre.
    Born of the sun, they travelled a short while toward the sun
    And left the vivid air signed with their honour.
    • Stephen Spender, "I Think of Those Who Were Truly Great"; also in Collected Poems 1928-1953 (1955).
  • He who dreamed of democracy, far back in a world of absolutism, was indeed heroic, and we of today awaken to the wonder of his dream.
    • Louis Sullivan, in "Education" an address to the Architectural League of America, Toronto (1902), later published in Kindergarten Chats (revised 1918) and Other Writings (1947).


  • Don’t just meet your heroes. Beat your heroes.
    • Doug Tabbutt, [1]
  • [T]he epic poet did not judge heroes by the result... their fate depended on totally external forces... Heroes are heroes because they are heroic in behavior, not because they won or lost.
    • Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets (2001) Two: A Bizarre Accounting Method | George Will is No Solon: On Counterintuitive Truths
  • Could it be … that the hero is one who is willing to set out, take the first step, shoulder something? Perhaps the hero is one who puts his foot upon a path not knowing what he may expect from life but in some way feeling in his bones that life expects something of him.
  • I need a hero, I'm holding out for at hero 'till the end of the night
    He's gotta be strong and he's gotta be fast
    And he's gotta be fresh from the fight
    I need a hero, I'm holding out for a hero 'till the morning light
    He's gotta be sure and it's gotta be soon
    And he's gotta be larger than life, larger than life

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 365-66.
  • My valet-de-chambre sings me no such song.
  • Tel maître, tel valet.
    • As the master so the valet.
      Like master, like man.
    • Attributed to Chevalier Bayard by M. Ciniber.
  • Ferryman ho! In the night so black
    Hark to the clank of iron;
    'Tis heroes of the Yser,
    'Tis sweethearts of glory.
    'Tis lads who are unafraid!
    Ferryman, ho!
  • Il faut être bien héros pour l'être aux yeux de son valet-de-chambre.
    • A man must indeed be a hero to appear such in the eyes of his valet.
    • Marshal Catinat
  • Il n'y a pas de grand homme pour son valet-de-chambre.
    • No man is a hero to his valet.
    • Mme. de Cornuel. See Mlle. Aissé—Letters. 161. (Paris, 1853).
  • But to the hero, when his sword
    Has won the battle for the free,
    Thy voice sounds like a prophet's word,
    And in its hollow tones are heard
    The thanks of millions yet to be.
  • The boy stood on the burning deck
    Whence all but he had fled;
    The flame that lit the battle's wreck,
    Shone round him o'er the dead.
    * * * * *
    The flames roll'd on—he would not go
    Without his Father's word;
    That Father, faint in death below,
    His voice no longer heard.
  • Hail, Columbia! happy land!
    Hail, ye heroes! heaven-born band!
    Who fought and bled in Freedom's cause.
    • Joseph Hopkinson—Hail, Columbia!
  • Still the race of hero spirits pass the lamp from hand to hand.
  • Rarement ils sont grands vis-à-vis de leur valets-de-chambre.
  • See the conquering hero comes!
    Sound the trumpets, beat the drums!
    • Dr. Thomas Morell—Words used by Handel in Joshua, and Judas Maccabæus. (Introduced in stage version of Lee's Rival Queens, Act II, scene 1).
  • Do we weep for the heroes who died for us,
    Who living were true and tried for us,
    And dying sleep side by side for us;
    The martyr band
    That hallowed our land
    With the blood they shed in a tide for us?
  • The last flash … and the hideous attack
    Dies like a wisp of storm—discouraged flame;
    And soon these battered heroes will come back,
    The same but yet not the same.

Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)

The courage of Daniel is true heroism. It is not physical daring, such as beneath some proud impulse will rush upon an enemy's steel; it is not reckless valor, sporting with a life which ill-fortune has blighted or which despair has made intolerable; it is not the passiveness of the stoic, through whose indifferent heart no tides of feeling flow; it is the calm courage which reflects upon its alternatives, and deliberately chooses to do right; it is the determination of Christian principle, whose foot resteth on the rock, and whose eye pierceth into heaven. ~ William Morley Punshon

Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)

  • True heroism is alike positive and progressive. It sees in right the duty which should dominate, and in truth the principle which should prevail. And hence it never falters in the faith that always and everywhere sin must be repressed, and righteousness exalted.
    • John McClellan Holmes, p. 312.
  • Never was there a time, in the history of the world, when moral heroes were more needed. The world waits for such, the providence of God has commanded science to labor and prepare the way for such. For them she is laying her iron tracks, and stretching her wires, and bridging the oceans. But where are they? Who shall breathe into our civil and political relations the breath of a higher life? Who shall touch the eyes of a paganized science, and of a pantheistic philosophy, that they may see God? Who shall consecrate to the glory of God, the triumphs of science? Who shall bear the life-boat to the stranded and perishing nations?
  • The courage of Daniel is true heroism. It is not physical daring, such as beneath some proud impulse will rush upon an enemy's steel; it is not reckless valor, sporting with a life which ill-fortune has blighted or which despair has made intolerable; it is not the passiveness of the stoic, through whose indifferent heart no tides of feeling flow; it is the calm courage which reflects upon its alternatives, and deliberately chooses to do right; it is the determination of Christian principle, whose foot resteth on the rock, and whose eye pierceth into heaven.
  • With quaint manners and quaint names these men had the hero's heart and the confessor's faith. Their faith was, indeed, their strength. Strong in the supremacy of conscience, in that real earnestness which springs from conviction, and which prompts to enterprise; far-sighted in political sagacity, because seeing Him that is invisible; shrewd enough to know that the truest policy for the life that now is, is a reverent recognition of the life that is to come, they were brave in endurance and patient under trial; and never losing sight of the principle for which they struggled, and of the purpose of their voyage afar, they " won the wilderness for God."
  • Don't aim at any impossible heroisms. Strive rather to be quiet in your own sphere. Don't live in the cloudland of some transcendental heaven; do your best to bring the glory of a real heaven down, and ray it out upon your fellows in this work-day world. Seek to make trade bright with a spotless integrity, and business lustrous with the beauty of holiness.
  • The grandest of heroic deeds are those which are performed within four walls and in domestic privacy.
  • The calm, tranquil energy of the Redeemer's soul; the deep strength of principle which nothing could shake; the serene courage which looked down upon menaces, clamor, contumely, sacrifice, death, — this is the temper which pours contempt upon the intrepidity of heroes, but which the Holy Spirit infuses into the humble Christian.

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