I was just on the bus, minding my own business when I heard a magical phrase "he knew 2 dozen languages and numerous dialects"; I just had to speak up because there is only one person in history who could fit that phrase:
My hero, Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton. He was an explorer, diplomat, linguist, author, translator - he was 6'4" tall, with broad shoulders, narrow hips, and had this wonderful scar on his cheek. The British army still use the manual he wrote on how to fight with a bayonet, his "Book of Swords" is a master work, he was the original translator of the "One Thousand Nights and One Night" in 10 volumes with 7 volumes of notes anthropological and explanatory. He had himself circumcised in order to get into the Medina area and into Mecca. He could enter a completely unknown country and within a year, be indistinguishable from a native in dress, language and behavior.
Yes, I have many of his books and a copy of the 17 volume "Burton Society" 1001 Arabian Nights set, and a copy of his book of poetry. Did you know he came to the US, studies the Sioux language and tried to convince Brigham Young that he had converted to Mormonism (Brigham Young had many of Burton's books so he didn't fall for it).
Who is your hero and why?