The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours

The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours

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The ancient Greeks' concept of "the hero" was very different from what we understand by the term today, Gregory Nagy argues--and it is only through analyzing their historical contexts that we can truly understand Achilles, Odysseus, Oedipus, and Herakles. In Greek tradition, a hero was a human, male or female, of the remote past, who was endowed with superhuman abilities by virtue of being descended from an immortal god. Despite their mortality, heroes, like the gods, were objects of cult worship. Nagy examines this distinctively religious notion of the hero in its many dimensions, in texts spanning the eighth to fourth centuries bce: the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey; tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides; songs of Sappho and Pindar; and dialogues of Plato. All works are presented in English translation, with attention to the subtleties of the original Greek, and are often further illuminated by illustrations taken from Athenian vase paintings. The fifth-century bce historian Herodotus said that to read Homer is to be a civilized person. In twenty-four installments, based on the Harvard University course Nagy has taught and refined since the late 1970s, The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours offers an exploration of civilization's roots in the Homeric epics and other Classical literature, a lineage that continues to challenge and inspire us more

Product details

  • Hardback | 532 pages
  • 154.94 x 238.76 x 58.42mm | 1,292.73g
  • The Belknap Press
  • Cambridge, Mass., United States
  • English
  • 5 halftones, 20 line illustrations
  • 0674073401
  • 9780674073401
  • 254,229

Review quote

There s a vital subject at the heart of the book more vital perhaps now than ever, since the concept of the hero has been so overused and distorted in the 21st century that it scarcely has any meaning anymore, applying equally to Armed Services employees working in an accounting office in Qatar and elementary school teachers doing what they d be fired if they didn t do. Nagy exuberantly reminds his readers that heroes mortal strivers against fate, against monsters, and, as we ll see, against death itself form the heart of Greek literature, the vital counterweight to the gaudy gods and goddesses who so often steal the limelight. He surveys the incredible feast of Greek literature from Homer and Hesiod to the tragedians (his extended analysis of Euripides "Hippolytus," for instance, is a wondrous highlight of the book s final marches) and overlays on top of that feast a neat but thin conceit of hours characterized by certain ancient Greek concepts like "Kleos," "Memnemai," "Akhos," "Penthos," and "Aphthito." The comprehensiveness of his coverage allows him to bring in every variation on the Greek hero, from the wily Theseus to the brawny Hercules to the monolithic Achilles to the valiantly conflicted Oedipus, and that same sweep puts him in a perfect position to spot the linking factors and expound on them.--Steve Donoghue"Open Letters Monthly" (12/30/2013)"show more

About Gregory Nagy

Gregory Nagy is Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard University and Director of Harvard's Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, more