~ Explore what it means to be human today by studying what it meant to be a hero in ancient Greek times ~
Part One: Heroes in Epic and Lyric Poetry
Hours 1–5: “Epic and Lyric”
Hours 6–11: “Signs of the Hero in Epic and Iconography”
Part Two: Heroes in Prose Media
Hours 13–15: “The Cult of Heroes”
Part Three: Heroes in Tragedy
Hours 16–21: “The Hero in Tragedy”
Hours 16–21 bring us into the world of high classical poetry in drama, as brought to life in three tragedies of Aeschylus, two of Sophocles, and two of Euripides. We see here the Greek hero as best known to us from the perspective of world literature. The medium of drama makes heroes seem more familiar to us, since we think we know drama better than we know other verbal arts such as epic and lyric, but, by the time we finish analyzing the seven classical tragedies that we will be reading, we will see that the traditions of hero cult, infused into the verbal art of drama, cast an altogether new light on tragedy, defamiliarizing for us not only the heroes illuminated by this art but also the art itself. We will see, then, maybe for the first time ever, that the ancient Greek hero of tragedy was not at all like us—even less like us than the hero of epic or lyric. The male and female heroes of drama were larger than life, far more so than we may ever have imagined, reaching levels of both nobility and debasement that challenge our sense of equilibrium in the cosmos. As our close readings of our seven chosen tragedies will show, there was a disequilibrium in myths about heroes in the remote past, and this disequilibrium could be compensated only by experiencing the equilibrium of rituals in the immediate present—rituals culminating in the drama of heroic tragedy.
Part Four: Heroes in Two Dialogues of Plato/
Part Five: Heroes Transcended
Hours 22–24: “Plato and Beyond”
The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours
Harvard University Press
The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours explores what it means to be human today by studying what it meant to be a hero in ancient Greek times. Readers will experience, in English translation, some of the most beautiful works of ancient Greek literature and song-making spanning over a thousand years from the the eighth century BCE through the third century CE: the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey; tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides; songs of Sappho and Pindar; dialogues of Plato, and selections from On Heroes by Philostratus. Nagy has carefully selected and translated over 250 passages from these works with special attention to the subtleties of the original language. Throughout his analysis, Nagy models techniques for “reading out” of these works in an inductive way. This approach allows readers with little or even no experience in the subject matter to begin seeing this literature as an exquisite, perfected system of communication.
Gregory Nagy is the Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard University, and is the Director of the Center for Hellenic Studies, Washington, DC. In his publications, he has pioneered an approach to Greek literature that integrates diachronic and synchronic perspectives. His books include The Best of the Achaeans: Concepts of the Hero in Archaic Greek Poetry (Johns Hopkins University Press), which won the Goodwin Award of Merit, American Philological Association, in 1982; also Pindar’s Homer: The Lyric Possession of an Epic Past (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990), Poetry as Performance: Homer and Beyond (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), Homeric Questions (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996), Homeric Responses (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003), Homer’s Text and Language (University of Illinois Press 2004), Homer the Classic (Harvard University Press, online 2008, print 2009), and Homer the Preclassic (University of California Press 2010). He co-edited with Stephen A. Mitchell the 40th anniversary second edition of Albert Lord’s The Singer of Tales (Harvard Studies in Comparative Literature vol. 24; Harvard University Press, 2000), co-authoring with Mitchell the new Introduction, pp. vii–xxix.
Read more from previous iterations:
For recent versions of HeroesX, there are video Office Hour discussions available on the Center for Hellenic Studies YouTube channel.
You can find them all on the HeroesX playlist.