Heroic Ideal Greece, Rome an Analysis of Essay

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Heroic Ideal Greece, Rome

An Analysis of the Heroic Ideal from Ancient Greece to Roman Empire

The mythopoetic tradition in Greece begins with Homer's Iliad, which balances the heroic figures of Achilles and Hector, two opposing warriors and men of honor, amidst a war on which not even the gods are in agreement. Hector and Achilles mirror one another in nobility and strength and both represent an ideal heroic archetype of citizenry -- men who do battle to honor both their countries and their names. To illustrate, however, the way the ideal of heroic citizenship changes from the Greek mythopoetic tradition through to the late Stoicism of Roman imperialism, it is necessary to leap ahead several centuries and survey the several different bodies of work.

The mythopoetic tradition in Greece somewhat continually dwells on the same themes with regard to heroic citizenship, whether in Homer or in the Golden Age of Theater in Athens, when Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes dominated the stage. Homer's Iliad (Fitzgerald, 2008) and Aristophanes' Lysistrata (Sommerstein, 1973), for example, are two war-themed works whose tones are dissimilar but whose endings are revealing of a common bond -- despite the centuries and structures that separate
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them. The ending of Homer's Iliad depicts the death of Hector, the abuse of his corpse by Achilles (a man with divine prowess but human flaws), the begging of mercy by Priam, and the burial of Hector's bones following the consummation of his body on the funeral pyre. The ending of Lysistrata is a jubilant celebration of peace in song as Athenians and Spartans end their war thanks in large part to the influence of their women. The common bond is this: both works end with attention focused not on those who begin the work (Lysistrata of Athens, or Achilles of the Argives) but rather on the enemy -- the Spartans in song, and Hector of the Trojans. The sense is that both works are neither pro-war nor anti-war in the extreme, but may be read rather as artistic attempts to understand the enemy through identification and honor. They are, in other words, works of respect. The difference between the two works, however, is that Homer's is an epic dramatic poem, and Aristophanes' is a comedy -- a work which treats a serious matter (war) in a social, comedic way.

The greatest definition of the heroic figure…

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Reference List

Aristophanes. (1973). Lysistrata/The Acharnians/The Clouds. Trans. Alan Sommerstein. NY: Penguin Classics, 1973.

Homer. (2008). The Iliad. Trans. Robert Fitzgerald. UK: Oxford University Press.

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