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 today.
Latin plays were written for audiences whose gender perspectives and expectations were shaped by life in Rome, and the crowds watching the plays included both female citizens and female slaves. Relationships between men and women, ideas of masculinity and femininity, the stock characters of dowered wife and of prostitute--all of these are frequently staged in Roman tragedies and comedies. This is the first book to confront directly the role of women in Roman Republican plays of all genres, as well as to examine the role of gender in the influence of this tradition on later dramatists from Shakespeare to Sondheim.
Lord Byron described Greece as great, fallen, and immortal, a characterization more apt than he knew. Through most of its long history, Greece was poor. But in the classical era, Greece was densely populated and highly urbanized. Many surprisingly healthy Greeks lived in remarkably big houses and worked for high wages at specialized occupations. Middle-class spending drove sustained economic growth and classical wealth produced a stunning cultural efflorescence lasting hundreds of years. Why did Greece reach such heights in the classical period--and why only then? And how, after "the Greek miracle" had endured for centuries, did the Macedonians defeat the Greeks, seemingly bringing an end to their glory? Drawing on a massive body of newly available data and employing novel approaches to evidence, Josiah Ober offers a major new history of classical Greece and an unprecedented account of its rise and fall. Ober argues that Greece's rise was no miracle but rather the result of political breakthroughs and economic development. The extraordinary emergence of citizen-centered city-states transformed Greece into a society that defeated the mighty Persian Empire. Yet Philip and Alexander of Macedon were able to beat the Greeks in the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BCE, a victory made possible by the Macedonians' appropriation of Greek innovations. After Alexander's death, battle-hardened warlords fought ruthlessly over the remnants of his empire. But Greek cities remained populous and wealthy, their economy and culture surviving to be passed on to the Romans--and to us. A compelling narrative filled with uncanny modern parallels, this is a book for anyone interested in how great civilizations are born and die. This book is based on evidence available on a new interactive website. To learn more, please visit: http://polis.stanford.edu/.