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Heroes: Saviors, Traitors, and Supermen: A History of Hero Worship Hardcover – Bargain Price, September 13, 2005


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (September 13, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400043999
  • ASIN: B005ZODMDI
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.6 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,424,924 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. If you were hosting a celestial dinner party and could invite anyone from history, who would attend? Lincoln, Einstein, Shakespeare? But it might be shrewder to collect the truly mesmerizing characters who combined transcendent charisma and resolve, such as Achilles or Garibaldi. Having long pondered precisely such people, Sunday Times of London critic Hughes-Hallett would likely give a humdinger of a bash. Her fascinating, wide-ranging book lovingly plumbs the careers of seven well-chosen men to trace the history of the hero in Western culture: in addition to the two mentioned above, she includes the Athenian Alcibiades; Roman senator Cato the Younger; the crusader El Cid; the pirate Francis Drake; and war plunderer Albrecht von Wallenstein. What sets these men apart? A preternatural ability to inspire, "a disdain for the cramping compromises by means of which the unheroic majority manage their lives." To exalt scoundrels like Drake or Wallenstein is to challenge our modern dictum that all are created equal; recognizing this, Hughes-Hallett appends a cautionary coda about the antidemocratic legacy of these Nietzschean "supermen." She notes that a hero needn't be virtuous; he need only "inspire confidence and... appear, not good necessarily, but great." Compellingly portraying her heroes, Hughes-Hallett is equally brilliant in evoking both the allure and the danger of hero worship. 32 pages of photos, 16 in color. (Sept. 19)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Overused to the point of meaninglessness, the word hero receives some rehabilitation from this perspicacious British critic. After selecting six famous figures from history and two from mythology (Achilles and Odysseus), Hughes-Hallett proceeds to puzzle over the superhuman qualities attributed to them. Her discussions are notable for their insightful appraisals of personality and motivation and for the revealing manner in which she contrasts crass historical reality with exalted reputation. For example, she notes that Rodrigo Diaz, El Cid, was as much a mercenary as a champion of Christian Spain; his eleventh-century campaigns, or depredations, typify the social disruptiveness of the hero, a fundamental quality Hughes-Hallett detects in all her subjects. Yet, she argues, heroes also have an aura that can often redeem defeat or disunity. Hence the willingness to excuse what are defects in ordinary mortals--the recidivist treason of Alcibiades of Athens, for example. Cato of Rome, Drake of England, Wallenstein of the Holy Roman Empire, and Garibaldi of Italy are also examined in these cogent reflections on the heroic character in history and literature. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By magellan HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is an erudite and quite fun history of several men who I didn't know that much about before, such as Garibaldi and Wallenstein. The others, especially Alcibiades and Cato, and Drake, I was already fairly familiar with from reading some ancient and other history.

The careers and personalities of of this diverse group of men are examined in the light of the question, "What makes men truly great?" This is a more difficult question to answer than one might think. The author points out that Alcibiades, despite being a traitor to Athens, still was not despised and was feared and more respected by the ancient Greeks, since they believed that a truly great man was above and could transcend the more humdrum moral exigencies of the common people. And although we regard Odysseus as a strong, brave, and courageous ancient Greek who survived many amazing calamities and adventures, Odysseus was regarded by the ancient Greeks more as a corruptor of innocence than a true hero in that sense.

If you're a reader of Greek and Roman history much of this section will already be familiar to you, but I'm not and I especially enjoyed the discussions of life in Sparta. I knew they lived especially ascetically and their marriage customs were strange, but that was it. Apparently, they lived on a unbiquitous black broth, made love in the dark (the woman often never knowing what her husband looked like), and had other odd customs. For example, boys were deliberately fed less then needed to sustain them so they would be forced to steal food to survive. But they were only whipped if they were caught. And girls were made to sing nude at noon in the marketplace, as this was thought to promote modesty.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By AlexTheGreat1 on March 29, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I honestly loved this book. I first came across it randomly in a bookstore and it caught my eye. Little did I know how difficult it would be to come across it again....anyway.

The book gives you these vignettes of the lives of certain heroes representative of their respective eras. Starting off with Achilles and Alcibiades all the way through to the 19th century and Garibaldi of Italy.

These snapshots of giant men and their times are extremely informative and eye-opening. To see that parallel drawn between them, and the cohesive narrative make for a really great and (at least for me) fun read. It adds a lot to the debate about whether the man makes the times or whether the times make the man. I highly recommend. :)
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