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Heroes: Saviors, Traitors, and Supermen: A History of Hero Worship Hardcover – Bargain Price, September 13, 2005
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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.Read more ›
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. :)