The CHS is pleased to announce that The Best of the Achaeans: Concepts of the Hero in Archaic Greek Poetry by Gregory Nagy is now available online on the CHS website.
Despite widespread interest in the Greek hero as a cult figure, little was written about the relationship between the cult practices and the portrayals of the hero in poetry. The first edition of The Best of the Achaeans bridged that gap, raising new questions about what could be known or conjectured about Greek heroes. In this revised edition, which features a new preface by the author, Gregory Nagy reconsiders his conclusions in the light of the subsequent debate and resumes his discussion of the special status of heroes in ancient Greek life and poetry. His book remains an engaging introduction both to the concept of the hero in Hellenic civilization and to the poetic forms through which the hero is defined: the Iliad and Odyssey in particular and archaic Greek poetry in general.
But when they had their fill of drinking and eating,
the Muse impelled the singer to sing the glories [ kléos plural] of men,
from a story-thread which had at that time a glory [ kléos ] reaching the vast heavens:
the quarrel of Odysseus and Achilles son of Peleus,
how they once fought at a sumptuous feast of the gods,
with terrible words, and the king of men, Agamemnon,
rejoiced in his mind that the best of the Achaeans were fighting.
Thus had oracular Phoebus Apollo prophesied to him,
at holy Delphi, when he had crossed the stone threshold
to ask the oracle. For then it was that the beginning of pain started rolling
upon both Trojans and Danaans, on account of the plans of great Zeus.Odyssey viii 72–82
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 Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours (Harvard University Press, 2013), available as an epub for download on the CHS website and through the MOOC, The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours, ran by HarvardX; 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.