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The Best of the Achaeans: Concepts of the Hero in Archaic Greek Poetry

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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 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.


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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 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.

30 review for The Best of the Achaeans: Concepts of the Hero in Archaic Greek Poetry

  1. 4 out of 5

    Clifton Toliver

    Perhaps one of the best books ever written on the subject. HIghly informative.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Dawn

    Interesting ideas. A great read. Intelligent, articulate, intellectual, compelling. I took Prof. Nagy's class on the Hero and Greek Civilization during college. One of my all-time favorite classes by one of my all-time favorite professors. Interesting ideas. A great read. Intelligent, articulate, intellectual, compelling. I took Prof. Nagy's class on the Hero and Greek Civilization during college. One of my all-time favorite classes by one of my all-time favorite professors.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Beatriz López

    2.5 After all the interesting books analyzing the Iliad I have read lately, this was just too dull.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mac

    I approached "The Best of the Achaeans" with a certain amount of dread. I wasn't sure what to expect and feared it might be a dull treatise on heroism. In fact, it was frequently fascinating and right up my alley. Gregory Nagy's main focus was on language and how it reveals deep traditional patterns. Though Homer's two epics take a prime place in the discussion, Nagy also draws widely on other ancient literature. After Homer, Hesiod is cited second-most, then Pindar, then Archilochus and other ar I approached "The Best of the Achaeans" with a certain amount of dread. I wasn't sure what to expect and feared it might be a dull treatise on heroism. In fact, it was frequently fascinating and right up my alley. Gregory Nagy's main focus was on language and how it reveals deep traditional patterns. Though Homer's two epics take a prime place in the discussion, Nagy also draws widely on other ancient literature. After Homer, Hesiod is cited second-most, then Pindar, then Archilochus and other archaic poets. And not just the principal works, but also bare fragments and snippets from ancient biographies of Aesop and Pyrrhos, among others. Sometimes Nagy even drew on parallels with Sanskrit, Old Irish, or other Indo-European literature. His main technique was to drill down on a few particular words to see how they were used, what other words they tended to be associated with, what themes they were related to, etc. The text features numerous excerpts in Greek, alongside Nagy's translations. But in the main body of text, Nagy will refer to the relevant Greek words in transliteration (akhos, penthos, bie, etc.). His translations also use the words in question in an interesting way. For instance, if there is a verb derived from the noun akhos, he might translate it as "brought me akhos" rather than, say, "troubled me." Seeing translations like this made me read the Greek with new eyes. The book is organized in an interesting way, as well. It is divided into books and chapters like an ordinary book, but then each chapter has numbered paragraphs (§1, §2, etc.). The footnotes frequently refer backwards or forwards to a particular paragraph in the text. An organization like this made it easy to see how Nagy developed his arguments, and also had the benefit of dividing a long, dense book into bite-sized chunks. My one disappointment was that I imagined the book would be building to a grand summation and conclusion. Instead the last chapter seemed no different in kind than the previous 19 chapters. It was almost like a circular novel a la Infinite Jest, where the "ending" just leads you back to the beginning again. In the end, I feel like I got a lot out of reading "The Best of the Achaeans," specifically in how I approach reading Greek texts. N.B. Though one can read this book without understanding Greek, I suspect that it will prove daunting. Even when written in Roman letters, the text is thoroughly imbued with the Greek language. Many aspects of grammar and terminology appear without (much) explanation. And it goes beyond Greek as well. I was lucky in that I had recently learned the Sanskrit concept of bahuvrihi, which Nagy alludes to several times. Anyway, caveat lector.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Leija Palin

    This treatise was my first encounter with Nagy's thinking many years ago. Nagy has found the "outgrown track to Language" and knows how to instruct the track to a modern academic reader. He changed my approach to the thinking of the ancient Indo-European man and after that moment of realization, this change has been irreversible. Humble thanks. This treatise was my first encounter with Nagy's thinking many years ago. Nagy has found the "outgrown track to Language" and knows how to instruct the track to a modern academic reader. He changed my approach to the thinking of the ancient Indo-European man and after that moment of realization, this change has been irreversible. Humble thanks.

  6. 4 out of 5

    David

    This world is known to us through Homer and the artifacts left behind. Nagy does an excellent job at giving us a glimpse of these heroic people - Achilles and co.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Josho Brouwers

  8. 4 out of 5

    Hamad O

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tim

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey Emanuel

  11. 5 out of 5

    Cameron E.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Coleen--Marie Hanson

  13. 5 out of 5

    Cody

  14. 4 out of 5

    Karen O

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sam

  16. 5 out of 5

    Shani

  17. 5 out of 5

    Brendan

  18. 4 out of 5

    Dan Griffin

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jan Helldén

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dorthe

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jamey

  22. 5 out of 5

    Charles Heighton

  23. 4 out of 5

    Rhonda

  24. 5 out of 5

    Alebriand

  25. 4 out of 5

    storytime-reviews

  26. 5 out of 5

    Peter Olofsson

  27. 5 out of 5

    Achilleas

  28. 5 out of 5

    xebec

  29. 5 out of 5

    Elliot C. Schneider

  30. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Kenefick

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