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Qualities Illustrated in Archaic and Classical Greek Novels Essay

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Western thought and culture grew out of Greek ideals. Since “there is nothing new under the sun,” (Ecclesiastes 1:9) many of the ideals expressed by Homer, Sophocles, and Hesiod ring true for Westerners today. Part of the myth of a tragic hero includes a leadership position of some sort: often noble birth, kingship, or military leadership. Tragic plays like Oedipus Rex, Antigone, and the Iliad served as worship, entertainment, examples of virtue, and cautionary tales. Modern Americans can look back at such works and apply the ideas to selecting and serving as leaders on a national, community, or family level. Some of desirable qualities illustrated in Archaic and Classical Greek works include self-control, fairness, respect for moral law, service to one’s community, courage, and honor.
“The Greek maxim ‘Nothing in excess’” (Hollister 131) illustrates the need for self-control. Every tragic hero ended up committing an act of hubris based on his own fatal flaw. Many of those fatal flaws could have served the man and his country if tempered with self-control. “In the field of ethics, [Aristotle] advocated moderation in all behavior, arguing that emotions and actions (anger and love, eating and drinking) are themselves neither good nor evil and should be neither suppressed nor carried to excess: virtue is the avoidance of extremes, the ‘golden mean’” (Hollister 130).
In the Iliad, many characters lack self-control which causes war, strife, and death. Paris’s Paris’ lack of self-control regarding Helen started the Trojan War which kept the soldiers away from their homes for years. Achilles’ lack of self-control in his rage added to the loss and pain for both the Greeks and the Trojans. The Iliad begins:
Rage:
Sing, Goddess, Achil...


... middle of paper ...


...ailure to remember the past allowed him to sin against the gods and cost him both his position and his sight. Creon possessed many good qualities, but overstepped his bounds and through pride and found his decree at odds with the gods’ laws. Antigone inherited her father’s rashness and lack of self-control as evidenced by her suicide which she committed so quickly that even Creon’s change of heart could not save her. Some decisions just cannot be rectified.
In choosing modern leaders, one can take a lesson from the Greeks in how a person’s character can affect his leadership abilities and his constituents. Even positive traits without self-control can lead to devastating ends. Hesiod’s words hold true through the ages,
…Also good
Is he who takes another’s good advice.
But he who neither thinks for himself nor learns
From others, is a failure as a man. (Works, 68)



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