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Heroism

Duration:
45 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 06 May 2004

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss what defines a hero and what place they had in classical society. On the fields of Troy a fallen soldier pleaded with Achilles, the great hero of the Greeks, to spare his life. According to Homer, Achilles replied,
“Do you not see what a man I am, how huge, how splendid.
And born of a great father and the mother who bore me immortal?
Yet even I have also my death and strong destiny,
And there shall be a dawn or an afternoon or a noontime,
When some man in the fighting will take the life from me also
Either with a spear cast or an arrow flown from the bow string”.

With that, he killed him. Heroes have special attributes, but not necessarily humility or compassion. How did the Greeks define their heroes? What place did the hero have in classical society and what do modern ideas of heroism owe to the heroes of the golden age?

With Angie Hobbs, Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Warwick and author of Plato and the Hero: Courage, Manliness and the Impersonal Good; Anthony Grayling, Reader in Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London; Paul Cartledge, Professor of Greek History at the University of Cambridge.

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