Western Culture Global Presents

The Top 100 Heroes of Western Culture
These individuals have most contributed to replacing ignorance with knowledge, savagery with civilization, disease with health, tyranny with liberty, poverty with abundance, and despair with happiness.



#2: Homer

Greek author / poet Homer likely lived in the 8th century BC. His literary works The Iliad and The Odyssey were exceedingly influential in the ancient world and largely formed the foundation of the Greek, secular and Western world view.

Virtue

The Iliad and The Odyssey taken together communicate that man is not a mindless body who should, like an animal, act blindly on his emotions or instinct; nor is he a mystical soul/mind who should shun this world and seek to escape his body and this life.

Rather, Homer’s work communicates that man is a being of both mind and body -- and that given this fact he must act in a certain way, he must live up to his nature and not shrink from it. Specifically, man must have inner strength and outer strength.

Inner strength means man must use his intelligence and value his mind; he must also have the ability to keep his blind inner passions or emotions in check to avoid recklessness. Outer strength means that man must be able to effectively fight to achieve and / or protect his values, especially kleos (“glory” won through great deeds).

Secularism

Although the works of Homer were highly influential in Ancient Greece, they were never regarded as revelation from a supernatural source, i.e., sacred texts. They are secular literature and the Greeks regarded them as such; Homer's work was never considered by the Greeks to be above criticism.

In addition, the gods in the Iliad and the Odyssey play critical roles, but they have the same foibles as mortal man, and when compared to a Homeric hero such as Odysseus, they are even morally inferior. The gods were presented as powerful but also as petty, base, childish, fickle and vile -- not beings worthy of moral admiration. Consequently, the Greeks paid homage to the gods generally not for spiritual reasons but to get in the gods' favor so that they would help the Greeks to achieve their worldly goals.

Further, this life and achieving greatness in it are what concern the characters in Homer's works. The afterlife or the idea of heaven are downplayed and even denigrated; those who had passed on to the next life / world want desperately to come back to this one.

Impact

Homer's worldview, however, is not without substantial error. For example, the fatalism and helplessness he expresses — that a person only succeeds if and when forces largely beyond his control, i.e., the gods, are on his side -- would become a commonly held sentiment in Ancient Greece and Rome which would ultimately do much cultural harm.

Nevertheless, when considering that he wrote nearly 3,000 years ago and that he had no similar literary model on which to base his work, Homer's writings must be viewed as masterpieces that rank with the greatest works of human history.

Homer's influence on the development of civilization cannot be overestimated. Many of the virtues presented in Homer's works -- reason, intelligence, worldliness, secularism, courage, honor, integrity and restraint -- became pervasive throughout much of Ancient Greek culture. The result was the birth or grand development of the fields of philosophy, science, history, drama, medicine, art and more – advances that form the basis of Western, advanced civilization.



Go to #3: Thales


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