Culture Global Presents
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.
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.
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, Homers 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
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.
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
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
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