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The role of honor in ancient greek culture

Jennifer Steere's Notes Today, we generally see honor as a synonym for pride — an emotion a person feels about a positive action they have performed. In both Ancient and Christian terms, however, honor was seen differently.

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Ancient Greek Honor The original Greek word for honor means worth or value, but in a very literal sense. For us, we see honor as a feeling that starts inside the person and seen by people outside. Honor worked in the opposite direction: There were two kinds of honor: The family a person is in, how much wealth, land, power, etc. Male children are valued above female.

He was the living breathing icon representing all the land, property, wealth, house-members, responsibilities, etc. Women and slave could be ascribed honor by joining an honorable household.

  • In Homer's world, "what the world thinks of you is far more important than what you think of yourself;
  • In both Ancient and Christian terms, however, honor was seen differently;
  • A person acts with shame aims to perform according to the rules and boundaries of their position;
  • On the other hand, a person who had lost something during battle might seek poine, or vengeance, which usually took the form of a life or lives as payment for what was lost Visser 195;
  • When one among them named Thersites, a commoner who is disliked by many, speaks up and advises the men to retreat, Odysseus strikes him down.

Note that slaves had more agency than Pre-Civil War U. Slaves sold themselves for a fixed number of years — and were free to change masters at their own whim — more like bond servants.

  1. This goes back to the concept of the self-sufficient oikos.
  2. Indeed, it is what you think of yourself" Gray. It was not considered a negative trait, though we might see it that way today.
  3. The Iliad In the beginning of Homer's The Iliad, the very first collection of lines talks of honor and glory, stating that the fall of Troy is ''a thing... Ancient Greek Honor The original Greek word for honor means worth or value, but in a very literal sense.

Honor can also be ascribed through the political sphere when a person of greater honor assigns a position of honor on someone.

For example, Caesar appointed Pontius Pilot to his position as protectorate of Jerusalem, and Pilot gained honor.

Honor in Ancient Greek Culture & Mythology

Citizens adult males, not slaves could earn honor through military conquest, public performances, political action, or social behavior. Achieved honor is most comparable to our notions of reputation or fame. It was believed that honor was a finite commodity. Honor could run out. If someone gained honor, that meant someone, somewhere had lost some.

Consequently, hosting parties, introducing people, funding community projects, writing plays, anyway to draw positive attention to oneself were highly competitive endeavors. He is directly challenging the traditional Greek and perhaps Hebrew conception of honor, denying, in essence, its public element.

Can the role of honor in ancient greek culture find other snippets from Matthew and Luke that push back against the love of honor culture? Shame Shame moves in the opposite direction. Shame is the community removing honor dishonor.

The person experiences an internal feeling shame and is then expected to perform according to that feeling. For example, when person loses a contest he hangs his head in shame.

When a son dies, the father would pour ashes on his head and tear his cloak. Shame can have a positive aspect too. When a person behaves shamelessly, it means they are acting with total disregard for the community. So in this sense to act with shame is to be aware of the public view of you. A person acts with shame aims to perform according to the rules and boundaries of their position. This is why it is said women have shame, men have honor.

Men can cultivate honor and bring honor onto themselves, and women can perform well within their position. In the story of the Prodigal Son 1158the son squanders his inheritance early, and finds himself working with pigs, starving and wanting to eat what the pig have.

Death before Dishonor

Remember, Jesus is telling this story so the son is Jewish. Kosher was very important. The brother shares that feeling by dishonoring the returning son, and saying he does not deserve to come home. But because this is a Christian parable not Greekthe father rejects the external eye, and forgives his son, taking him in regardless of how other people see it. Sir Gawain, Don Quixote We're interested in how this Christian reconcepion of honor and shame play out in the chivalric stories that evolve out of the Christian model, as well.

Wolfgang Stegmann, Bruce J. Malina and Gerd Theissen. Honor and Shame in the Gospel of Matthew. Westminster John Knox Press, 1998.