Hero cults were one of the most distinctive features of ancient Greek religion. In Homeric Greek, “hero” (, ) refers to a man who was fighting on either side during the Trojan War. By the historical period, however, the word came to mean specifically a dead man, venerated and propitiated at his tomb or at a designated shrine, because his fame during life or unusual manner of death gave him power to support and protect the living. A hero was more than human but less than a god, and various kinds of supernatural figures came to be assimilated to the class of heroes; the distinction between a hero and a god was less than certain, especially in the case of Heracles, the most prominent, but atypical hero. The grand ruins and tumuli remaining from the Bronze Age gave the pre-literate Greeks of the 10th and 9th centuries BC a sense of a grand and vanished age that was reflected in the oral epic tradition, which would be crystallized in the Iliad. Copious renewed offerings begin to be represented, after a hiatus, at sites like Lefkandi, even though the names of the grandly buried dead were hardly remembered. “Stories began to be told to individuate the persons who were now believed to be buried in these old and imposing sites,” observes Robin Lane Fox.
by Travis Brandon | Aug 9, 2021 | Uncategorized