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Tragedy And Privilege

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Chapter Summary

Privilege is clearly alive and well in today's world. How was it viewed in ancient Athens? This chapter proposes five privileged groups drawn from Homeric epic, which provided the foundation for later Greek views on the subject. Using these categories as a basis, it compares what tragedy has to say on the issue: 1) Privilege based on valor, ἀρετή, an excellence present to behold, manifest in the various ἀριστεῖα in battle scenes of the Iliad and epitomized by Achilles. 2) Elite, blood- and wealth-based privilege, the aristocratic power exemplified by Agamemnon in Iliad. 3) Those honored for wise, persuasive, or insightful speech, represented by sage elders and inspired prophets. 4) Outside of those privileged for their battle courage, their bloodline and wealth, or their verbal powers, we have "everyone else:" common soldiers, charioteers, henchmen, women, children, slaves. 5) Finally, the poet, capable of delivering lasting kleos to his chosen subject.

Keywords: Achilles; Agamemnon; Athens; battle courage; Homeric epic; Iliad; kleos; privilege; tragedy; wealth-based privilege



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