The Heroic Ideal

Western Archetypes from the Greeks to the Present

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About the Book

The word “hero” seems in its present usage, an all-purpose moniker applied to everyone from Medal of Honor recipients to celebrities to comic book characters. This book explores the Western idea of the hero, from its initial use in ancient Greece, where it identified demigods or aristocratic, mortal warriors, through today. Sections examine the concept of the hero as presented in the ancient, medieval, and modern worlds. Special attention is paid to particular heroic types, such as warriors, martyrs, athletes, knights, saints, scientists, rebels, secret servicemen, and even anti-heroes. This book also reconstructs how definitions of heroism have been inextricably linked to shifts in Western thinking about religion, social relations, political authority, and ethical conduct. Instructors considering this book for use in a course may request an examination copy here.

About the Author(s)

M. Gregory Kendrick is a professor of modern European history and director of the UCLA Freshman Cluster Program at the University of California in Los Angeles.

Bibliographic Details

M. Gregory Kendrick

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 236
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2010
pISBN: 978-0-7864-3786-3
eISBN: 978-0-7864-5751-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vi
Introduction     1

PART ONE. MYRMIDONS, MARTYRS, AND MUSCLE MEN: HEROISM IN THE ANCIENT WORLD      5
1. Neither Human nor Divine: The Hemitheoi and Their Cults      9
2. “Of arms and the man I sing”: The Hero as Myrmidon      13
3. “Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise”: The Hero as Martyr      24
4. “Creatures of a Day”: The Hero as Athlete      50

PART TWO. SOLDIERS AND SERVANTS OF CHRIST: HEROISM IN THE MIDDLE AGES      65
5. Miles Christi: The Hero as Warrior of Christ      69
6. Imitatio Christi: The Hero as Saint      88

PART THREE. REBELS, ROGUES, AND REPROBATES: HEROISM IN THE MODERN WORLD      105
7. “To boldly go where no one has gone before”: The Hero as Explorer      107
8. “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom”: The Hero as Romantic Rebel      130
9. Black Angels and New Men: Heroism in a Totalitarian Context      146
10. Rogues, Reprobates, Outcasts, and Oddballs: The Anti-Hero      184

Epilogue      201
Chapter Notes      205
Bibliography      219
Index      227

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “fascinating…highly recommended”—Choice