Despite widespread interest in the Greek hero as a cult figure, little was written about the relationship between the cult practices and the portrayals of the hero in poetry. The first edition of The Best of the Achaeans bridged that gap, raising new questions about what could be known or conjectured about Greek heroes. In this revised edition, which features a new preface, Gregory Nagy reconsiders his conclusions in the light of the subsequent debate and resumes his discussion of the special status of heroes in ancient Greek life and poetry. His book remains an engaging introduction both to the concept of the hero in Hellenic civilization and to the poetic forms through which the hero is defined: the Iliad and Odyssey in particular and archaic Greek poetry in general.
Gregory Nagy is Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard University. His books include Pindar's Homer: The Lyric Possession of an Epic Past, also available from Johns Hopkins.
This is a learned, clever, and disturbing book . . . One is left with the uneasy feeling that curtains have parted in the wind, giving glimpses of unsuspected realities behind the apparently simple face of Greek heroic poetry.