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Form: Gr..
A hero. This is in Homer a descriptive title given specially to princes and nobles, but also applied to men of mark sprung from the people. Hesiod reserves the name for mortals of divine origin, who are therefore also known as demigods. Many of these he places on the Islands of the Blessed, where under the sovereignty of Cronus (Kronos), they lead a life of happiness Hesiod makes no allusion to the influence of heroes upon the life of man, or to the worship due to them in consequence. But in later times this belief spread throughout the whole of Greece. The heroes are in most respects like men and suffer death; but death puts them in a more exalted rank, and they then have power to do men good as well as harm. The most distinguished warriors of prehistoric times were accounted heroes, being generally regarded as the offspring of gods by mortal women; to their souls another destiny was accordingly assigned than that allotted to the souls of mortals. But even amongst the heroes of old time there were some who, without being children of the gods, nevertheless so distinguished themselves by their virtue, that they appeared to participate in the divine nature, and therefore to deserve a higher distinction after death. Even in later times such men were not unknown, when personages recently deceased were actually exalted to the ranks of heroes, as in the case of Leonidas at Sparta, and Harmodius and Aristogeiton at Athens. The founders of colonies were especially considered worthy of worship as heroes; when the true founder was unknown, then some appropriate hero was selected instead. Formerly there were many such fictitious heroes; to this class properly belong all the titular ancestors of the noble and priestly families of Attica, and the founders of particular arts and trades, as Daedalus. Many heroes of historical times were originally gods, who, in course of time, were divested of their primitive dignity. There was no town or district of Greece in which a host of heroes was not worshipped by the side of the higher divinities; many as special tutelary spirits of the country, others as the heroes of the country, as the Dioscuri at Sparta, the Aeacidae at Aegina, and Theseus in Attica. There were festivals in their honour everywhere, many of them small and unimportant, and only celebrated in a restricted circle, others observed by the state as festivals of the people in general, and not a whit inferior, in wealth of equipment, to the most important festivals in honour of the gods. This was especially the case with the heroes of the country. Many heroes had shrines, known as Heroa, which were generally erected over their graves. The altars of heroes were lower than those of gods, and were commonly designated sacrificial hearths; they were generally on a level with the ground, and on the west side, the region of the nether world, were provided with a hollow into which the libations were poured. Like offerings to the dead, these consisted of honey, wine, water, milk, oil, and blood which had been shed by sacrificial victims; the flesh of the animals sacrificed was burnt. In the period of decadence it became customary to treat the living with heroic honours. Such honours were paid to the Spartan Lysander by the towns in Asia Minor, and were afterwards accorded to kings, e.g. to Antigonus and his son Demetrius at Athens.
Type: Standard
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