The Let's Play Archive

God of War

by kalonZombie

Part 6: Sleep of Bronze yet again with the Greeks, Gods, and hubris.

1) It's not specifically Greek vs. Roman in the tale of Medusa, and the Greeks in general were a hell of a lot nastier to their women than the Romans so misogyny is hardly likely to be the explanation, but it is true that the less sympathetic story starts to win out over time. Greeks, particularly in the Classical peiod, are into the whole "women have their own quarters and don't leave them unless necessary" thing, and full covering + veils, and all sorts of stuff that the Romans didn't care about.

2) Apollo's arrows are specifically plague, or at least 90% of the time. Likewise, Artemis' arrows are death in childbirth. She gets to be god of that despite her virginity.

3) Hubris: hubris gets a lot of misunderstandings about it, so I might as well go over as many as I can think of, all at once.

a) Hubris (as has correctly been said) is not restricted to the modern English definition of hubris. Pride can often be an aspect of it: if the verb 'hubrizo' doesn't have an object, we would usually translate that as 'I act arrogantly' or something of the sort; however, the verb also can be transitive, and we don't usually translate that as 'I act arrogantly towards someone'. Instead, the most conventional way to put it is 'I commit an outrage against someone'. It's much more general bad behaviour than we think of.

b) Hubris is not considered a vital aspect of drama and plays. I just checked: Aristotle never mentions it in the Poetics. It certainly doesn't have to be the sole kind of hamartia that exists, the failure that brings down the protagonist. On that note, hamartia need not be an endemic flaw - that's mostly a postimposition from Christianity, which adopts it as a particular term corresponding in English to something like 'sin'. The usual Greek just is a 'mistake' or 'error', which might be part of one's character or might be a single slip-up.

c) When Aristotle does talk about it, it's in his Rhetoric (2.5) - he handily provides an outright definition:
ἔστι γὰρ ὕβρις τὸ πράττειν καὶ λέγειν ἐφ᾽ οἷς αἰσχύνη ἔστι τῷ πάσχοντι, μὴ ἵνα τι γίγνηται αὑτῷ ἄλλο ἢ ὅ τι ἐγένετο, ἀλλ᾽ ὅπως ἡσθῇ: οἱ γὰρ ἀντιποιοῦντες οὐχ ὑβρίζουσιν ἀλλὰ τιμωροῦνται.

If you are a peasant who doesn't speak Greek, my rough translation would be:
So hubris is causing shame to people by action or by speech, purely for the pleasure one gets by doing it and not for any gain other than that: so someone who retaliates is not committing hubris, but instead exacting justice.

d) As you see, the gods don't have to come into it. In a mythical setting, they probably would, because bad behaviour does tend to annoy one god or another, but it was an entirely secular thing when it had to be. For example, let's translate a particular law which was on Athens' books:

ἄν τις Ἀθηναίων ἐλεύθερον παῖδα ὑβρίσῃ, γραφέσθω ὁ κύριος τοῦ παιδὸς πρὸς τοὺς θεσμοθέτας, τίμημα ἐπιγραψάμενος. οὗ δ᾽ ἂν τὸ δικαστήριον καταψηφίσηται, παραδοθεὶς τοῖς ἕνδεκα τεθνάτω αὐθημερόν. ἐὰν δὲ εἰς ἀργύριον καταψηφισθῇ, ἀποτεισάτω ἐν ἕνδεκα ἡμέραις μετὰ τὴν δίκην, ἐὰν μὴ παραχρῆμα δύνηται ἀποτίνειν: ἕως δὲ τοῦ ἀποτεῖσαι εἱρχθήτω. ἔνοχοι δὲ ἔστασαν ταῖσδε ταῖς αἰτίαις καὶ οἱ εἰς τὰ οἰκετικὰ σώματα ἐξαμαρτάνοντες.

If any of the Athenians were to commit hubris against a freeborn child, let the guardian of the child prosecute them before the magistrates and sue for a particular sentence. If the court condemns him, let him be taken to the Eleven [prison wardens] and put to death that same day. If he is condemned for money, let him pay it in eleven days after the trial, and if he cannot then immediately produce it, let him be imprisoned until he can make repayment. The same penalties apply also against those who do wrong to the bodies of servants and slaves.
(Aeschines' Against Timarchus 1.15)