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The concept of Aidos in Greek literature from Homer to 404 BC

Cairns, Douglas Laidlaw (1987) The concept of Aidos in Greek literature from Homer to 404 BC. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

The introduction deals briefly with the question of the classification of societies as shame or guilt-cultures, and the position is taken that, firstly, such a distinction has no real basis in human psychology and, secondly, that its application to the differences between ancient Greek culture and our own is largely superficial. The challenge to the shame-culture/guilt culture antithesis continues in the chapter on Homer, of which one of the central topics is the extent to which Homeric man possesses an internal conscience. The fundamental association of aidos with popular opinion is noted, and the terms which describe both the kind of situation or conduct which merits censure and the censure itself are studied, with a particular view to their relevance to competitive and co-operative standards. It is concluded that there is no basis for a subordination of the co-operative to the competitive in the vocabulary of the poems, although it is certainly the case that many characters are more concerned with failure in the latter sphere. This, however, is in no way part of the moral ideology of either the poet or his characters. The main areas of operation of aidos are identified: its role in battle and as fear of disgrace in general, its relevance to the co-operative standard of philia, its concern with positive regard for others, especially suppliants and guests and the particular form which the concept takes with regard to sex, especially in women. These are broadly the categories which also obtain in subsequent chapters. Instances of the relevant terms in the poetry from Hesiod to Pindar are largely heterogeneous, but particularly worthy of note are Hesiod's remarks on the ambivalence of aidos (a notion also present in Homer), Solon's application of the verb, aideomai, to his lack of concern for the misguided opinions of others, and the association of qualities like aidos and loyalty to one's friends, itself promoted by aidos, with arete, both moral and social, in Theognis. In the Tragedians, attention is paid first of all to the role of aidos etc. in the motivation of characters, then to its importance in the thematic structure of the plays, and only then, and with some caution, to the possibility that the usage of the tragedians may reflect changes in the society outside the plays. In Aeschylus, the operation of the concept in the above-mentioned categories is, briefly, surveyed, but the bulk of the chapter is concerned with its role in the psychology of characters faced with an acutely difficult choice: here the inhibitory force of aidos is apparent, as it frequently provokes crises of indecision. Such indecision, moreover, is often an important sign that all is not well. The psychological insight of Aeschylus, it is argued, is very far from elementary, but, of the three tragedians, it is Sophokles who makes most use of aidos in the psychology and motivation of his characters. In all but two of the extant tragedies aidos etc. have a central thematic importance: the possibility of conflicting ideas of aidos, a topic perhaps suggested by sophistic relativist theory, is frequently explored, and one demand of traditional aidos is often set against another. Sophistic discussions of the nature of aidos are particularly in evidence in two plays, the Ajax and the Philoktetes, which both reveal the operation of the concept as an internal form of conscience which can work without reference to the `other people' whose judgement is often mentioned in the context of the aidos-reaction. This appreciation of the internal aspect of aidos corresponds with Demokritos' view of its operation in the conscience of the individual. Sophistic ideas are even more readily apparent in Euripides, although they are much less closely integrated into the psychology of individual characters than they are in Sophokles. Relativism is also important in the younger poet, and a particular feature of his

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PA Classical philology
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Humanities > Classics
Supervisor's Name: MacDowell, Prof D.M. and Garvie, Mr. A.F.
Date of Award: 1987
Depositing User: Elaine Ballantyne
Unique ID: glathesis:1987-1379
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 11 Dec 2009
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:38
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/1379

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