CREDOS: Greek epics — I

Greek lifestyle and ethos before the birth of philosophy was based on mythical stories of the Gods and the Homeric epics, the Iliad and Odysseys. Philosophy started in Greek antiquity with Thales of Miletus around 600 BC, but Greek lifestyle remained untouched by it until Socrates ploughed the Athenian agora. The Homeric epics are alleged to have undergone standardisation and refinement through the canonical writing of the texts around 800 BC. However, the oral tradition of the stories dates much further back into the dawn of Greek history. The generation of oral retelling have allowed these stories to undergo a long process of refinement and modification while allowing it to keep in pace with Greek civilisation’s progress.

In the Iliad is the establishment of the Greek identity through the inclusion of all city-states considered Greek in the Battle of Troy. The Greek ethos based on the Homeric epics and the myths surrounding it gave the Greeks an applied philosophy in which virtues derived from Greek heroes like Achilles, Ajax and Agamemnon. But there is a thin line between virtues and vice in Greek thought as cheating, lying and stealing take the form of virtues in Odysseys. Agamemnon’s sacrifice of his own daughter to the sea God Poseidon is seen as both an example of sacrifice and murder. Thus the virtue and vice were but two sides of the same coin making the strict division of good and evil a development that occurred much later in western thought.