Hubris

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Hubris (also hybris; pronounced /ˈhjuːbrɪs/ due to the hypercorrection of the Greek spelling due to the incorrect transcription of /u/ for /ὕ/) means extreme haughtiness or arrogance. Hubris often indicates being out of touch with reality and overestimating one's own competence or capabilities, especially for people in positions of power.

Hubris appears in the terms "act of hubris," and "hubristic."

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Ancient Greek origin

In ancient Greece, hubris (ancient Greek ὕβρις) referred to actions that shamed and humiliated the victim for the pleasure or gratification of the abuser.[1] The term had a strong sexual connotation, and the shame reflected on the perpetrator as well. It was most evident in the public and private actions of the powerful and rich. The word was also used to describe actions of those who challenged the gods or their laws, especially in Greek tragedy, resulting in the protagonist's downfall.

Hubris, though not specifically defined, was a legal term and was considered a crime in classical Athens. It was also considered the greatest crime of the ancient Greek world. The category of acts constituting hubris for the ancient Greeks apparently broadened from the original specific reference to mutilation of a corpse, or a humiliation of a defeated foe, or irreverent "outrageous treatment" in general. It often resulted in fatal retribution or Nemesis. Atë, ancient Greek for "ruin, folly, delusion," is the action performed by the hero, usually because of his/her hubris, or great pride, that leads to his/her death or downfall.

Violations of the law against hubris included what might today be termed assault and battery; sex crimes ranging from rape of women or children to consensual but improper activities, in particular anal sex with a free man or [non-consensually] with a boy;[2][3][4] or the theft of public or sacred property. Two well-known cases are found in the speeches of Demosthenes, a prominent statesman and orator in ancient Greece. These two examples occurred when first, Midias punched Demosthenes in the face in the theater (Against Midias), and second when (in Against Conon) a defendant allegedly assaulted a man and crowed over the victim. Yet another example of hubris appears in Aeschines "Against Timarchus," where the defendant, Timarchus, is accused of breaking the law of hubris by submitting himself to prostitution and anal intercourse. Aeschines brought this suit against Timarchus to bar him from the rights of political office and his case succeeded.[5]

One example of hubris occurs in Sophocles's Antigone when Creon refuses to bury Polynices.[citation needed] Another example is in the tragedy Agamemnon, by Aeschylus.[citation needed] Agamemnon initially rejects the hubris of walking on the fine purple tapestry, an act suggested by Clytemnestra, in hopes of bringing his ruin. This act may be seen as a desecration of a divinely woven tapestry, as a general flouting of the strictures imposed by the gods, or simply as an act of extreme pride and lack of humility before the gods, tempting them to retribution. One other example is that of Oedipus. In Sophocles' Oedipus Rex, while on the road to Thebes, Oedipus meets King Laius of Thebes who is unknown to him as his biological father. Oedipus kills King Laius in a dispute over which of them has the right of way, thereby fulfilling the prophecy that Oedipus is destined to murder his own father. Icarus, flying too close to the sun despite warning, has been interpreted by ancient authors as hubris, leading to swift retribution. In Odyssey, the behaviour of Penelope's suitors is called hubris by Homer, possibly still in a broader meaning than was later applied. The blinding and mocking of Polyphemos called down the nemesis of Poseidon upon Odysseus; Poseidon already bore Odysseus a grudge for not giving him a sacrifice when Poseidon prevented the Greeks from being discovered inside the Trojan Horse. Specifically, Odysseus' telling Polyphemos his true name after having already escaped was an act of hubris.

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