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DignityA History$
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Remy Debes

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780199385997

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199385997.001.0001

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Dignity in Homer and Classical Greece

Dignity in Homer and Classical Greece

(p.19) Chapter 1 Dignity in Homer and Classical Greece

Patrice Rankine

Oxford University Press

A universal or formal claim to human dignity is absent from Homer and later Greek literature. Indeed, the period lacks the language to support a formal claim. Notwithstanding this assertion, it would be a mistake to dismiss the overwhelming evidence suggesting that the substance of a concept of dignity existed in Homeric and later Greece. Dignity is a concept similar to what Orlando Patterson argues regarding "freedom," in Freedom in the Making of Western Civilization: it is a widespread human value that does not have to be articulated, argued for, or formalized until extensive threats to it appear, along with the possibility of its loss. Interactions between and among Homeric characters support a deep awe and reverence that raises individuals above a price, whether they be slave or free, and this treatment extends to animals and nature in Homer, as the evidence shows.

Keywords:   Aeschylus, axios, awe, dignity, Euripides, Greek tragedy, Homeric Greece, image of God, imago Dei, slave(s)

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