Morals of Ancient Greek Literature

by Amanda Graber

Ancient Greek Literature contains vibrant and diverse narratives, like Homer’s Odyssey, the comedies of Aristophanes, and the tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. This rich tradition of literature is thematizes narratives about fate, glory and destructive pride.

Hubris: A Tragic Flaw

In Ancient Greek Literature, the protagonist often has a tragic flaw, and one of the most common flaws is Hubris, pride that prevents a character from heeding the gods or causes him to break moral law. In Sophocles’ play, Antigone, King Creon’s hubris causes him to ignore the prophet Tiresias’s warnings. His actions eventually lead to the deaths of his niece Antigone, his wife Eurydice and his son Haemon.

Kleos: A Hero’s Glory and Fame

Achilles' warrior death is his legacy.

Ancient Greek Literature emphasizes how a person is viewed by others. One of the most efficient ways for a man to measure how he is viewed by others is to listen to the stories that people told about that him. In The Odyssey, Odysseus’ feats are frequently recounted by numerous characters. A hero’s kleos, his fame and glory, is more important than his actual life, because kleos is a hero’s legacy. In The Iliad, Achilles dies in battle, but because he dies a warrior’s death, his kleos survives beyond his death.

Nostos: The Return Home

The Odyssey is the story of Odysseus' journey home.

Home is important in Ancient Greek literature. No matter what a hero endures or how far he must travel, he will always seek to return home when his quest is complete. Sometimes, as in Apollonius’ Argonautica, a hero is prevented from returning home by the gods as a form of punishment. Perhaps the most famous example of Nostos is Homer’s The Odyssey. The epic poem begins after the battle of Troy, as chronicled in The Iliad, and follows the hero, Odysseus, in his quest to return home.


In Ancient Greek Literature, there are three Fates, who have the power to determine a man’s destiny: Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos. Much of Greek Literature deals with characters who are predestined for a particular doom. In Sophocles’ play, "Oedipus the King", Laius is told that his son will kill him, so Laius orders his death. However, fate prevails. Oedipus survives. An oracle tells Oedipus that he will murder his father and marry his mother. Though he doesn't intend to, Oedipus does kill his father and marries Jocasta- his biological mother.

About the Author

Amanda Graber has been a writer and editor since 2009. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in numerous publications. As an editor, she has worked for both a commercial magazine and a children's literary agency. Graber holds a master's degree in writing and publishing from DePaul University.

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