Sam D: The origin of hero. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I read this recently. Herostratus was an arsonist in 385 BC who burned down one of the Ancient Wonders of the World in Greece. When questioned why he did it he said "I wanted people to know who I was, know my name". He was executed and his name was stricken from all records and forbidden to be spoken to prevent his dream form coming true. But it didn't work. Herostratus. Cool eh? (Yes, I'm Canadian).
Neil Horlock: Whilst your history is pretty correct (He burnt down the temple of Athena at ephesus in Turkey) I don't think that is where we get our word hero from.
It originates from the greek hero (or latin heros) There was a mythological Hero who was a priestess of aphrodite. In a more religious context check this from the Catholic encyclopedia:
Human Apotheosis: Human Apotheosis is another cause and equally prolific in later pagan times. Plutarch (in his "Romulus") enters at length into the question, how the soul, when separated from the body, advances into the state of heroism, and from a hero develops into a demon and from a demon becomes a god. To Cicero the doctrine of Euhemerism is the core and fundamental principle of the mysteries (de Nat. Deor., III xxi). With the Greeks it had been a custom to honour renowned or well-deserving men as heroes after death, e.g. Herakles, Theseus; but to pay divine honours to the living never entered into their minds in early times. Heroes or saintly men were regarded as sons of the gods, e.g. in Hesiod; as incarnations of the great gods. The growth of popular Polytheism in modern India is due to the fact that the Brahmins, by their doctrine of divine embodiments (avatara), create holy men into deities actually worshipped. Thus the older gods of India, i.e. nature personifications, are in turn obscured by the swarm of earth-born deifications. Colebrooke says that the worship of deified heroes is a later phase not to be found in the Vedas, though the heroes themselves not yet deified are therein mentioned occasionally. The hero was identified with one of the great gods. Thus hero-worship was strange to the early Romans. Romulus, according to Plutarch, was not worshipped as a hero properly speaking, but as a god, and that after he had been identified with the Sabine god Quirinus. Hero-worship properly speaking, e.g. in the Odyssey.
Peter Spierings: To honour renowned or well deserving men (who are they?) is a tradition which is still very much alive. According to the Australian author Henry Lawson, whose writing I quite enjoy, we Christians have great respect for the dead but express our disgust for the living at any available opportunity. Not so cool, eh. Thanks to Terry O'Connor, his co-workers and all the contributors.
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