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#299: What the Ancient Greeks and Romans Thought About Manliness

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Summary

Ancient Greece and Rome have a heavy influence on the idea of manhood we promote on the Art of Manliness. In fact, this classical conception of manliness was how much of the West defined manhood up until the middle of the 20th century. If you were to ask a man living in 1920 what “manliness” meant, he’d probably give you roughly the same answer as a Greek or Roman man living 2,000 years ago.
My guest on the podcast today is a classical scholar who has spent time thinking and writing about Greek and Roman notions of manliness. His name is Ted Lendon. I had Ted on the podcast awhile back ago to discuss his book Soldiers and Ghosts (episode #231 if you want to check it out).
On today's show, Ted goes into detail about how the Greeks and the Romans defined manliness. We begin with the Greeks and how the Homeric epics, particularly The Iliad, served as their bible on how to be a man and how Achilles and Odysseus were held up as models of manhood. Ted then explains how the Athenian philosophers tried to tame Bronze Age manliness by making self-control an important element of being a man.
We then shift gears to the Romans and discuss how they borrowed elements of Greek manliness to shape their own culture of manhood, as well as how Roman ideas of manliness differed from those of the Greeks.
We end our conversation talking about why the virtue of self-control pops up in definitions of manliness not just in the West, but also Eastern cultures like Japan and China.

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