What Did "Kleos" Mean for the Ancient Greeks?

Was Glory Really All That?

Achilles Slaying an Amazon
Achilles Slaying an Amazon. Clipart.com

Definition: Kleos is a term used in epic poetry that means immortal fame, but can also mean rumor or renown. A very important theme in Homer's Iliad and Odyssey​kleos often referred to having one's achievements venerated in poetry. As classicist Gregory Nagy notes in The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours, "the hero's glory in song, then, unlike the hero, will never die." For example, in the Iliad, when Achilles discusses how his mother, Thetis, assured him his fame would be everlasting, he says he'll have a "​kleos that is imperishable." 

A Greek soldier, like Achilles, can earn kleos through his courage. A monument or proper burial can bring and reaffirm kleos, as can reports of one's offspring's virtuous deeds. Interestingly, while men were usually the ones who could achieve such fame, it was the poets who were responsible for making sure that their voices carried these tales far and wide - and long, in the case of time.

-Edited by Carly Silver

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