What constitutes ‘Hubris’ and how it is punished from above? Is there ‘Collective responsibility’?

Here we present and analyze an excerpt from «Bibliotheca», or «Library» by Apollodorus of Athens (or Pseudo-Apollodorus) that answers our question.


In Ancient Greek: «Σαλμωνεύς δε το μεν πρώτον περί Θεσσαλίαν κατώκει, παραγενόμενος δε αύθις εις Ήλιν εκεί πόλιν έκτισεν. υβριστής δε ων και τω Διί εξισούσθαι θέλων δια την ασέβειαν εκολάσθη. έλεγε γαρ εαυτόν είναι Δία, και τας εκείνου θυσίας αφελόμενος εαυτώ προσέτασσε θύειν, και βύρσας μεν εξηραμμένας εξ άρματος μετά λεβήτων χαλκών σύρων έλεγε βροντάν, βάλλων δε εις ουρανόν αιθομένας λαμπάδας έλεγεν αστράπτειν. Ζεύς δε αυτόν κεραυνώσας την κτισθείσαν υπ’ αυτού πόλιν και τους οικήτορας ηφάνισε πάντας»

In English: «Initially, Salmoneus was residing at Thessaly and later on at Helis where he built a city. He was severely punished because of being hubristes and because of his desire to make himself equal to Zeus. He claimed for himself to be Zeus and ordered that sacrifices are offered to him instead of Zeus. Behind his chariot he used to tie dry skins and bronze cauldrons and claimed that it was thundering, while throwing lit candles towards the sky and saying that it was lightening. Zeus stroke him with lightning; and the city that Salmoneus had built with his hands, Zeus completely destroyed it together with its inhabitants»

NovoScriptorium: Once again, we examine an excerpt which includes important theological views of the ancient Greeks. The myth describes a person so proud and vain that made himself ‘god’. His callousness leads him to a second big mistake; to mock the Highest God with words and acts. For these he is called ‘hubristes’, i.e. the person whose deeds constitute Hubris. We notice that the term ‘Hubris’ includes both self-deification and theomachy (Meaning: a war or struggle against God). In the end, Zeus punishes him with death. But we need to analyze in more depth here, as Salmoneus was not the only one to die thunderstruck; everybody in the city he built and ruled died! This shows us that when the leader of a State is a ‘hubristes’ and the people abide him, for whichever reason this happens, then the punishment becomes total/all-embracing and not unique/solitary. This strong belief on ‘Collective responsibility’ is found in various texts of ancient Greek literature, in Homer for example.

Making a parallel with modern times, it will be realized, probably more than ever before, that Humanity’s various leaders belong to the category of ‘hubristes’. Together with them, the majority of the people they rule. Consequently, if we believe Apollodorus, that this is a ‘divine unwritten law’, we must expect to see (and live…) terrible disasters in the corresponding states. A closer look at the Social Statistics globally shows increase in mental disorders, increase in serious illnesses and various diseases, increase of deaths in younger ages, etc. We believe these are enough to show that there is some kind of basis/truth in this warning from the depths of History.

There is another thing that needs to be noticed; the way Salmoneus mocks Zeus. He uses human constructions that imitate/mimic acts attributed to Zeus. Many modern scientists do the analogous today and many people follow their speculation/perception. They ‘deify’ human knowledge and innovation and mock whoever believes in the existence of God. So, according to the ancient definition, this constitutes ‘Hubris’ and is followed by ‘punishment from above’ as equally as the previous mentioned.

The message is obvious from this text: a Society which denies God and the divine laws condemns itself to destruction. The same is valid for an isolated person, as all ancient true Philosophers insist.

Isidoros Aggelos

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