The key word here is the noun sōtēr 'savior'; its derivative is sōtēria 'safety, salvation'. Earlier we saw the verb sōzein 'save; be a sōtēr for someone' (either by 'bringing to safety' or, mystically, by 'bringing back to life').
A1. To repeat, I am not borrowing this concept of "savior" and "salvation" from Christian discourse. Christian discourse inherited the words sōtēr 'savior' (noun) and sōzein (verb) 'save; be a sōtēr (for someone)' from pre-Christian phases of the Greek language.
A2. Two levels of meaning: saving of life (on the surface), saving of afterlife (underneath the surface).
A3. In the historical context of ancient Greek song culture, it is better to avoid the word "religion" and to speak instead in terms of myth/ritual symbiosis (that is, in terms of what you say [myth] and what you do [ritual] in sacred space; remember: "sacred space" does not have to be a physical space, and it can even be a state of mind).
A4. The history of Greek "religion" is the story of the eventual destabilization of this symbiosis.
A5. Plato has an important role in this destabilization, and yet he has Socrates saying at the end of the Republic ...
A) Plato Republic (10.621b8-c1): Socrates is quoted as saying, with reference to the "Myth of Er": kai ho muthos esōthē 'and the myth was saved'.
A6. Aristotle muses about becoming ever more solitary in old age and becoming ever more fond of muthos (fr. 668 ed. Rose, via "Demetrius" 144: hosōi gar autitēs kai monōtēs eimi, philomuthoteros gegona).
A7. Patterns of myth/ritual symbiosis can be seen most clearly in small-scale societies, e.g. the Yukuna: we will return to this topic towards the end of this dialogue.
B1. In this course, we have seen some important images of the hero as savior. The most important of these is Achilles and the solitary lighthouse of his tomb on the Hellespont, shining a light of salvation for sailors who are lost at sea. There is a concise write-up of this image in Best of the Achaeans Ch.20@20-28. We will see this image when we consider Passage C. To introduce Passage C, I start with Passage B:
B) Iliad XVIII 202-214:
But Achilles dear to Zeus arose, and Athena flung her tasseled aegis round his strong shoulders; she crowned his head with a halo of golden cloud from which she kindled a glow of gleaming fire. As the smoke that goes up into heaven from some city that is being beleaguered on an island far out at sea - all day long do men sally from the city and fight their hardest, and at the going down of the sun the line of beacon fires blazes forth, flaring high for those that dwell near them to behold, if so be that they may come with their ships and save them - even so did the light flare from the head of Achilles.
B2. Here we see a preview, featuring 'beacon fires' in a besieged city. The population is calling for help, and the flames of their beacon fires are compared to the light that comes out of the head of the yet-unarmed Achilles.
C1. Now, we come to the picture of the light coming from beacon fires in a lighthouse, and the light from these beacon fires is the image that is being compared to the light from the bronze shield of the armed Achilles.
C) Iliad XIX 372-379:
He [Achilles] slung the silver-studded sword of bronze about his shoulders, and then took up the shield so great and strong that shone afar with a splendor as of the moon. As the light seen by sailors from out at sea [pontos], when men have lit a fire in their homestead high up among the mountains, but the sailors are carried out to sea [pontos] by wind and storm far from the haven where they would be - even so did the gleam of Achilles' wondrous shield strike up into the heavens.
D1. Notice that the reflection of light from the surface of the bronze Shield projects an image of salvation: it is the sēma 'tomb' of the hero Achilles, which is like a lighthouse. This sēma is situated on the Hellespont.
D) Odyssey xxiv 71-94:
But when the flames of Hephaistos had consumed you, we gathered your [= Achilles'] white bones at daybreak and laid them in ointments and in pure wine. Your mother brought us a golden vase to hold them - gift of Dionysos, and work of Hephaistos himself; in this we mingled your bleached bones with those of Patroklos who had gone before you, and separate we enclosed also those of Antilokhos, who had been closer to you than any other of your comrades now that Patroklos was no more. Over these the host of the Argives built a noble tomb, on a point jutting out over the open Hellespont [Hellēspontos], that it might be seen from far out upon the sea by those now living and by them that shall be born hereafter. ... Thus even in death your kleos, Achilles, has not been lost, and your name lives evermore among all humankind.
D2. The word Hellēspontos means 'the crossing of Hellē'.
D3. For the effect of light reflected by bronze, compare the bronze relief sculpture (the sculptor was St. Gaudens) showing the faces of soldiers of an all-black regiment marching to their death in 1863; their officer, Col. Robert Gould Shaw (a Harvard graduate) died with them; their story is told in the film Glory. You can find the relief sculpture in front of the statehouse on Beacon Hill in Boston. Try to see it at the last light of the sunset of the summer solstice.
E) Herodotus 7.189:
The Persian fleet put to sea and reached the beach of the Magnesian land, between the polis of Kasthanaia and the headland of Sepias. The first ships to arrive moored close to land, with the others after them at anchor; since the beach was not large, they lay at anchor in rows eight ships deep out into the sea [pontos]. Thus they spent the night, but at dawn out of a clear and windless sky a storm descended upon them and the sea began to boil. A strong east wind blew, which the people living in those parts call Hellespontiēs. Those who felt the wind rising or had proper mooring dragged their ships up on shore ahead of the storm and so survived with their ships. But the wind carried those ships caught out in the open against the rocks called the Ovens at Pelion or onto the beach. Some ships were wrecked on the Sepian headland, others were cast ashore at the polis of Meliboia or at Kasthanaia. The storm was indeed unbearable. ... There was no counting how many grain-ships and other vessels were destroyed. ... The storm lasted three days. Finally the Magi made offerings and cast spells upon the wind, sacrificing also to Thetis and the Nereids. Thus they made the wind stop on the fourth day, or perhaps it died down on its own. They sacrificed to Thetis after hearing from the Ionians the story that it was at this place that Peleus had abducted her, and that all the headland of Sepias belonged to her and to the other Nereids.
E1. Sepias means "the place of the sepia." It was here, says the tradition, that Peleus and Thetis conceived Achilles.
E2. Another important image is... Odysseus as the reintegrated king and the reintegrated body politic in the second half of the Odyssey.
E3. Yet another... Hesiod, bearer of the scepter of truth, whose authoritative word replaces kings. In the Works and Days, he speaks of the Islands of the Blessed, the place where heroes are immortalized and olbioi.
F1. Yet another... Ino as the White Goddess. Her corpse will "one day" come alive as the White Goddess: remember how Odysseus is saved from drowning at the end of Odyssey v. See Passage F.
F) from Odyssey v 332-353: When he [Odysseus] was in this plight, Ino daughter of Kadmos, also called Leukothea, saw him. She had formerly been a mere mortal, but had been since raised to the rank of a marine goddess. Seeing in what great distress Odysseus now was, she had compassion upon him, and, rising like a sea-gull from the waves, took her seat upon the raft. "My poor good man," said she, "... swim to the Phaeacian coast where better luck awaits you. And here, take my veil and put it round your chest; it is enchanted, and you can come to no harm so long as you wear it. As soon as you touch land take it off, throw it back as far as you can into the sea, and then go away again." With these words she took off her veil and gave it him. Then she dived down again like a sea-gull and vanished beneath the seething dark waters.
F2. Yet another... Oedipus the king turned scapegoat.
F3. Yet another... Pentheus, dismembered and "remembered" in Euripides Bacchae 881 and 901: ho ti kalon philon aei 'whatever is beautiful is always philon'; cf. Romulus in Roman myth.
G1. Yet another... Socrates in the Phaedo: he saves humans from the fear of death. Consider the image of a fish poking its head above the water (109e-110a), like a drowning man coming up for air. At the end of the Phaedo, Socrates says: sacrifice a rooster to Asklepios. This hero was the son of Apollo, and he had special powers of healing. Asklepios also had the power of bringing the dead back to life. Some interpret Socrates' final instruction to mean simply that death is a cure for life. But think of this: you sacrifice the rooster on the night before, and then you will still be hearing other roosters crowing in the morning after the sacrifice. As Socrates says, do not cut off the locks of your hair, do not fail to bring the arguments back to life again. Dialectic comes back to life every time you engage in "the Socratic method." See Passages G and H.
G) again, from Plato Phaedo (89b):
Now he had a way of playing with my hair, and then he smoothed my head, and pressed the hair upon my neck, and said: Tomorrow, Phaedo, I suppose that these fair locks of yours will be severed. Yes, Socrates, I suppose that they will, I replied. Not so if you will take my advice. What shall I do with them? I said. Today, he replied, and not tomorrow, if this argument dies and cannot be brought to life again by us, you and I will both shave our locks.
H) again, from Plato Phaedo (117e and following):
... then he lay on his back, according to the directions, and the man who gave him the poison now and then looked at his feet and legs; and after a while he pressed his foot hard and asked him if he could feel; and he said, no; and then his leg, and so upwards and upwards, and showed us that he was cold and stiff. And he felt them himself, and said: When the poison reaches the heart, that will be the end. He was beginning to grow cold about the groin, when he uncovered his face, for he had covered himself up, and said (they were his last words) - he said: Crito, I owe the sacrifice of a rooster to Asklepios; will you remember to pay the debt? The debt shall be paid, said Crito; is there anything else? There was no answer to this question; but in a minute or two a movement was heard, and the attendants uncovered him; his eyes were set, and Crito closed his eyes and mouth. Such was the end, Echecrates, of our friend, whom I may truly call the wisest, and most just, and best of all the men whom I have ever known.
H1. Yet another... Protesilaos (in Herodotus). Concise write-up in Pindar's Homer Ch.9@28 till the end of the chapter.
It is all a matter of telos.
I1. Yet another... A "hero" not yet mentioned: Alexander the Great.
I2. Hegel said: Achilles, the ideal youth of poetry, commences the Greek achievement; Alexander, the ideal youth of reality, concludes it.
I3. Alexander kept a master copy of the Iliad and a dagger under his "pillow" [= headrest]; the dagger marks him as the chief priest of the Macedonians. What is the symbolism of the Iliad under his headrest?
I4. Alexander claims descent from Achilles, on his mother's side; he sacrifices at the sēma of Achilles at Troy; Alexander's own tomb is called the sōma.
I4. Alexander Romance, 3rd century of our era; a key figure is Nektanebo II, the last Egyptian pharaoh, who in real life fled Egypt in 343. In the narrative of the Alexander Romance, Nektanebo and not Philip of Macedon is the real father of Alexander. Since the pharaoh is the reincarnation of the god Ammon, who is the "Zeus" of the Egyptians, Alexander is the son of the Egyptian Zeus in terms of the Alexander Romance.
I5. Menander the Rhetorician reports: Alexander is to be addressed as son of Zeus.
I6. In the Alexander Romance, birds at the edge of the earth say to him: "Alexander, stop standing up to the gods and go back to your palace at home and stop striving to ascend the road to the heavens." See Passage I and J.
I) One is no longer at home anywhere, so in the end one longs to be back where one can somehow be at home because it is the only place where one would wish to be at home: and that is the world of Greece.—Friedrich Nietzsche.
J) In the Alexander Romance, birds at the edge of the earth say to him: "Alexander, stop standing up to the gods and go back to your palace at home and stop striving to ascend the road to the heavens." When he reaches the Island of the Blessed, Alexander sees his own obelisk in a dream (the obelisk marks his starting point, at "home" in Alexandria) and a figure with gleaming eyes at the Island of the Blessed (this figure marks the extremity of his quest): Alexander will reach the status of a god, will have an oikos in Alexandria, as a nekros.
J1. Alexander claimed descent from Achilles, on his mother's side; he sacrificed at the sēma of Achilles at Troy; to repeat, Alexander's own tomb in Alexandria was called the sōma.
J2. Water of life myth in Alexander Romance.
J3. When he reaches the Island of the Blessed, Alexander sees his own obelisk in a dream (the obelisk marks his starting point, at "home" in Alexandria) and a figure with gleaming eyes at the Island of the Blessed (this figure marks the extremity of his quest): Alexander will reach the status of a god, will have an oikos in Alexandria, as a nekros. There is no place like home. See again Passage I and J.
J4. Let us return to the concept of the Yukuna, = myth. For this society, myth *is* their identity. Without this identity, there is no point in being a Yukuna. An anthropologist actually recorded a Yukuna in the act of saying this.
K) In Modern Greek folklore, the Daughter of Alexander, the surviving Nereid of modern times, has the habit of surfacing for air on the occasion of sea-storms. When asked, she will always tell the pilot of a ship beset by the storm: zēi kai baslileuei kai ton kosmon kurieuei. 'He lives and reigns and rules the cosmos.'
So long as the concept of the hero is alive, the word is alive, and vice versa.