The Casual Villainy of Greek Heroes

Claire Heywood at The Millions:

In the early fifth century BC, the Olympic boxer Kleomedes was disqualified from a match after killing his opponent with a foul move. Outraged at being deprived of the victory and its attendant prize, he became “mad with grief” and tore down a school in his hometown, killing many of the children who were studying there. Kleomedes managed to escape the angry mob that soon pursued him, and disappeared without trace. When the community sought answers from the oracle at Delphi, they were told that Kleomedes was now a hero, and should be honored accordingly with sacrifices. This the people did, and continued to do for centuries to come.

This story, recorded by the ancient writer Pausanias, feels bizarre to modern readers. But to the ancient Greeks who honored Kleomedes, even after he had murdered their children, the oracle’s answer may not have seemed strange at all.

More here.