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Hubris or hybris, according to its modern usage, is exaggerated pride or self-confidence, often resulting in fatal retribution. In Ancient Greek, however, hubris referred to a reckless disregard for the rights of another person resulting in social degradation for the victim.
Hubris in ancient Greece
Aristotle defined hubris as follows:
Hubris consists in doing or saying things that cause shame to the victim, not in order that anything may happen to you, nor because anything has happened to you, but merely for your own gratification. Hubris is not the requital of past injuries; this is revenge. As for the pleasure in hubris, its cause is this: men think that by ill-treating others they make their own superiority the greater.
Crucial to this definition are the ancient Greek concepts of honour (time) and shame. In Aristotle's view, a hubristic act is one that inflicts undeserved shame on the victim for the gratification of the perpetrator.
Hubris was a crime in classical Athens. Violations of the law against hubris ranged from what might today be termed assault and battery, to sexual assault, to the theft of public or sacred property. Two well-known cases are found in the speeches of Demosthenes; first, when Meidias punched Demosthenes in the face in the theater (Against Meidias). The second (Against Konon) involved a defendant who allegedy assaulted a man and crowed over the victim like a fighting cock. In the second case it is not so much the assault that is evidence of hubris as the insulting behavior over the victim.
An early example of "hubris" in Greek literature are the suitors of Penelope in Homer's Odyssey. They are eventually made to pay for their presumptuous encroachments on the household of Odysseus.
Hubris is often said to be the "hamartia" ("error") of characters in Greek tragedy, and the cause of the "nemesis" (nemesis), or destruction, which befalls these characters. However, tragedy represents only a small proportion of occurences of hubris in Greek literature, and for the most part hubris refers to infractions by mortals against other mortals. Therefore, it is now generally agreed that the Greeks did not generally think of hubris as a religious matter, still less that it was normally punished by the gods.
Hubris in modern times
In its modern usage, hubris denotes overconfident pride and arrogance; it is often associated with a lack of knowledge, interest in, and exploration of history, combined with a lack of humility. An accusation of hubris often implies that suffering or punishment will follow, and the proverb "pride goes before a fall" is thought to sum up the modern definition of hubris.