Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.


"Just as a tested and rugged virtue of the moral hero is worth more than the lovely, tender, untried innocence of the child, so is the massive strength of a soul that has conquered truth for itself worth more than the soft peach-bloom faith of a soul that takes truth on trust." - Francis Ellington Abbot

"He who seldom speaks, and with one calm well-timed word can strike dumb the loquacious, is a genius or a hero." -

"One murder makes a villain; millions, a hero; numbers sanctify the crime." - Beilby Porteus

"Who is a hero? He who conquers his will." - Simon ben Zoma, or simply Ben Zoma

"Certain sins manifests themselves as their mirror opposites which the sinner is able to persuade himself are virtues. Thus Gluttony can manifest itself as Daintiness, Lust as Prudery, Sloth and Senseless Industry, Envy as Hero Worship." - W. H. Auden, fully Wystan Hugh Auden

"Disgrace kills hatred and jealousy. Once someone is no longer a favorite and no longer envied... he might even be a hero and not annoy us." - Jean de La Bruyère

"The three highest titles that can be given a man are those of martyr, hero, saint." - William Ewart Gladstone

"Disease generally begins that equality which death completes; the distinctions which set one man so much above another are very little perceived in the gloom of a sick-chamber, where it will be vain to expect entertainment from the gay, or instruction from the wise; where all human glory is obliterated, the wit is clouded, the reasoner perplexed, and the hero subdued; where the highest and brightest of mortal being finds nothing left behind him but the consciousness of innocence." -

"The prudent see only the difficulties, the bold only the advantages, of a great enterprise; the hero sees both; diminishes the former and makes the latter preponderate, and so conquers." - Johann Kaspar Lavater

"The practice of perseverance is the discipline of the noblest virtues. To run well, we must run to the end. It is not the fighting but the conquering that gives a hero his title to renown." - Elias L. Magoon

"To tell the truth, however, family and poverty have done more to support me than I have to support them. They have compelled me to make exertions that I hardly thought myself capable of; and often when on the eve of despairing, they have forced me, like a coward in a corner, to fight like a hero, not for myself, but for my wife and little ones." - Philip Bennett Power

"There is no greater victory in the life of a human being than victory over the mind. He who has controlled the gusts of passion that arise within him and the violent actions that proceed therefrom is the real hero." - Ramdas, fully Swami Ramdas, born Vittal Rao, aka Beloved Papa NULL

"The more characteristic American hero in the earlier day, and the more beloved type at all times, was not the hustler, but the whittler." -

"Man’s mind cannot grasp the causes of events in their completeness, but the desire to find those causes is implanted in man’s desire... But we need only penetrate to the essence of any historic event - which lies in the activity of the general mass of men who take part in it - to be convinced that the will of the historic hero does not control the actions of the mass but is itself continually controlled." -

"No hero is a hero to his valet." - Anne-Marie Bigot, Dame Cornuel

"The cult of the hero is the absolutely necessary complement of the massification of society… The individual who is prevented by circumstances from becoming a real person, who can no longer express himself through personal thought or action, who finds his aspirations frustrated, projects onto the hero all he would wish to be. He lives vicariously and experiences the athletic or amorous or military exploits of the god with whom he lives in spiritual symbiosis." - Jacques Ellul

"In the grossly distorted individualism of today, we are incapable of imagining the selflessly disinterested hero. This may not matter; we may think we can do without him. But what is also means is that we are incapable of imagining the selflessly disinterested hero in ourselves who would give himself to a cause." - Henry Fairlie

"The same principles [that apply in polytheism] naturally deify mortals, superior in power, courage, or understanding, and produce hero-worship." - David Hume

"A hero… is not a hero until he is recognized as one. This means that the actualization of the hero is a two-way projection. First the hero must project by way of his deeds, his style, his character. When the projection registers, an imaginative process begins to remake the hero to fit as fully as possible the symbolic weight of his image. Legend and myth take over the historical personage, and through either an oral or a written tradition he is reborn in his heroic apotheosis." - Harold Lubin

"In this world no one rules by love; if you are but amiable, you are no hero; to be powerful, you must be strong, and to have dominion you must have a genius for organizing." - John Henry Newman, aka Cardinal Newman and Blessed John Henry Newman

"A great-souled hero must transcend the slavish thinking of those around him." - Friedrich Nietzsche, fully Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

"To adopt the posture of the hero is the must unheroic of all acts." - Dorothy Norman

"The hero is the man dedicated to the creation and / or defense of reality-conforming, life-promoting values." - Andrew Bernstein

"Do not let the hero in our soul perish, in the lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it impossible, it's yours." - Ayn Rand, born Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum

"Kill reverence and you’ve killed the hero in man." - Ayn Rand, born Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum

"Nothing is more depressing than the conviction that one is not a hero." - George Moore, fully George Augustus Moore

"The ordinary man is involved in action; the hero acts - an immense difference." - Henry Miller, aka Henry Valentine Miller

"Hero worship is strongest where there is least regard for human freedom." - Herbert Spencer

"A statue lies hid in a block of marble, and the art of the statuary only clears away the superfluous matter and removes the rubbish. The figure is in the stone; the sculptor only finds it. What sculpture is to a block of marble, education is to a human soul. The philosopher, the saint, or the hero - the wise, the good, or the great man - very often lies hid and concealed in a plebeian, which a proper education might have disinterred, and have brought to light." - Joseph Addison

"For the heroes of all time have gone before us; the labyrinth is thoroughly known; we have only to follow the thread of the hero-path. And where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world." - Joseph Campbell

"The standard path of the mythological adventure of the hero is a magnification of the formula represented in the rites of passage: separation – initiation – return: which might be named the nuclear unit of the monomyth. A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from his mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man." - Joseph Campbell

"He whom prosperity humbles, and adversity strengthens, is the true hero." - Josh Billings, pen name for Henry Wheeler Shaw, aka Uncle Esek

"A light supper, a good night’s sleep, and a fine morning have often made a hero of the same man who, by indigestion, a restless night, and a rainy morning, would have proved a coward." - Lord Chesterfield, Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield

"One must think like a hero to behave like a merely decent human being." - May Sarton, pen name of Eleanore Marie Sarton

"The youth, intoxicated with his admiration of a hero, fails to see, that it is only a projection of his own soul, which he admires." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Each man is a hero and an oracle to somebody." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"A hero is one who does what he can." - Romain Rolland

"Who, in this world, can be called pure? He whose mind is pure. Who can be called wise? He who can discriminate between the real and the unreal. Who is the greatest hero? The person who is not terror-stricken by the arrows which shoot from the eyes of a beauty. Who is poor? He who is not contented. What rolls quickly away, like drops of water from a lotus leaf? Youth, wealth and the years of a person’s life." - Adi Shankara, aka Śaṅkara Bhagavatpādācārya and Ādi Śaṅkarācārya

"To remain young one must change. The perpetual campus hero is not a young man but an old boy." - Stuart Alexander Chase

"Who is the bravest hero? He who turns his enemy into a friend." - Midrash or The Midrash NULL

"There needs not a great soul to make a hero; there needs a God-created soul which will be true to its origin; that will be a great soul." - Thomas Carlyle

"It is not to taste sweet things, but to do noble and true things, and vindicate himself under God’s heaven as a God-made man, that the poorest son of Adam dimly longs. Show him the way of doing that, the dullest day-drudge kindles into a hero. They wrong man greatly who say he is to be seduced by ease. Difficulty, abnegation, martyrdom, death, are the allurements that act on the heart of man. Kindle the inner genial life of him, you have a flame that burns up all lower considerations." - Thomas Carlyle

"If her means sincere men, why may not every one of us be a hero." - Thomas Carlyle

"Faith is loyalty to some inspired Teacher, some spiritual Hero. And what therefore is loyalty proper, the life-breath of all society, but an effluence of Hero-worship, submissive admiration for the truly great? Society is founded on Hero-worship." - Thomas Carlyle

"Society is founded on hero-worship." - Thomas Carlyle

"The hero is he who lives in the inward sphere of things, in the True, Divine, Eternal, which exists always... His lfie is a piece of the everlasting heart of nature itself." - Thomas Carlyle

"Man’s mind cannot grasp the causes of events in their completeness, but the desire to find those causes is implanted in man’s desire... But we need only penetrate to the essence of any historic event - which lies in the activity of the general mass of men who take part in it - to be convinced that the will of the historic hero does not control the actions of the mass but is itself continually controlled. " -

"It is better to be the widow of a hero than the wife of a coward." - Dolores Ibarruri, aka “La Pasaonaria”

"Every hero is somebody else's villain. Heroism and villainy are just two sides of the same coin." - Felipe Fernández-Armesto

"The hero is one who kindles a great light in the world, who sets up blazing torches in the dark streets of life for men to see by." - Felix Adler