Kleos (Greek: κλέος) is the Greek word often translated to "renown", or "glory". It is related to the word "to hear" and carries the implied meaning of "what others hear about you". A Greek hero earns kleos through accomplishing great deeds, often through his own death.
Kleos is invariably transferred from father to son; the son is responsible for carrying on and building upon the "glory" of the father. This is a reason for Penelope putting off her suitors for so long, and one justification for Medea's murder of her own children was to cut short Jason's Kleos.
Kleos is a common theme in Homer's epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey, the main example in the latter being that of Odysseus and his son Telemachus, who is concerned that his father may have died a pathetic and pitiable death at sea rather than a reputable and gracious one in battle. The Iliad is about gaining ultimate kleos on the battlefields of Troy while the Odyssey is the ten-year quest of Odysseus' nostos (or return journey). Telemachus fears that he has been deprived of kleos. This links to hereditary kleos. Kleos is sometimes related to aidos — the sense of shame.
From other source, the Greek term kleos is derived from the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) term *ḱlewos, which expressed a similar concept in PIE society. As the PIE people had no concept of the continuation of the individual after life, one could only hope to achieve *ḱlewos *ndhgwhitom, or "the fame that does not decay." As Bruce Lincoln notes, "In a universe where impersonal matter endured forever but the personal self was extinguished at death, the most which could survive of that self was a rumor, a reputation. For this, the person craving immortality—a condition proper only to the gods and antithetical to human existence—was totally reliant on poets and poetry."
The Greek philosopher Plato, in his dialog The Symposium relating a discussion about love, makes a digression into the subject of fame and glory. It is in the section that deals with the dialog between Socrates and Diotima. She is explaining that men search ways to reach some kind of immortality, for instance by means of physical and intellectual procreation. Then asserts that the love for fame and glory is very strong, and in fact to obtain them, men are ready to engage in the greatest effort, and to take risks and make sacrifices, even at the cost of their lives. Then makes specific references to Alcestis that died to save Admetus, or Achilles to avenge Patroclus, and to Codrus, as examples of heroes in search of fame and immortal renown.
- Gregory Nagy. The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS: Belknap Press. pp 26.
- Gregory Nagy. The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS: Belknap Press. pp 51.
- Schmitt, Rüdiger. Dichtung und Dichtersprache in indogermanischer Zeit. Weisbaden: Otto Harrassowitz. pp 61-102.
- Lincoln, Bruce. Death, War, And Sacrifice: Studies in Ideology and Practice. Chicago UP. 1991. pp 15.
- Hamilton, Walter (1951). Plato, The Symposium. Penguin Classics. p. 90.