To engage in hubris is to tempt fate. Hubris is defined as supreme arrogance and the haughty disregard for the opinion of all others. But it is really more than this as it can be based on substantial talent and skill. What it really reflects is complete disregard for the forces in the universe that bring the mighty low. When these forces are not taken into account they are assumed to ultimately destroy the hubristic individual.

Hubris is pronounced: who-briss. The word comes from the Greek and was a common theme in the writings of the ancients and especially in Greek mythology. In these writings, hubris was seen as a "presumption toward the gods". It was hubris, for example, that caused Icarus to spread wings and attempt to fly close to the sun.

Yet this high-flying definition may have had a slightly different meaning for the Greeks who originally used it. In Athens, hubris was a crime, a charge that could be brought against an individual for doing violence in a way that showed disrespect - for example striking a person in a temple, or simply hurting or humiliating someone merely for the pleasure of it. A famous case of this nature occurred when Demosthenes, an Athenian orator, while performing a religious ceremony, was punched in the face by a rival named Midias. Midias was successfully prosecuted for his hubris.

The Greeks believed a goddess, by the familiar name - Nemesis, was the force which brought retribution to the haughty. She was implacable and relentless. She was thought to give to each what was due, good or bad.

A valid question: Is there actually a cosmic force in the universe that punishes hubris? There is little doubt that the ancient Greeks thought so. Even now, sayings such as "Pride goeth before the fall," reflect a modern belief that hubris will be punished. A logical argument can be made that hubris or arrogance causes individuals to disregard outside advice, to lose friends and create enemies. The accumulation of factors can ultimately bring the person to ruin.

Learn about possessive forms in English grammar.

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