Last updated

Thumos (also commonly spelled 'thymos'; Greek : θυμός) is the Ancient Greek concept of "spiritedness" (as in "a spirited stallion" or "spirited debate"). The word indicates a physical association with breath or blood and is also used to express the human desire for recognition. It is not a somatic feeling, as nausea and dizziness are.




In Homer's works, thumos was used to denote emotions, desire, or an internal urge. Thumos was a permanent possession of living man, to which his thinking and feeling belonged. When a Homeric hero is under emotional stress, he may externalize his thumos and converse with or scold it. [1] Achilles, in the Iliad , cares for his own honour; he keeps gods and deities in his heart; "...the thunderous lord of Hera might grant you the winning of glory, you must not set your mind on fighting the Trojans, whose delight is in battle, without me. So you will diminish my honour (thumos)." [2]


Democritus used "euthymia" (i.e. "good thumos") to refer to a condition in which the soul lives calmly and steadily, being disturbed by no fear, superstition, or other passions. For Democritus euthymia was one of the root aspects of the goal of human life.


Plato's Phaedrus and his later work The Republic discuss thumos as one of the three constituent parts of the human psyche. In the Phaedrus, Plato depicts logos as a charioteer driving the two horses eros and thumos (erotic love and spiritedness are to be guided by logos). In the Republic (Book IV) soul becomes divided into (See Plato's tripartite theory of soul): [1]

Plato suggested we have three parts of our soul, which in combination makes us better in our destined vocation, and is a hidden basis for developing our innate ideas. Thumos may draw from this to strengthen man with our reasoning, this tripartite division is as follows:

  1. Reason (thoughts, reflections, questioning)
  2. Spiritedness (ego, glory, honor) and
  3. Desires (natural e.g. food, drink, sex vs unnatural e.g. money, power).

Contemporary views

Thymos and democracy: megalothymia and isothymia

"Megalothymia" refers to the need to be recognized as superior to others, while "isothymia" is the need to be recognized as merely equal to others. Both terms are neoclassical compounds, coined by Francis Fukuyama. In his book The End of History and the Last Man , Fukuyama mentions "thymos" in relation to liberal democracy and recognition. He relates Socrates' ideas about Thymos and desire to how people want to be recognized within their government. Problems emerge when other people do not recognize another's Thymos, and therefore do not provide the justice that it requires. In order for people to exist in harmony, Fukuyama argues, isothymia rather than megalothymia must be used to satisfy the human need for recognition. Any system that creates political inequality is necessarily feeding the megalothymia of some members while denying it to others. Fukuyama explains how Thymos relates to history with the example of anti-communism in relation to the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and China. He states, "We cannot understand the totality of the revolutionary phenomenon unless we appreciate the working of thymotic anger and the demand for recognition that accompanied communism's economic crisis." [3]

In medicine

Hyperthymia, dysthymia, cyclothymia, and euthymia (medicine) are mental/behavioral conditions in modern psychology.

Cultural references

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Plato</span> Ancient Greek philosopher (428/423 – 348/347 BC)

Plato was an ancient Greek philosopher born in Athens during the Classical period.

<i>Symposium</i> (Plato) Philosophical text by Plato

The Symposium is a philosophical text by Plato, dated c. 385–370 BC. It depicts a friendly contest of extemporaneous speeches given by a group of notable men attending a banquet. The men include the philosopher Socrates, the general and political figure Alcibiades, and the comic playwright Aristophanes. The speeches are to be given in praise of Eros, the god of love and desire.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Platonic epistemology</span>

In philosophy, Plato's epistemology is a theory of knowledge developed by the Greek philosopher Plato and his followers.

<i>Arete</i> Greek philosophical concept related to Telos, ultimate achievement; fulfillment of purpose

Arete is a concept in ancient Greek thought that, in its most basic sense, refers to "excellence" of any kind—especially a person or thing's "full realization of potential or inherent function." The term may also refer to excellence in "moral virtue."

The Phaedrus, written by Plato, is a dialogue between Socrates, and Phaedrus, an interlocutor in several dialogues. The Phaedrus was presumably composed around 370 BC, about the same time as Plato's Republic and Symposium. Although ostensibly about the topic of love, the discussion in the dialogue revolves around the art of rhetoric and how it should be practiced, and dwells on subjects as diverse as metempsychosis and erotic love, and the nature of the human soul shown in the famous Chariot Allegory.

Sophrosyne is an ancient Greek concept of an ideal of excellence of character and soundness of mind, which when combined in one well-balanced individual leads to other qualities, such as temperance, moderation, prudence, purity, decorum, and self-control. An adjectival form is "sophron."

Phædo or Phaedo, also known to ancient readers as On The Soul, is one of the best-known dialogues of Plato's middle period, along with the Republic and the Symposium. The philosophical subject of the dialogue is the immortality of the soul. It is set in the last hours prior to the death of Socrates, and is Plato's fourth and last dialogue to detail the philosopher's final days, following Euthyphro, Apology, and Crito.

<i>Republic</i> (Plato) Philosophical work written by Plato around 375 BC

Republic is a Socratic dialogue, authored by Plato around 375 BC, concerning justice, the order and character of the just city-state, and the just man. It is Plato's best-known work, and one of the world's most influential works of philosophy and political theory, both intellectually and historically.

"Know thyself" is a philosophical maxim which was inscribed upon the Temple of Apollo in the ancient Greek precinct of Delphi. The most well-known of the Delphic maxims, it has been quoted and analyzed by numerous authors throughout history, and has been given many different applications. Although traditionally attributed to the Seven Sages of Greece, or to the god Apollo himself, the inscription likely had its origin in a popular proverb.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Platonism</span> Philosophical system

Platonism is the philosophy of Plato and philosophical systems closely derived from it, though contemporary Platonists do not necessarily accept all doctrines of Plato. Platonism had a profound effect on Western thought. In its most basic fundamentals, Platonism affirms the existence of abstract objects, which are asserted to exist in a third realm distinct from both the sensible external world and from the internal world of consciousness, and is the opposite of nominalism. This can apply to properties, types, propositions, meanings, numbers, sets, truth values, and so on. Philosophers who affirm the existence of abstract objects are sometimes called Platonists; those who deny their existence are sometimes called nominalists. The terms "Platonism" and "nominalism" also have established senses in the history of philosophy. They denote positions that have little to do with the modern notion of an abstract object.

Human nature comprises the fundamental dispositions and characteristics—including ways of thinking, feeling, and acting—that humans are said to have naturally. The term is often used to denote the essence of humankind, or what it 'means' to be human. This usage has proven to be controversial in that there is dispute as to whether or not such an essence actually exists.

In Christian theology, the tripartite view (trichotomy) holds that humankind is a composite of three distinct components: body, spirit, and soul. It is in contrast to the bipartite view (dichotomy), where soul and spirit are taken as different terms for the same entity.

Divine inspiration is the concept of a supernatural force, typically a deity, causing a person or people to experience a creative desire. It has been a commonly reported aspect of many religions, for thousands of years. Divine inspiration is often closely tied to the concept of revelation, the belief in information being revealed or disclosed through communication with a deity or other supernatural entity or entities.

In philosophy, desire has been identified as a recurring philosophical problem. It has been variously interpreted as what compels someone towards the highest state of human nature or consciousness, as well as being posited as either something to be eliminated or a powerful source of potential.

This page is a list of topics in ancient philosophy.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Plato's theory of soul</span> Platos account of the soul as consisting of logical, spirited, and appetitive parts

Plato's theory of soul, which was inspired by the teachings of Socrates, considered the psyche to be the essence of a person, being that which decides how people behave. Plato considered this essence to be an incorporeal, eternal occupant of a person's being. Plato said that even after death, the soul exists and is able to think. He believed that as bodies die, the soul is continually reborn (metempsychosis) in subsequent bodies. Plato divided the soul into three parts: the logistikon (reason), the thymoeides, and the epithymetikon.

The theory of Forms, theory of Ideas, Platonic idealism, or Platonic realism is a philosophical theory of metaphysics developed by the Classical Greek philosopher Plato. The theory suggests that the physical world is not as real or true as "Forms". According to this theory, Forms—conventionally capitalized and also commonly translated as "Ideas"—are the non-physical, timeless, absolute, and unchangeable essences of all things, of which objects and matter in the physical world are merely imitations. Plato speaks of these entities only through the characters of his dialogues who sometimes suggest that these Forms are the only objects of study that can provide knowledge. The theory itself is contested from within Plato's dialogues, and it is a general point of controversy in philosophy. Nonetheless, the theory is considered to be a classical solution to the problem of universals.

Psychagogy is a psycho-therapeutic method of influencing behavior by suggesting desirable life goals. In a more spiritual context, it can mean guidance of the soul. It is considered to be one of many antecedents and components of modern psychology.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Glory (honor)</span>

Glory is high renown, praise, and honor obtained by notable achievements, and based in extensive common consent. In Greek culture, fame and glory were highly considered, as is explained in The Symposium, one of Plato's dialogs.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of the location of the soul</span> Search for a immaterial soul identity and its location

The search for a hypothetical soul and its location have been a subject of much speculation throughout history. In early medicine and anatomy, the location of the soul was hypothesized to be located within the body. Aristotle and Plato understood the soul as a corporeal form but closely related to the physical world. The Hippocratic Corpus chronicles the evolution of thought that the soul is located within the body and is manifested in diseased conditions. Later, Galen explicitly used Plato's description of the corporeal soul to physical locations in the body. The logical (λογιστικός) in the brain, the spirited (θυμοειδές) in the heart, and the appetitive (ἐπιθυμητικόν) in the liver. Da Vinci had a similar approach to Galen, locating the soul, or senso comune, as well as the imprensiva (intellect) and memoria (memory) in different ventricles of the brain. Today neuroscientists and other fields of science that deal with the body and the mind, such as psychology, bridge the gap between what is physical and what is corporeal.


  1. 1 2 Long, A. A. Psychological Ideas in Antiquity. In: Dictionary of the History of Ideas. 1973-74 [2003]. link.
  2. Homer (2003). The Iliad (Wordsworth Classics) (New ed.). Ware, Hertfordshire: England: Wordsworth Classics. ISBN   978-1853262425.
  3. Fukuyama, Francis. The End of History and the Last Man. Francis Fukuyama 2006: New York, NY.
  4. Frederick A. de Armas, Don Quixote among the Saracens: A Clash of Civilizations and Literary Genres. University of Toronto Press, 2011, pp. 162 ff.