Kenneth S. Sacks
Albert Brian Bosworth
Chamaeleon, of *Heraclea (3) Pontica (c.350–after 281
M. B. Trapp
Tiberius Claudius Aristocles of *Pergamum (2nd cent.
J. L. Moles
M. B. Trapp
Dio Cocceianus, later surnamed Chrysostom (c.40/50-110/120
Frederick Arthur George Beck and Rosalind Thomas
M. B. Trapp
M. J. Edwards
Gorgias of Leontini, orator, c. 485–c. 380
N. R. E. Fisher
James I. Porter
Materialism, the belief that matter is a primary constituent of reality, is a constant feature of ancient Greek and Roman thought, and also one of its most contested and productive ideas: matter was a never-ending source of fascination and ambivalence in antiquity, while modernity inherited these same obsessions. Homer is an intuitive materialist. Later philosophers were divided over the definition and value of matter. Because a “pure” definition of matter proved so difficult to maintain in any coherent fashion, cross-overs between materialism and immaterialism, mostly unacknowledged, were the rule in antiquity. Immaterialism gradually gained the upper hand, thanks to the offices of Platonism, then of Christianity, and, from the advent of the secular age, of classicism. But not even immaterialism could rid itself of the lures of matter. Only now are the attractions and complexities of matter and materialism in ancient thought and experience being appreciated once again.
The notion of “self” is a non-technical one, bridging the areas of psychology and ethics or social relations. Criteria for selfhood include psychological unity or cohesion, agency, responsibility, self-consciousness, reflexivity, and capacity for relationships with others. “Self” is a modern concept with no obvious lexical equivalent in Greek (or Latin); the question therefore arises of the relationship between the modern concept and ancient thinking, as embodied in Greek literature. Three approaches to this question can be identified. One focuses on the idea that there is development within Greek literature towards an understanding of the self or person as a cohesive unit and bearer of agency and responsibility. Another approach sees certain aspects of Greek literature and philosophy as prefiguring some features of the modern concept of self. A third approach underlines the difference between the Greek and modern thought worlds in the formulation of concepts in this area, while also suggesting that Greek ideas and modes of presenting people can be illuminating to moderns, in part because of the challenge posed by their difference. These approaches draw on a range of evidence, including psychological vocabulary, characterization in Greek literature, and Greek philosophical analyses of ethical psychology. There are grounds for maintaining the credibility of all three approaches, and also valid criticisms that can be made of each of them.
Thymos (or thumos), cognate with Indo-European words meaning “smoke,” is one of a number of terms in Greek which associate psychological activity with air and breath. In the Homeric poems, thymos is one of a family of terms associated with internal psychological process of thought, emotion, volition, and motivation. Though the range of the term’s applications in Homer is wide, that in itself gives us a sense of the unity of cognitive, affective, and desiderative processes in Homeric psychology. No post-Homeric author can rival that range, but something of the richness of the Homeric conception of thymos as an interrelated set of motivations re-emerges in Plato’s conception of the tripartite soul in the Republic and the Phaedrus. Plato’s thymos represents a pared-down model of human agency typified by one central desire or aim in life but also exhibiting whatever further capacities of persons are necessary to enable it to pursue that aim in interaction with the other elements of the personality. As in Homer, the metaphorical agency of Plato’s thymos does not detract from the notion of the individual as the real centre of agency. Plato’s conception of thymos, in turn, is a fundamental point of reference for Aristotle’s treatment of thymos as a type of desire (orexis). Though Aristotle tends more generally to use the term as a synonym for orgē (anger), there are also traces of older associations between thymos and qualities such as assertiveness and goodwill towards others. Elsewhere, thymos tends to mean “heart” or “mind” (as aspects of mental functioning), “spirit,” “inclination,” or “anger.” A selection of these uses is surveyed, but the article overall concentrates on Homer, Plato, and Aristotle, where the role of thymos is of a different order of importance.