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date: 23 April 2024



  • Douglas Cairns


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.


  • Greek Literature
  • Philosophy

Thymos (or thumos), cognate with Indo-European words meaning “smoke” (including Latin fumus), is one of a number of terms in Greek which associate psychological activity with air and breath.1 One of these is psychē (conventionally “soul”), cognate with words meaning “cold” and associated in the Homeric poems especially with the passage from life to death. Thymos, by contrast, suggests heat rather than cold: in Plato’s Cratylus (419e). Socrates derives the term from thyein (to rage), a verb that may or may not be associated with the connotation of “smoke” found in its homophone thyein, to offer burnt sacrifice, or in thymian, to fumigate.2 But he also glosses it in terms of the “boiling” (zesis) of the psychē, and zesis is recurrent in descriptions of the phenomenology of thymos (cf. Ε‎ur. Hec. 1055, Soph. OC 434, Pl. Resp. 440c, Tim. 70b).


A link between thymos and breath is clear in the Homeric poems: dying warriors breathe out their thymos on the Iliadic battlefield (4.522–524, 13.653–654); the thymos of the dying horse, Pedasus, is breathed out and flies off at Iliad16.468–469, and at 3.293–294 sacrificial animals lie gasping on the ground, short of thymos, after the sacrificial knife has removed their menos or vital force.3 In many passages, the thymos leaves or is lost in death (23x Iliad, 6x Odyssey), and the killer (or cause of death) can be said to have removed one’s thymos (25x Iliad, 9x Odyssey). Here, the behaviour of the thymos is comparable to that of the psychē, which likewise leaves the body on death or in a death-like swoon, and indeed both thymos and psychē can leave the body together, both in death (Il. 11.334) and in a swoon (Il. 5.696–698). In other cases it is the psychē that is breathed out or departs in a swoon, while the thymos is breathed back in, perhaps reflecting an association of psychē with the life that one will lose and of thymos with the vigour of life as it is lived.4 A straightforward identification of thymos with breath is complicated by its assimilation to the heart as something that can “beat” in the chest (Il. 7.216, 23.370–371).5

The functions of thymos in Homer, however, extend far beyond living and breathing. By metonymy (in which aspects of the physical body believed to play a role in mental functioning come to serve as ways of referring to those functions) and in various forms of metaphor (chiefly reification and personification), thymos is implicated in a wide range of mental functions. But it is not the only such entity: a variety of other parts of the body, including the heart (kradiē and ētor) and the phrenes (lungs or diaphragm), are also credited with mental functions. For an older tradition of scholarship, the existence of these “psychic organs” illustrates the primitiveness of Homeric concepts of self and agency (see the self in Greek literature). For Bruno Snell, the explanation of mental processes in terms of the promptings of thymos, other organs, and the gods makes Homeric man “a battleground of arbitrary forces and uncanny powers”; “Homeric man has not yet awakened to the fact that he possesses in his own soul the source of his powers.”6 Arthur Adkins follows Snell in maintaining that “Homeric Man . . . has a psychology and a physiology in which the parts are more evident than the whole.”7

More recent scholarship has made such approaches untenable. First, the “progressivist” approach to the history of ideas that they represent has been decisively challenged.8 More specifically, it has been shown that in a large number of occurrences, when used adverbially (with a preposition, in the instrumental dative, or in some other analogous use of an oblique case, e.g. ἐν(ὶ) θυμῷ, κατὰ θυμόν, θυμῷ‎, etc.), the usage of the words denoting the so-called psychic organs can be less a matter of semantic specificity than of metrical convenience, so that these terms exhibit substantial degrees of overlap and redundancy, as in the recurrent pleonasm κατὰ φρένα καὶ κατὰ θυμόν‎ (“in phrēn and in thymos”).9 We need to treat the “psychic organs” as a family rather than as independent variables. But this does not mean that expressions that deploy these terms are wholly devoid of meaning: even at their most interchangeable, these locutions tell us something about the character of the experiences involved; in many cases the terms in question convey a more substantial and pointed sense of the interiority, intensity, and phenomenology of psychological processes.10 Thymos is by far the most common member of the group, occurring over 750 times in the poems, roughly twice as often as phrēn/phrenes. Though its range in Homer is very wide, it gives a sense of the particularity of the poems’ representations of the phenomenology of mind and especially of the unity of cognitive, affective, and desiderative processes.

Thymos-Functions in Homer


The most basic function of thymos in Homer is to highlight the inwardness of mental processes.11 States of mind that are not expressed in behaviour can be said to be “hidden in the thymos” (Od. 18.406–407). Odysseus commands Eurycleia not to cry out in celebration of the Suitors’ deaths but to “rejoice in [her] thymos” (Od. 22.411), and he himself pities Penelope in his thymos, with no visible tears or audible sobs (Od. 19.209–211). Such interiority can also be conveyed by referring to the (invisible) body language of the personified thymos (e.g., its smile, Od. 20.300–302, its shiver, 23.215–216).12


As an instrument, locus, or agent of thought and feeling, the thymos covers a wide range of cognitive, affective, desiderative, and motivational states.13 Its motivational force is apparent in derivatives such as athymia (despondency, first at Od. 10.463, frequent in post-Homeric Greek) and prothymia (eagerness, Il. 2.588; ditto), and is reflected in numerous Homeric passages, especially those in which the thymos is said to urge the agent on or to issue commands for the agent to follow.14 Wishing and wanting regularly take place in or by means of the thymos or are predicated of the thymos as personified agent (see, e.g., the post-Homeric epithymia, desire): there is no functional difference between the two forms of expression.15 The thymos is the source of sexual desire, but is also associated with appetites for food and drink, and with pleasures of all kinds.16 To say “restrain your thymos from x” is to say “resist your desire to do x” (Od. 20.266–267). Food and drink restore thymos to the chest (Il. 10.460–461), allowing renewed physical effort. It is the thymos that allows one to endure, though it can be worn down by physical exertion (Il. 17.744–745).17 That thymos provides the psychological component or physical effort is clear from Il. 17.451, where Zeus places menos in both the knees and the thymos of Achilles’ horses. When Achilles wryly observes that Aeneas will have no thymos to face him in future, he is saying that he will have (as we might say) no stomach to do so (Il. 20.349–350).

Often the thymos is associated with especially strong or urgent forms of motivation. The thymos itself can be said to be “eager” for a certain outcome.18 In Iliad 24, Priam describes his strong desire to ransom his son’s body as a powerful command of menos and thymos (24.198–199). Hecuba agrees that it is thymos that drives him (24.288–289), but this can also be expressed as a matter of his own strong desire, in his thymos, to ransom Hector (24.236). The agency of the thymos does not detract from the agency of the person. The association between menos and thymos as motivating forces is a common one (Il. 17.451 again).19 The verbs μέμονα‎ and μενεαίνω/μενοινάω‎, to be furiously eager, are cognate with menos and often occur in conjunction with thymos.20 This association with strong, passionate motivation is present in the phrase, “to love someone ἐκ θυμοῦ‎,” that is, “with all one’s heart” (Il. 9.343, 486).21 It also suggests that in the sole occurrence of the locution ἀπειλήσω τό γε θυμῷ‎ at Il. 15.212 the threat is especially vehement.

The association of thymos with motivation and determination is reflected also in phrases such as “with equal thymos” or “with one thymos” which connote goal-directed striving in pursuit of a common purpose.22 We may say “of one mind,” but the Homeric phrases remind us that these mental states encompass volition and affect as well as intentionality and cognition. In a similar sense, thymos can be the source of what we could call “spirit” or “character”: in a simile in Iliad 16, the wolves to whom the Myrmidons are compared go to drink, after a kill, “and the thymos in their breasts is untrembling” (162–163).23 Similarly, it is Priam’s “iron thymos” that gives him the courage to face Achilles (Il. 22.357).24 But thymos is responsible for more characteristics than just courage or manliness. The thymos of the Suitors, according to Penelope, may be deduced from their outrageous behaviour (Od. 4.694–695), while for Athena at 15.20 the thymos of a woman is such that, on remarriage, she is liable to forget about her deceased husband and his children. A person’s typical qualities can also be predicated of his or her thymos, be it excessive, violent, and cruel, pitiless, sceptical, or god-fearing.25 Jonathan Shay goes too far in asserting that in Homer thymos is “a synonym for the English word ‘character’,” but “character” would often be a perfectly good translation.26


In post-Homeric Greek (see below), thymos is a regular word for “anger,” sometimes also for its dispositional basis (“spiritedness”), and sometimes for especially vehement forms of anger (“fury”). In Homer, it is associated with a much wider range of emotions, though anger, in all its Homeric forms, does loom large: cholos, kotos (a more persistent, dispositional form), and nemesis (righteous indignation) occur in the thymos; one can chōesthai in the thymos; and anger terms such as kotos and nemesis can be predicated of the thymos as a personified agent.27 Odysseus, rallying both leaders and commoners, reminds the former that the anger (cholos) of someone such as Agamemnon can be harmful, because the thymos of kings is great (Il. 2.195–196): thymos is the general psychic entity of which cholos is a function.28 On occasion, thymos and anger can come to the same thing: at Il. 1.191–192, Achilles considers whether to kill Agamemnon or “put a stop to his cholos and restrain his thymos.” In the same way, Achilles’ anger is the focus of Ajax’s appeal in Iliad 9, when he urges him to accept compensation, as does the relative of a homicide victim “whose kradiē and manly thymos are restrained” (9.634–639); and Achilles himself concludes his reflections on the evils of anger with the resolution to make all this a thing of the past, taming the thymos in his breast (18.112–113).29

Besides anger, thymos also has prominent associations with various forms of grief, sorrow, distress, and worry.30 Odysseus in his wanderings suffered many pains in his thymos (Od. 1.4), and similar expressions abound in both poems.31 Another substantial cluster of passages associates thymos with fear.32 It is likewise associated with foreboding, awe, and respect.33 Similarly, the thymos can (in the Odyssey) be the seat of wonder, or (in the Iliad) a container for the aidōs (shame, self-respect) that should prevent warriors slacking in battle (Il. 15.561, 661).34

As Ajax’s appeal to Achilles in Iliad 9 shows, though the thymos gives rise to anger, it can also be associated with anger’s abatement, and in fact thymos is regularly found in connection with forms of benevolence.35 Friendly feeling is a recurrent function, and one’s friends are regularly described or addressed as dear to one’s thymos, bringing joy to the thymos, and so on.36 Thus thymos is associated with positive and pleasant emotions that bring individuals together, as well as with those that involve an element of pain or drive people apart. In a substantial number of passages, thymos is associated with feelings of joy and good cheer: the Trojans rejoice, and the thymos in the phrenes of each is melted, as they see the eagle of Zeus which bodes well for Priam’s mission to recover Hector’s body (Il. 24.320–321).37 One might compare the simile that describes the softening of Menelaus’s thymos, following Antilochus’s apology, at Il 23.597–600:

His thymos melted, like dew on the ears of a crop as it grows, when the fields bristle; that’s how the thymos in your phrenes melted, Menelaus.

Similarly affiliative, but potentially more distressing, is pity.38 Its power and complexity are apparent in Iliad 24 (466–467), where Hermes advises Priam to appeal to Achilles on behalf of his father, mother, and son as a means of stirring up his thymos. Stirring up the thymos involves creating the circumstances in which the addressee realizes, on the basis of his own ties of familial affection, that another person is similarly situated and affected. The physical nature of the arousal that this can entail is apparent also in Odysseus’s encounter with his father, Laertes, in Odyssey 24, where the old man’s ritual gestures of mourning, prompted by the belief that his son is lost, provide the catalyst for the latter’s revelation of his true identity (318–319):

His thymos was stirred, and bitter menos now surged all through his nostrils as he beheld his father.

Stirring up the thymos is a general way of referring to this arousal, in connection with a range of emotions.39 These passages indicate how thymos can refer to emotions with both powerful physical symptoms and substantial interpersonal, social, and cognitive dimensions.

Thymos thus stands in a variety of subtle and complex relations to both cognition and affectivity. Its association with the impairment of judgement is apparent in cases which present atē (disastrous delusion) as one of its experiences: atē has a strong affective aspect in that it typically involves kinds of arousal that lead one to do things one later regrets.40 The thymos can also be enchanted or deceived: Od. 18.281–283, where Odysseus rejoices as Penelope’s words bewitch the thymos of the Suitors, is a good example of how such enchantment works not only on the patients’ intellect but also on their desires and emotions.41 Also straddling the cognitive/affective divide, and often equally delusionary, is elpis, a thymos function both as hope and as mere expectation.42

Imagination, Memory, Belief

Both hope and expectation require the capacity to think about hypothetical states of affairs; the same is true of many of the emotional, desiderative, and motivational applications of the term thymos considered so far. But an application to imagination as such appears also in a passage such as Od. 20.92–94, where Odysseus hears his wife’s sobs and—in his thymos—imagines her standing beside him and recognizing him for who he is:

Noble Odysseus heard her voice as she wept, and then he pondered, and it seemed to him in his thymos (δόκησε δέ οἱ κατὰ θυμὸν‎) that she had already recognized him and was standing by his head.

Again, thymos is the location of an undetectable psychological experience, one that takes place within the individual, depends on the body and its powers of perception, encompasses an element of desire or longing, and is clearly not without substantial emotional implications.43

The association of thymos with delusion, deception, wishful thinking, and imagination chimes with its function as the object of persuasion.44 Persuasion and its failure depend on the appeal that a speech makes to the emotional susceptibility of the recipient, and not just on the capacity to advance or accept an argument on “purely rational” terms. Similarly, phrases such as φίλον ἔπλετο θυμῷ‎ (4 x Il., 4 x Od.) or κέρδιον ἔπλετο θυμῷ‎ (Od. 20.304) express forms of choice, preference, and decision that (as a matter of fact, according to modern neuroscience) cannot take place without the motivating force of affectivity.45 Accordingly, in locutions in which knowledge is a function of the thymos we often have an element of emotional commitment: at Od. 18.227–229, Telemachus’s reference to what he “thinks and knows” in/with his thymos is not about propositional knowledge at all but about the development of his character, especially in moral terms, and his determination to put his knowledge of right and wrong into practice:

Mother, I do not resent your anger; but I understand it all in/with my thymos (θυμῷ νοέω καὶ οἶδα ἕκαστα‎), right and wrong, though before I was immature.46

Though “knowing x in/with one’s thymos” may sometimes mean only that knowledge is an internal mental state, there is often a further implication that the knowledge in question is something that one should “take to heart” as a matter of conviction.47

Since thymos can be associated in various ways with what later Greeks would call phantasia (i.e., the imaginative representation of objects, experiences, and scenarios that are in principle accessible but not immediately present to the senses), it is no surprise that it is also associated with memory, as when Zeus is reminded κατὰ θυμόν‎ of the fate of Aegisthus (Od. 1.29) and Odysseus remembers Tiresias’s warning to avoid the island of Helios (12.266–267). Tiresias’s warning “falls into” Odysseus’ thymos, an instance of the recurrent container metaphor that makes thymos the place where thinking is done and specific thoughts are located. To have an idea is to put or receive an item in one’s thymos. It cannot be denied that in some cases such thoughts are primarily a matter of knowledge, belief, or practical reasoning: both Athena-Mentes and Helen confidently prophesy events as the gods put them in their thymos (Od. 1.200–201 = 15.172–173) and a god’s putting a thought in a person’s thymos explains both Eurycleia’s recognition of Odysseus and Odysseus’s own knowledge of further trials to come (Od. 19.485 = 23.260). In the lying tale that the disguised Odysseus tells Eumaeus, Odysseus at Troy conceives a plan (noos) “in his thymos” to obtain a cloak for his shivering comrade (Od. 14.490). But it is also striking how rarely the thoughts that the thymos contains can be said to be completely free of affective colouring: in the case of Odysseus’s recalling of Tiresias’s prophecy (Od. 12.266–267), the memory is tinged with apprehension and foreboding as the lowing of the sun god’s cattle reminds the hero of the dangers of ignoring the warning. Similarly, the thoughts “in her thymos” that Antinous attributes to Penelope at Od. 2.116 involve her confidence in her skill as a weaver of wiles as well as of textiles, and when Penelope herself places her son’s wise words in her thymos (Od. 1.360–361 = 21.354–355) this involves the emotional effect that Telemachus’s speeches have on her, both in their general impression (she “takes them to heart”) and in her amazement (1.360 = 21.354) at his growing assertiveness. Putting a particular notion in one’s thymos can imply hope (e.g., Il. 10.447, 20.195–196), caution (e.g., Od. 12.217–218, 15.27), or aidōs (Il. 15.561, 565–566); Antinous‎s ignorance of his fate, no thought of death in his thymos (Od. 22.11–12), also entails unjustified confidence. Even Nestor’s advice to Antilochus on the need for cunning in the chariot race at Il. 23.313–314 (“put mētis in your thymos”) is inflected by its association with competitive striving.

Planning and Deliberation

The pattern is similar when it comes to the association of thymos with planning and deliberation. The thymos is the locus or instrument of intelligence and problem-solving at Od. 12.57–58, where Circe tells Odysseus that he must figure out a course past the Planktai, Scylla, and Charybdis for himself “in/with thymos” (αὐτὸς θυμῷ βουλεύειν‎). Eumaeus’s advice to Telemachus, that he should take care in/with thymos because there are many among the Achaeans who mean him harm (Od. 17.595–596), implies the same capacities of intelligence and planning but encompasses the affective aspect of caution as well. That the thymos in such circumstances involves both the mental processing of sensory information and the formulation of plans for action in the light of such deliberation is wonderfully clear from the passage in Iliad 16 in which Zeus, following the death of his son, Sarpedon, looks down on the battlefield and ponders whether to have Hector kill Patroclus immediately or only after the latter has achieved further successes (646–655):

He kept looking at them and reflected in/with thymos (φράζετο θυμῷ‎), pondering (μερμηρίζων‎) hard over the killing of Patroclus . . . As he was thinking in these terms, it seemed better to him (ὧδε δέ οἱ φρονέοντι δοάσσατο κέρδιον εἶναι‎) that Achilles’ goodly squire should push the Trojans and bronze-helmed Hector back to the city once more and take the thymos from many.

As Zeus looks, he processes internally (θυμῷ‎) the information he perceives, but this processing also involves the evaluation of present circumstances in the light of a long-term plan that is now potentially subject to modification as a result of Zeus’s emotional response to Sarpedon’s death. Thymos regularly has this association with difficult choices and the weighing up of alternatives; the forms of intelligence that it encompasses are tied to action and the affective dimensions of its motivation.48

Stuck in the cave of Polyphemus, whose thymos is without pity (Od. 9.272, 287) and who illustrates his readiness to disregard Zeus’s wrath and kill suppliants (should his thymos so command, 278) by killing and eating two of Odysseus’s companions, Odysseus has at first no immediate plan: helplessness grips his thymos (295). But once the monster has finished his meal, Odysseus’s first thought is of violent revenge: he plans in his proud thymos to approach the Cyclops and kill him (9.299–302). But another thymos restrains him (ἕτερος δέ με θυμὸς ἔρυκεν‎, 302): if he kills Polyphemus, they have no way of getting out of the cave. We have seen that thoughts arise or are placed in the thymos and that the personified thymos can have thoughts and feelings of various different kinds. Thymos also has a role in deliberation, often in difficult, emotionally pressing circumstances. Here, however, one thymos confronts another. This is not a scandalous proliferation of psychological agents, testifying to the absence of a unified concept of the person, but a personification of opposing impulses. One of these is more impulsive than the other, but not only are the impulse to take revenge and the better judgement that restrains that impulse equally “a thymos,” but each thymos also has indissoluble cognitive and affective aspects. Each evaluates a situation, imagines a possible future, and provides a basis for action. The ἕτερος θυμός‎ inhibits a hot-headed, passionate course of action, but as well as prudent, longer-term planning, it also involves a projection of future states of affairs that encompasses a strong desire to survive.

The thymos is implicated in various other ways in the phenomenon of “being in two minds.” In two passages of the Iliad, the thymos is itself divided (ἐδαΐζετο θυμὸς ἐνὶ στήθεσσιν Ἀχαιῶν‎, Il. 9.8, 15.629), while at 14.20 it is Nestor himself who is divided, in respect of thymos (δαϊζόμενος κατὰ θυμὸν διχθάδια‎). These are clearly interchangeable ways of talking about the same phenomenon. This division of the thymos involves the kind of emotional turmoil that can also be expressed in terms of movement, as when Penelope’s “thymos is aroused in two ways, this way and that” (Od. 19.524), whether to remain with Telemachus and faithful to her husband or to marry one of the Suitors (526–529), or when Philoetius tells the disguised Odysseus of the dilemma that the thymos in his chest constantly “churns over” (ἐπιδινεῖται‎, Od. 20.217–218), whether to abandon Telemachus or to stay and suffer as the Suitors despoil his master’s herds, 218–221). The physicality of these metaphors enhances the phenomenological aspect of thymos’ conceptualization. But these internal movements also have propositional content; the conceptualization of the thymos (by means of metonymy and metaphor) captures the intentionality as well as the phenomenality of the mental processes that it explains.

Deliberation, Dialogue, and Agency

In all these passages, the thymos is implicated in deliberation between alternatives, a common scenario in the Homeric representation of mental phenomena. Deliberation is something that the thymos itself can do, but more often it is something that a person does, with or without explicit reference to the thymos.49 At Il. 13.455–459 it is Deiphobus himself who “ponders in two ways,” whether to do x or y, before deciding to pursue an instance of x:

Deiphobus pondered in two ways (διάνδιχα μερμήριξεν‎), whether he should withdraw and team up with one of the great-hearted Trojans, or make an attempt on his own. As he was considering the matter in this way it seemed better to him (ὧδε δέ οἱ φρονέοντι δοάσσατο κέρδιον εἶναι‎) to go after Aeneas.50

Here there is no explicit reference to thymos (phrenes, etc.). This does not mean that we should conclude that one can deliberate without using one’s thymos (etc.): merely that deliberation is ordinarily an activity carried out by an agent him- or herself, and that, when the mode of doing so is specified (via an adverbial phrase involving the thymos), this adds little or nothing to the meaning—the reference to a “psychic organ” merely specifies that deliberation is a process that takes place within the mental apparatus of the person. The agent owns the process; the reasons for each alternative are the agent’s reasons. What reference to the thymos can add is a sense of the phenomenology of deliberation as a subjective experience.

In the passage just considered, the intentionality and propositional content of the agent’s deliberations is clear. The same is true both when the person deliberates κατὰ φρένα καὶ κατὰ θυμόν‎ and when the thymos itself deliberates: there are typically two alternatives, expressed in propositional terms; sometimes there is also a conclusion in the form of a decision to do what “seemed better,” which is equally propositional.51 Thus the content of deliberation is at least implicitly discursive—it lends itself to formulation in terms of speech. Accordingly, at Od. 6.117–126, Odysseus’s deliberation, on being awoken by the sound of Nausicaa and her companions playing ball, is expressed not by indirect deliberative questions (whether he should do x or y, how to do z), but by direct speech:

Noble Odysseus woke up. He sat down and began to ponder in his phrēn and in his thymos, “Ah me, who are the people whose land I have come to this time? . . . But come—let me put it to the test myself and see.”

This passage is followed by a concluding speech formula (ὣς εἰπών‎, 127), but it is not clear whether we are to regard lines 119–126 as silent, internal speech, or as spoken out loud. The cases of deliberation that involve indirect questions show that deliberation can be silent; those in which the relevant verbs are followed by direct speech may be regarded as representing inner thought as silent speech or as using actual speech as a convention for representing the contents of the agent’s thoughts.52 But these are clearly the agent’s thoughts.

In a subcategory of deliberation scenes, the agent’s deliberation is followed by direct speech that is described in the narrator’s speech-introduction formula as an address to the thymos. These speeches are attributed either to humans, using the formula “vexed, he said to his great-hearted thymos” (7x Iliad, 4x Odyssey), or to gods, with “shaking his head he said to his thymos” (2x each poem). As Pelliccia demonstrates, these are all speeches which either have no addressee or audience or have no audience and an addressee who is not meant to hear.53 The thymos is a sounding board for the agent’s thoughts, expressed as direct speech; the two cases in Odyssey 5 in which the supposed address to the thymos is recapitulated in a regular deliberation formula, with the person as subject (“while he was pondering these things in his phrēn and in his thymos”), make this clear.54

In a smaller sub-set of these speeches, the speech which the narrator introduces as an address to the thymos contains the line “But why has my dear thymos said this to me in conversation?”55 The question goes unanswered; it serves only as the conclusion of the ruminations introduced by the narrator as an address to the thymos.56 Yet these speeches are not addressed to the thymos by their speakers: in fact, they all begin “Ah me” (ὤ μοι ἐγώ(ν)‎). Just as the thymos is not actually addressed, so no actual speech is attributed to it: the thymos simply performs two conventional functions, first as sounding board for the speaker’s deliberations and then as a convenient scapegoat as source of the rejected alternative.57 In the longest of these passages, Hector’s monologue in Il. 22.98–130, it is clear that the apparent “dialogue” with the thymos represents Hector’s emotional turmoil (ὀχθήσας‎, 98) as he reflects on the situation he finds himself in: he has ignored Polydamas’s advice to retire within the walls (99–103) and so has ruined his people through his own recklessness (104)—a self-condemnation that is reflected also in the charges that he expects others to level against him (105–107). Hector is fully aware that he will have to answer in future for his previous decisions. He then considers his options in the present, contemplating an attempt to reach an accommodation with Achilles (111–121). But this, he realizes, is a futile fantasy (122–130):

“But why has my dear thymos said this to me in conversation? If I approach him, he won’t pity me or show me respect—he’ll kill me, naked as I am, just like a woman, if I remove my armour … Better to join battle as soon as possible: let’s see to which of us the Olympian grants the boast of victory.”

Hector, therefore, addresses himself. He blames himself for his previous decisions, weighs his options, and comes eventually to a decision that, given his past mistakes and his present circumstances, he regards as “better” for him. That he is said by the narrator to speak all these words to his thymos, and then rejects a course of action that he himself entertained by describing it as a proposal of his thymos, in no way detracts from his own sense of agency and responsibility.

Many of the above points emerge clearly in a highly individual passage of Odyssey 20.58 Odysseus lies sleepless in the ante-chamber of his house, plotting harm for the Suitors in his thymos (5), when the laughter of his female servants, who sleep with the Suitors, stirs up the thymos in his chest (9): the thymos exhibits its regular associations with future planning, silent, internal thought, emotion, and arousal. As is typical, the role of the thymos has both intentional and phenomenal aspects—it involves thoughts about events in the world and a representation of what it feels like to have those thoughts. Internal, silent, but still emotionally charged deliberation continues, as Odysseus ponders in his phrēn and in his thymos (10) whether to kill the women on the spot or let them sleep with the Suitors one last time (10–13). “His heart within him barks” (κραδίη δέ οἱ ἔνδον ὑλάκτει‎, 13), a reference to the anger that disposes him towards an immediate and violent course of action. The organ in this case is the heart, even though it was the thymos that was aroused only four lines earlier. This is not an experience independent of the arousal of the thymos but another way of referring to that experience, or to its intensification. The heart’s reaction also involves metaphor—it barks. That this is understood as metaphor, that is, as a mapping from one domain (animal behaviour) to another (psychological experience), is made clear by the simile that follows—the heart barks like a female dog defending her pups (14–16).59 At the same time, these are experiences of Odysseus as agent, and the thoughts are his thoughts—the heart barks, but he is the one who resents the women’s offences (ὥς ῥα τοῦ ἔνδον ὑλάκτει ἀγαιομένου κακὰ ἔργα‎, “so it barked within him in his resentment of their kaka erga” (16). In a (unique) variation upon the speech-introduction formula in which a character is said to address his thymos, Odysseus is then described as beating his breast and addressing his kradiē (17). In an even more striking variation, the “psychic organ” is then—here and here alone—actually addressed and spoken to, using second-person verbs (18–21):

“Endure, heart: you’ve endured worse in the past, on that day when the irresistible force, the Cyclops, ate my strong companions. But you endured, until mētis led you out of the cave, though you thought you were going to die.”

This takes personification of the kradiē further than personification of the thymos is ever taken.60 Still, though the heart is addressed, it does not itself speak. But after Odysseus has “restrained the dear heart [ētor] in his chest” (22), the kradiē does obey and endure (23–24). There appear to be two interlocutors, even if one of them merely listens and obeys. But the lines in which Odysseus reminds the kradiē of its past (18–21) show that this is so only by means of a poetic conceit. This is clear not only because the experiences of the heart are transparently those of Odysseus himself, and not only because the personified mētis in line 20 is itself also, like the heart, an avatar of Odysseus, a reference to the way in which he outwitted the Cyclops by calling himself Outis and the pun by which this becomes μή τις‎ (~ mētis) at 9. 410. The persistence of Odysseus as operative agent, despite the personification of kradiē and mētis, is also clearly demonstrated by ὀϊόμενον‎ in 21: the participle agrees in sense with σε‎, the heart, in 20—“you,” the heart, endured, and μῆτις‎ led “you” out of the cave; but the thought of imminent death is in effect attributed to the only agent on the scene who is capable of being qualified by a masculine participle, Odysseus himself.61 The tenor of the metaphor, Odysseus, intrudes into the vehicle, in which his own thought processes are represented by personifications.62

The personification of the barking heart is singular and striking. It emphasizes the phenomenology of Odysseus’s experience and conveys it vividly and effectively to the audience. It heightens the tension of the situation in which Odysseus is momentarily tempted to jeopardize his long-term plan by giving way to a powerful impulse for revenge. But though its metaphors of self-division dramatize vividly the process of deliberation and impulse control, they also leave Odysseus, the real agent, in control throughout. Though it focuses on the kradiē, the passage is also directly informative about the functions of the thymos. There is a unity that underpins the shifts—in the passage and in its immediate context—between Odysseus, his thymos, and his kradiē. The reflections of Odysseus himself in 5 and 9–13 involve thymos in its regular adverbial function (ἐνὶ θυμῷ‎, 5; κατὰ φρένα καὶ κατὰ θυμόν‎, 10), amplifying, more or less tautologously, the interiority of mental events. The thymos is then itself aroused in 9, before this is represented as the indignation of the kradiē in 13–21. These are stages of a single mental process. Just as there is no functional difference between thymos in 9 and kradiē in 13–21, so the address to the kradiē in 18–21 is immediately summarized as a rebuke to the ētor in 22.63 The heart, once again called kradiē, obeys in the next line, but Odysseus himself tosses and turns, deliberating (μερμηρίζων‎) how to obtain his revenge (28–30). But after Athena appears in the guise of a mortal woman and reminds him how close to his goals he is (30–35), the very same process of deliberation is attributed first to the thymos, and then to Odysseus himself (37–43):

Yes, all you have said, goddess, is in order; but the thymos in my phrenes ponders (μερμηρίζει‎) this one thing, how I can get my hands on the shameless Suitors, alone as I am; they are always together indoors. Besides, there is this yet greater thing I ponder (μερμηρίζω‎) in my phrenes: if I were to kill them, by Zeus’s grace and yours, where could I escape to? I bid you think on that.64

Throughout, all the reflections and motivations in this episode represents, whether attributed to Odysseus, his thymos, or his kradiē, are those of Odysseus himself. Reification and personification of the thymos may be used to dramatize situations of deliberation, self-division, and self-control; but these remain ways of representing the personal agency of Homeric characters.

Thymos in Homer: Conclusions

One thing that is characteristic of the passages considered so far is that the various uses of thymos—whether as a personified agent, as a reified container for thoughts and emotions, or in locutions which specify modes of thought and emotion—are rarely without a sense of the motivational strength of the impulse in question. The impulses that the thymos helps represent can be in harmony with the agent’s plans and goals but may also be in conflict with them. The thymos can be a container for one’s plans, or it can be the place where overwhelming emotions develop. It can be the restraining force that subjugates short-term emotional satisfaction to long-term goals, but more often it is a force that rational agents need to control. The thymos can be divided over what to do, but often the agent and the thymos are partners in deliberation. Interaction between the person and the thymos is represented in more than one way. The thymos represents a spectrum of functions, across which the other “psychic organs” also operate. But thymos is the dominant, prototypical, and most versatile example among them. In none of this is there any reason to question the coherence of the thymos as a concept or to conclude that this coherence detracts from that of the Homeric conception of the person as agent. It is not that thymos is sometimes affective or irrational in character and sometimes not; rather it reflects a view in which cognition and affectivity are intrinsically linked as aspects of a person’s inner life, moral character, and ways of being in the world. As an internal substance, space, entity, or agent associated with processes of cognition, affectivity, volition, and motivation, the thymos is not a scandalous miscellany of capacities that should be kept separate, but a concept that links “reason” and “passion,” mind and body, intentional and phenomenal in ways that implicitly recognize the unity of cognition and affectivity as functions of an organism whose mental functions are fundamentally and thoroughly embodied.

Post-Homeric Greek

The particular and systematic nature of the constraints that formulaic composition imposes on the usage of thymos and other terms, as well as the prominence of thymos as a characteristic of the poetic idiom in which mental functioning is portrayed, make the Homeric poems in many respects a special case. The post-Homeric conception of thymos does not have anything like the same richness. Homeric idioms do survive: thymos—probably desire or anger—is presented as an agent (an opponent in a struggle) in Heraclitus B 85 DK (echoed in Democritus B 236 DK), and appears as an agent-like source of motivation also in the philosophical poetry of Parmenides (B 1.1 DK).65 But the implicit “rules” that govern its behaviour in the Homeric poems are forgotten: Archilochus’s address to his thymos (“Thymos, thymos, confounded by impossible troubles, . . . do not openly glory in victory nor collapse in lamentation at home when defeated . . ., but rejoice when there is occasion and do not be too distressed by troubles—recognize the rhythm of human life,” 128 W) sounds Homeric, but it follows a pattern that occurs only once in Homer, in Odysseus’s address to his kradiē in Odyssey 20. The thymos in Archilochus is just as obviously an avatar for the human agent as is Odysseus’s kradiē.

In such passages, thymos remains a source of a particular sort of thinking, motivation, or agency. Equally, thymos remains associated with desire and with other emotions and dispositions in archaic poetry; in tragedy, where (as one would expect) Homeric idioms persist, it is still regularly a locus of thought and feeling (“mind,” “heart,” etc.), even if an association with anger is also very common.66 Medea’s observation, that her thymos is master of her plans (bouleumata, Eur. Med. 1079–1080) concludes a monologue whose final section begins with an Archilochean address to the thymos (“thymos, don’t do it, let them be, spare the children,” 1056–1057), and so thymos appears here both as anger and as the personified aspect of the personality from which anger springs. In the 5th-century prose of Herodotus, however, “heart” (or “mind”) is a minority sense (in locutions such as “to put x in one’s thymos,” 1.84.4, 7.51.3; 8.68γ, or in passages where “having a good thymos” means to be confident or courageous, 1.120.3; 3.85.2; 7.52.2), and thymos is much more firmly associated with types of anger,67 though it can retain an association with desire (1.1.4, 2.129.2, 8.116.2) and with motivation in general (5.49.4; 8.130.3). In Thucydides (1.49.3, 2.11.8, 5.80.2) and Demosthenes (19.227, 60.22, 28), thymos is spirit or passion, in Xenophon it covers a range from anger (Cyn. 10.15, Eq. 9.2) to spirit or courage (Ages. 6.2, Cyr. 4.2.21), and inclination (Cyr. 3.1.37), while in Isocrates (12.81) it is anger. The noun is rare in 4th-century prose in general (except for the works of Plato and Aristotle). A prototypical association of thymos with anger (and the dispositions from which anger springs) is underpinned by the reference of the common verb thymoumai to that emotion in both prose and poetry.

In Byzantine Greek traces of a wider range of senses survive in compounds such as enthymizein (to remember) and thymoterpēs (delighting the heart), but here, too, the dominant association of thymos is with anger and spiritedness. In his Iliad commentary, the 12th-century writer (and later Archbishop of Thessaloniki), Eustathius, exhibits a detailed and well-informed understanding of the so-called psychic organs in Homer. He regularly regards thymos and other members of the family as interchangeable psychological functions.68 In one passage, he identifies thymos with the thymus gland.69 Though later Greek usage leads him to emphasize those Iliadic passages in which thymos may be thought of as a source of anger,70 he is also aware that in Homer thymos performs functions that are attributed in later Greek to psychē or nous.71 On occasion, he discusses whether “anger” or psychē/nous best captures the sense.72


Something of the richness of the Homeric conception of thymos as an interrelated set of motivations, however, re-emerges in Plato’s conception of the tripartite soul in the Republic and the Phaedrus.73

In the Republic, the division of the psychē is established by means of the principle that the same subject cannot do or suffer opposites in the same respect with regard to the same object at the same time (436b–436c, 436e–437a, 439b): thus when one wants to drink, but believes that it is better not to do so, a reasoning part (logos, to logistikon) is opposed to appetite (epithymia, to epithymētikon). Socrates then proceeds to consider whether thymos, that is, that with which we feel anger or rage [thymoumetha]), is an aspect of the appetitive element or a third type (eidos) in its own right (439e). The distinctiveness of this type is then established by means of examples of its conflict with desire (Leontius’s urge to look at corpses, 439e–440a) and with reason (illustrated at 441b–441c by Odysseus’s rebuke to his kradiē in Odyssey 20).74 The Odyssey passage is so well known that Plato need quote only a single line (20. 17) for his readers to think of the whole context. In particular, though Plato quotes only the rebuke to the kradiē, he clearly takes the passage as evidence for the operation of the thymos. He rightly treats the Homeric thymos as part of a wider system in which thymos and kradiē can perform the same psychic function.

The Principle of Opposites can establish that there is more than one type of motivation, but it cannot prove that what conflicts with desire, in the case of Leontius, is not reason, or that what conflicts with reason, in the case of Odysseus, is not desire. The claim that the element opposed to desire in the first case and to reason in the second must be thymos relies instead on pre-existing intuitions about the character of thymos itself.75 Homer is one source of such intuitions, but the currency, in the ordinary Greek of Plato’s day, of thymos as a form of anger makes that emotion more central in Plato’s conception than in Homer’s. Hence thymos is like a boiling liquid in a container (440c), but also like an angry dog (440d); the difference between thymos and reason is illustrated by the fact that it is present also in furious infants (441a) and barking dogs (441b).76 The Auxiliaries of Kallipolis, Glaucon observes, are like dogs, under the command of the Guardians as shepherds of the state (440d).

But the anger that the thymos entails is not wholly irrational. Though the reference to Odysseus’s barking heart (441b–441c) is intended to distinguish between “that which makes calculations about better and worse” and “that which rages without reason,” Odysseus’s personified kradiē is not only capable of resenting a wrong, imagining a scenario that would right that wrong, and demanding that the wrong be redressed immediately, but is also susceptible to argument on the basis of past experience and thus credited with memory as well as with imagination. Thymos also encompasses the righteous indignation of someone who believes he has been treated unfairly and so can involve a sense of justice (440c–440d), while at 439e–400a the anger of Leontius is self-directed, focusing on desires that he feels are shameful but is unable to resist; his thymos makes the same judgement of his disreputable desires as does his reason (439e–440a). The link between these responses is the notion of honour.77 In the later discussion of inferior regimes and character types, domination by the thymoeides, manifested in competitiveness and love of honour (philonikia and philotimia), characterizes both the timocratic regime (548c) and the corresponding individual (549a, 549d–550b). The thymoeides, being philonikon and philotimon, aims at power, victory, and reputation (581a–b). As in the Republic (440b, 441a), so in the Phaedrus, thymos can be reason’s ally against desire: in that dialogue’s myth of the soul as a charioteer and two horses, the good horse is a lover of honour with moderation (sō phrosynē) and modesty (aidōs, 253d–253e, 254a, 254c, 254e), joining the charioteer in opposing the shamelessness (anaideia) of the bad horse (254d). But alignment of individuals’ attachment to ideals of the honourable requires education if it is to support the aims of reason (Resp.441a, 441e–442a, 589b). In Kallipolis, this will take the form of traditional education in mousikē (441e–442a), which inculcates a sense of what is kalon (beautiful, fine, honourable) and aischron (ugly, shameful, 400c–403e), though for the Guardians as opposed to the Auxiliaries, the rational faculty will require further education (522a–b). Much about this educational regime suggests that it will foster strong and deep-seated commitments to shared moral standards (396d–396e, 402a, 413e, 429c, 442b–442d), even though the sketch of timocratic society at 548b does suggest that its members, focused on honour as they are, will be tempted to do wrong in secret.78

The Principle of Opposites by which tripartition is introduced suggests that the true subjects of our desires for the good, the honourable, and the pleasant are the three elements of the psychē (436b–436c). For some, this is intended literally, and leaves no room for the agency of the person as a whole.79 But from the first appearance of the tripartite model in Book 4 to the exuberant accounts of deviant character types in Books 8–9, the language in which the tripartite soul is described is fundamentally metaphorical. Thus anger can be at war with the desires (440a) and thymos can be reason’s ally, as if they were taking part in civil strife against epithymia (440b; 441a). Thymos can be unwilling to be roused when justly punished, but fight along with justice, suffering hunger and cold, holding out for victory until it either prevails, or dies, or is called back and calmed down, like a dog, by its owner (440c–440d). Plato shows that he is aware of the centrality of metaphor to his account by the way that he ends the whole argument on the superiority of justice to injustice, an argument that relies on the tripartite model and which runs from Books 2 to 9 of the Republic, with an extravagant tour-de-force of metaphor, an image (eikōn) of the soul in words (588b, 588d), that makes it a composite of three types (ideai): a many-headed beast, a lion, and a person, with the external aspect (or image: eikōn again) of a person (588c588d). This is explicitly an eikōn: it tells us not what the soul is, but what it is like.80 The passage is replete with metaphors, many of them recalling what has gone before. Thus, when the beast and the lion are strong and the human being weak, the latter is at their mercy, unable to reconcile the others but instead forced to let them bite, fight, and devour each other (588e589a). Instead, the human being should be as strong as possible, and should, with the lion as his ally, look after the many-headed beast as a farmer cultivates his crops (589b). The bestial element should be under the control of the human and the tame should not be enslaved to the wild (589d), the best element of oneself to the worst (589d), or the most divine element to the most godless and vile (589e). The psychē is thus a state or politeia in which elements interact like factions or classes of citizens (591e).

The use of personification means that the thymos, like the other two elements, cannot be narrowly defined in functional terms: as metaphorical agents they possess many, but not all, of the qualities that characterize a person. There is thus no question of deciding what capacities they “really” represent or what they can “really” do.81 Plato’s thymos is an entity that resembles Homer’s, representing a type of motivation: a pared-down model of human agency typified by one central desire or aim in life. But it also exhibits whatever further capacities of persons are necessary to enable it to pursue that aim in interaction with the other elements of the personality.82 As in Homer, the metaphorical agency of Plato’s thymos does not detract from the notion of the individual as the real agent. When Plato draws on the Homeric Odysseus’s rebuke to his heart, he substitutes interaction between thymos and reason for the original interaction between a person (Odysseus) and his heart. This might suggest that, for Plato, a person and his or her reason are identical. This is how some scholars explain passages in which not only the three personified elements of the soul interact but the person him- or herself interacts with one or more of those elements.83 But it will not work: there are passages that present a relationship between the agent and his logistikon that parallels precisely that between a person and his thymos, his epithymētikon, or the desires to which the epithymētikon gives rise.84 There is a person over and above the elements of the tripartite model. The function of that model is to represent, metaphorically, the different varieties of motivation to which real persons are subject by presenting them as if they, too, were persons.

Though part of Plato’s aim in doing this is to construct a working model of human motivation, a related aim is the protreptic one of encouraging people to act on the knowledge that the model provides by modifying the motivations that it represents.85 We see this especially in the image of the triform creature with which the whole discussion concludes in Book 9: here, the interaction of the whole person with the three main elements of his or her personality is the ultimate point of the argument. At 588e, we are told that anyone who holds the mistaken belief that injustice is advantageous and justice disadvantageous is committed to the idea that it is better to feed and strengthen the beast and the lion, while starving and weakening the human being (588e589a); in other words, it is our beliefs and our behaviour that determine the inter-relationships of our three internal agents. “We” stand in a certain relationship not only to our desires but also to each of the three elements of our personality, including our inner anthrōpos. The conclusion to this section leaves no doubt that the cultivation and management of each of the three elements of the personality is something that the individual as such can and should choose to pursue (589d591e). The ultimate point of the tripartite soul is to present an account of the kind of person that we as individuals should most aspire to become and of the conditions that conduce to or militate against such an outcome. That account presupposes the ability of individuals to order their personalities and change their lives. The explicit argument of the dialogue demonstrates that Plato had no intention to dispense with the agency of the person; the details of his imagery further illustrate the persistence of a fundamental and robust background conception of personal agency. Like Homer’s, Plato’s conceptualization of the thymos is fundamentally metaphorical.86 But neither Homer’s nor Plato’s conception of the person as a participant in intra-personal dialogue with a variety of internal agents leads to the dissolution of the person or to a proliferation of autonomous homunculi.


Aristotle’s concept of the psychē is very different from Plato’s: though he does have his own notion of “parts of the soul,” he contrasts his biological approach with accounts of the psychē that focus only on human behaviour (DA 402b3–5). For him, the “parts of the soul” are logically but not spatially distinct. In the natural sciences, the distinction between them depends on capacities that define the differences between plants, animals, and humans as living creatures.87 But in dialectical contexts (such as the Ethics, Politics, and Rhetoric), he does work with a popular distinction between a part which is alogon and one which “has logos,” though these, again, may be only logically distinct, like convex and concave in the circumference of a circle (EN 1102a26–32). Aristotle is also explicit about the metaphorical nature of language that attributes agency to the soul: it is “perhaps better nor to say that the psychē feels pity or learns or thinks, but that the person does by means of the psychē” (DA 408b13–15). That said, in dialectical contexts Aristotle is himself not averse to a degree of metaphor, and he does seek to accommodate aspects of Plato’s moral psychology, including aspects of his account of thymos.

In his dialectical accounts of human behaviour, Aristotle generally prefers bipartition to tripartition. But even when he distinguishes between rational and non-rational forms of motivation, he remains clear that speaking of conflict between these, in terms which one ordinarily uses of interpersonal interaction, is metaphorical (EN 5, 1138b5–13):

By metaphor and analogy there is a sort of justice, not towards oneself but between certain aspects of oneself – not justice in the full sense of the term, but of the sort that exists between master and slave or within the household. For it is in these terms that the part of the soul that has reason is distinct from the irrational; it is when one looks to these parts that injustice towards oneself seems to exist, because in these it is possible to undergo an experience that is contrary to their desires; therefore there can be a sort of justice between them, as between ruler and subject.

Similarly, though he rejects the Platonic tripartite psychē, Aristotle retains a threefold classification of desire, orexis—as boulēsis (rational desire for the good), thymos, and epithymia (desire for the pleasures of food, drink, and sex)—that is clearly inspired by the Platonic model of the soul, each element of which, Aristotle notes, involves desire (DA 432b6–7).88 On occasion, however, Aristotle’s distinction between “that which has logos” and the alogon is at odds with the threefold classification—as at Politics 1287a28–32, where the rule of law is described as the rule of the divine and the intellect (nous) alone, whereas the rule of a human being imports also the bestial, represented by epithymia and thymos, which can corrupt even the best rulers; which is why law is nous without orexis.89

One major reason for this conception of thymos as a type of desire is the role of desire in Aristotle’s account of anger: orgē is a desire to return pain for pain, as the De anima puts it (DA 403a30–31), or for redress (restoration of honour, timōria), according to the Rhetoric (1378a30).90 Aristotle often uses orgē and thymos interchangeably.91 Often, too, it is clear from the context that thymos refers to the occurrent emotion of anger (as when thymos is included in lists of pathē or otherwise described as a pathos).92 Sometimes, however, there is a suspicion that thymos implies something more dispositional than occurrent anger, and on occasion it can emerge as more like a trait of character. Thus at Rhet. 1389a9–12, the young are thymikoi and oxythymoi, tend “to follow anger (orgē),” and “are overcome by thymos”: though thymikos, oxythymos, and “being overcome by thymos” here are all defined with reference to anger and its inability to bear insults or injustice, still “following anger” and “being overcome by thymos” may not be exactly the same thing, and references to youthful philotimiai and philonikia suggest something of the positive desire for honour and victory that characterizes the thymos of Plato’s Republic.93

The role of thymos in character and temperament has, for Aristotle, physiological underpinnings: the natural scientist’s definition of orgē at DA 403a31-b1—the boiling (zesis) of blood and hot stuff around the heart’—is given by the (pseudo-Aristotelian, but none the less Peripatetic) Problemata as a definition of thymos (869a5–6), and the physical constitution of bodies that facilitates retention and build-up of heat provides in several passages the basis for thymos as a characteristic of both animals and humans, together with references to the symptomatology and phenomenology of thymos and similar or contrasting phenomena.94 The “noble thymos” that develops in those birds whose bodies are drier and leaner (GA 749b33) is clearly not anger as such, but a dispositional trait that may give rise to anger. In a passage of Politics 7 (reflecting a form of environmental determinism found in sources such as the Hippocratic Airs, Waters, Places) those peoples that inhabit cold regions and the periphery of Europe are said to be “full of thymos” but lacking in intellect and skill, while Asiatics have intellect and skill but lack thymos; the Greeks occupy the intermediate position, having both thymos and intelligence (Pol.1327b23–36). Here, thymos may imply emotion but refers to a capacity, like intellect or technical skill: the same diversity obtains within Greece (b33–36), some Greek ethnē being characterized by thymos, some by intellect, and some being “well blended in respect of both these capacities” (dynameis, b36), Characteristic of thymos here is the determination to remain free and independent (b25, 28–2, 31): “in all cases the ruling element and the element that prizes freedom derive from this dynamis; for thymos is a ruling and indomitable thing” (1328a6–7).95 Here, at least, the orexis that thymos entails is not merely anger’s desire for retaliation.96

The physiological basis for this ethnography is explained in the Problemata: people in hot regions are cowardly while those in cold regions are brave. This is thought to be because the bodies of the former are loose in texture, so that they lose heat, while the flesh of the latter is denser because of their cold environment, so as a result they retain more heat (910a38–b8). Accordingly, the ethical treatises identify a natural form of bravery (andreia), found in animals as well as humans and characteristic of barbarians such as the Celts; this resembles the true form but differs because it is rooted in the emotion of thymos rather than in choice of the noble for its own sake.97 The association of thymos with the painful emotion of anger and its desire for the pleasure of timōria is also to the fore in the discussion (in EN 7) of the possibility that there may be a form of akrasia (failure of self-control) with respect to thymos.98 Akrasia in the strict sense applies only to the appetites (epithymiai) that are covered by the moral virtue of sōphrosynē, but analogous phenomena are discernible in failure to control one’s anger, a failure that is less reprehensible than akrasia proper. In a passage whose use of personification is redolent of Plato, thymos is said to listen to (but to mishear) the voice of reason (1149a25–26), like servants who rush to carry out a command before understanding it or dogs who bark before they know who’s there (a26–29); on account of its hot and hasty nature, thymos hears something but does not recognize it as an order and rushes in pursuit of timōria (a30–32), reasoning that the insult that reason has identified requires an immediate response (a32–34). Because thymos follows reason in this way, as epithymia does not, akrasia in the strict sense (i.e., with regard to epithymia) is worse than akrasia with regard to thymos (1149b1–3). Thymos is also better than epithymia in so far as it is spontaneous, whereas epithymia can be devious—“the person characterized by thymos is not a plotter, nor is thymos” (b14).

Anger is thus more central to Aristotle’s conception of thymos than it is to Homer’s or even Plato’s, but there are signs that thymos also denotes a capacity with a wider range of expressions. In the Eudemian Ethics’ discussion of the virtue of praotēs, the mean between being too irascible and not irascible enough (EE1231b5–26), it is clear that this “mildness,” no less than anger itself, depends on thymos, even though the term thymos is used only with reference to the painful emotion on which all these dispositions focus (b6–7, 11, 15).99 This is perhaps one explanation for the slightly puzzling sequel to the passage in Politics 7 already mentioned. Having discussed thymos as the dynamis that makes nations resist domination by others (Pol. 1327b23–36), Aristotle goes on to observe that those whom a lawgiver would lead toward virtue should be both intelligent and thymoeideis (1327b36–38). This then prompts him to consider the view put forward in Plato’s Republic: that the Auxiliaries should be friendly to those they know and savage toward those they do not (b38–40). This is a view that Aristotle rejects (1328a8–16), but the important point for our purposes is that part of his argument rests on the claim that thymos is the source of friendliness, indeed the capacity (dynamis) by means of which we love our friends and relatives (1327b40–1328a1). This is supported by the argument that “the thymos is aroused more towards associates and friends than towards strangers, if it thinks that it has been slighted” (1328a1–3). This is a strange argument, but behind it may lie not only the considerations adduced by Newman (that dogs are thymikos, friendly, and fawning, or that opposite phenomena, such as orgē and philia, should be located in the same category), or the association between thymos and praotēs mentioned above, but also longer-standing, traditional associations, such as we find in Homer, between thymos and states of mind that we may regard as anger’s opposites, such as friendly feeling and the willingness to be reconciled.100 Yet, though thymos in Aristotle may imply an inclusive disposition for self-assertiveness, manly courage, and competitiveness, as well as for gentleness and friendliness, we have seen nothing that would warrant Koziak’s more sweeping claims that the orexis that thymos represents is the “desire … for a good social relationship” or that thymos is Aristotle’s “name for the locus of emotional capacity.”101

Post-Aristotelian Thought

The place of thymos in Hellenistic and later philosophy depends largely on its use as a term for anger or as a type of anger, though traces of its Homeric and Platonic senses occasionally survive, especially in the Stoic Chrysippus’s use of earlier literary examples of its role in mental conflict, as well as in the anti-Stoic polemic of Platonists such as Galen and Plutarch.

The 1st-century bce Epicurean philosopher Philodemus recognizes that thymos and orgē are often regarded as synonymous but insists that orgē (anger as such) is natural while the more intense thymos (fury or rage) is not (De ira XLI–L Indelli, especially XLIII.41–XLVI.14). The same issue of synonymy versus distinction resurfaces in contexts such as Eustathius’s commentary on the Iliad, twelve hundred years later (1.13.22, 1.14.3-7 Van der Valk, on Il. 1.1).

Plato’s idea that thymos is typified by a kind of desire (for honour) and the Aristotelian characterization of anger as desire for redress or retaliation (DA 1.1, 403a30–31, Rhet. 2.2, 1378a30–32) and of thymos as a type of orexis all find echoes in the Stoic classification of thymos, along with other forms of anger, as a type of appetite (epithymia), one of the four main categories of pathos in Stoic theory.102 Fine distinctions between thymos and other anger terms are introduced, the distinctiveness of thymos—defined as the first onrush of anger and characterized by its physical underpinnings in increased body temperature and the boiling (zesis) of the blood—lying in its phenomenological and physiological character.103

But thymos also figures in Stoic discussions of mental conflict, and especially in Chrysippus’s apparent use of epic and dramatic poetry to illustrate the distinctiveness of the Stoic approach. His use of the examples of Odysseus’s barking heart (Od. 17.18) and of the thymos which gets the better of Medea’s bouleumata (“plans”) in Euripides (Med. 1079–80) features in Galen’s attack (in his work On Hippocrates’ and Plato’s Doctrines) on Chrysippus’s On the Emotions (PHP 3.3.21–2 = SVF 2.906):

Sometimes neither element is strong enough immediately to subdue the other, but they oppose each other and fight it out, and in time one of them wins— reasoning, in Odysseus’s case, thymos in Medea’s, on the basis that they are two parts of the soul, or, if not parts, then at least some sort of power. But Chrysippus, though he thinks neither that they are parts of the soul nor that there exist non-rational powers distinct from the rational, still does not shrink from mentioning the words of Odysseus and Medea that clearly refute his own doctrine.104

Galen defends Platonic tripartition, but in (what he takes to be) a literalist sense, one that will depend heavily on the spatial separation of the “parts of the soul” in the body as presented in the Timaeus (69c71d).105 On Galen’s partisan account, Chrysippus (unlike his fellow Stoic, Posidonius) attempts but fails to deny the Platonic division of the soul. Yet it emerges from Galen’s own discussion elsewhere (at PHP 5.2.49) that Chrysippus also used the Platonic terminology but explained the phenomena differently. It seems likely that he deployed Medea’s monologue on her thymos and Odysseus’s address to his kradiē to illustrate a Stoic model of the emotions as judgements in which an initial impression requires the agent’s assent, so that mental conflict is explained in terms of vacillation between a succession of such judgements.106 His is thus a different model from Homer’s or Plato’s, but it is still not one that posits centres of agency that somehow detract from or supplant the agency of the person.


  • Cairns, Douglas. “Psyche, Thymos, and Metaphor in Homer and Plato.” Les Études Platoniciennes 11 (2014).
  • Caswell, Caroline. A Study of Thumos in Early Greek Epic. Leiden: Brill, 1990.
  • Clarke, Michael. Flesh and Spirit in the Songs of Homer: A Study of Words and Myths. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.
  • Corcilius, Klaus, and Dominik Perler, eds. Partitioning the Soul: Debates from Plato to Leibnitz. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2014.
  • Frère, Jean. Ardeur et colère: Le thumos platonicien. Paris: Kimé, 2004.
  • Gill, Christopher. Personality in Greek Epic, Tragedy, and Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.
  • Hobbs, Angela. Plato and the Hero. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
  • Jahn, Thomas. Zum Wortfeld “Seele-Geist” in der Sprache Homers. Munich: Beck, 1987.
  • Koziak, Barbara. Retrieving Political Emotion: Thumos, Aristotle, and Gender. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000.
  • Pelliccia, Hayden. Mind, Body, and Speech in Homer and Pindar. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1995
  • Renaut, Olivier. Platon: La mediation des émotions. Paris: Vrin, 2014.
  • Sullivan, Shirley Darcus. Psychological and Ethical Ideas: What Early Greeks Say. Leiden: Brill, 1995.


  • 1. See Robert Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek. (Leiden: Brill, 2009), 564; Robert Broxton Onians, The Origins of European Thought, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 1954, 44–46, 49–56, 67–79; Jan Bremmer, The Early Greek Concept of the Soul. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1983), 56; Hayden Pelliccia, Mind, Body, and Speech in Homer and Pindar (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1995), 59; and Michael Clarke, Flesh and Spirit in the Songs of Homer (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 130–133.

  • 2. See Pierre Chantraine, Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue Grecque (Paris: Klincksieck, 1968–1980), 446.

  • 3. Breathed out: see Od. 5.468; flies off: see Od. 10.163, 19.454; for the loss of menos and thymos in death, see Il. 8.368.

  • 4. Il. 22.466–475, Od. 24.345–350. For “gathering one’s thymos” (etc.) as getting one’s breath back, see Il. 21.417, Od. 5.458; on the distinction between life lived and life lost, see Clarke, Flesh and Spirit, 140–143.

  • 5. The thymos is often located in the phrēn/phrenes: passages in Thomas Jahn, Zum Wortfeld “Seele-Geist” in der Sprache Homers (Munich: Beck, 1987), 14–15. Some identify these with the lungs (Onians, Origins, 23–43). But the anatomical reference is uncertain: see, for example, Shirley Darcus Sullivan, Psychological Activity in Homer: A Study of Phrēn (Ottawa: Carleton University Press, 198), 23–29. For the concentric arrangement of the “psychic organs” within the chest, see Jahn 17–18.

  • 6. See Bruno Snell, The Discovery of the Mind (Oxford: Blackwell, 1953), 19–22 (quotations pp. 21–22). “Not yet” is a characteristic of Snell’s teleological approach: see Arbogast Schmitt, Selbständigkeit und Abhängigkeit menschlichen Handelns bei Homer: Hermeneutische Untersuchungen zur Psychologie Homers. Abhandlungen der Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur, Mainz (Stuttgart: Steiner, 1990).

  • 7. Arthur Adkins, From the Many to the One (London: Constable, 1970), 15–27 (quotation p. 26). Similar views are encouraged by the “laundry list” approach to Homeric psychology, in which (in themselves useful) lists of different functions are merely juxtaposed: see Caroline Caswell, A Study of Thumos in Early Greek Epic (Leiden: Brill, 1990); and Shirley Darcus Sullivan, Psychological and Ethical Ideas: What Early Greeks Say (Leiden: Brill, 1995).

  • 8. See Bernard Williams, Shame and Necessity (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1992); and Christopher Gill, Personality in Greek Epic, Tragedy, and Philosophy: The Self in Dialogue (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996).

  • 9. See Jahn “Seele-Geist,” esp. 182–211; the table on 186–192 shows at a glance that most of the functions of thymos considered below are not functions of thymos alone. For κατὰ φρένα καὶ κατὰ θυμόν‎ as pleonastic, see Jahn 210.

  • 10. Jahn, “Seele-Geist,” 212–246.

  • 11. See Jahn, “Seele-Geist,” 7–8, 107–108, 210–215, 225–232.

  • 12. Because phrases such as κατὰ θυμόν/κατὰ φρένα καὶ κατὰ θυμόν‎ regularly mark internal mental processes, it is tempting to regard prayers delivered κατὰ θυμόν‎ as silent (Il. 23.768–769, Od. 5.444), as ancient and Byzantine scholarship did: see Nicholas Richardson, The Iliad: A Commentary (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 255. This is perhaps complicated by the facts (a) that in the former case the addressee is said to hear the prayer (Il. 23.771) and (b) that in each case the prayer is followed by the formula “so he spoke” (Il. 23.771, Od. 5.451), but silent prayer (a phenomenon securely attested by Il. 7.194–195) remains the most likely interpretation (see Jahn, “Seele-Geist,” 214; Pelliccia, Mind, Body, and Speech, 131–132). For speeches addressed to the thymos, see section “Deliberation, Dialogue, and Agency.”

  • 13. Caswell, Thumos, 12–50, 65–76 has a taxonomy, but the schematic representation in Jahn, “Seele-Geist,” 20–23, is more useful in that besides functions (emotional, rational, and voluntative), it also lists modes of representation (as agent, as object, etc.).

  • 14. References in Caswell, Thumos, 47–49, 73–76; and Pelliccia, Mind, Body, and Speech, 55–57, 59, 78, 100–103.

  • 15. Il. 9.177 etc. (12x Il.), Od. 1.275 etc. (9x Od.).

  • 16. Source of sexual desire: Il. 3.139–140, Od. 5.125–127, 18.160–161, 212; appetites for food: Il. 1.468, 2.431, Od. 5.95 etc. (6x Od.); for drink: Il. 4.263, 7.320, 9.177, Od. 3.395 etc. (6x Od.); both: Il. 23.56, Od. 7.184 etc. (5x Od.). Pleasures, including sex, see Od. 23.345–346; but also playing the lyre, Il. 9.189, and a host of others (Il. 15.98 etc., Od. 1.107 etc.).

  • 17. Il. 5.670 etc. (5x Il.), Od. 4.447 etc. (11x Od.)

  • 18. For example, Il. 1.173, 6.361, 9.42, 9.398.

  • 19. Cf. Il. 16.529 etc, Od. 1.320–321 etc. A person’s menos and thymos can stir him to action (Il. 20.174), just as menos and thymos themselves can be stirred up by another’s speech (Ι‎l. 5.470 etc., Od. 8.15).

  • 20. Il. 5.135 etc. (6x Il.), Od. 2.248.

  • 21. Cf. the more frequent κηρόθι μᾶλλον‎ (2x Il., 7x Od.).

  • 22. See Il. 13.487–488 etc. (6x Il.), Od. 3.127–129; cf. Il. 22.263 (the thymos of wolves is not of one mind with that of lambs). “With thymos asunder” accordingly indicates the absence of common purpose (Il. 20.32, 21.386).

  • 23. At Il. 22.66–71 Priam imagines his own dogs, restless in thymos, drinking his blood after his death.

  • 24. Cf. Od. 2.314–316, where the growth of Telemachus’s thymos will no longer permit him to sit by and watch as the Suitors consume his inheritance. Just so, the disguised Odysseus tells Telemachus that if he had the youth to match his current thymos, he would soon put a stop to the Suitors’ abuses (16.99–104). Shortly afterwards, Telemachus himself assures his father that his own thymos is up to the task ahead of them (16.309–310; see 24.511). See also such later passages as Tyrt. 10.17 W, Call. 1.1 W, Pi. N. 3.58, Soph. El. 26, and Xen. Cyr. 4.2.21, where thymos virtually means “courage.”

  • 25. Excessive, etc.: Il. 15.94, 18.262, Od. 15.212, 23.97, 23.230; cf. Il. 23.610–611 (not violent and cruel); pitiless: Od. 9.272, 287; sceptical: Od. 14.150, 391; god-fearing Od. 19.364.

  • 26. Jonathan Shay, “Killing Rage: Physis or Nomos—or Both?” in War and Violence in Ancient Greece, ed. H. van Wees (London: Classical Press of Wales), 33; see also Sullivan, Psychological and Ethical Ideas, 56–57.

  • 27. A list of passages at Caswell, Thumos, 65–73, discussion at 34–44. Cholos 8x Il, 1x Od.; kotos 2x Il., 2x Od.; nemesis 2x Il., 2x Od. But NB also cholos and kradiē, Ι‎l. 9.646; cholos and ētor Il. 10.107, 14.367; both, 24.584–585; cholos and kēr, Il. 21.136, Od. 9.480, 17.458, 18.387, 22.224; cholos and phrenes Il. 16.61, Od. 6.147; nemesis and phrenes Il. 13.122–123; chōesthai and kēr (ὁ δ‎’ ἐχώσατο κηρόθι μᾶλλον‎) Od. 5.284, chôesthai and phrenes (Il. 19.127). Chōesthai and thymos:Il. 1.243–244, 429, 4.495, 16.616, 20.29; cf. kotos and chōesthai at Il. 21.456–457 and Od. 11.102–103. At Il. 9.462–463, the thymos is the source of Phoenix’s father’s anger (chōesthai); Kotos is predicated of the thymos in the formula κεκοτηότι θυμῷ‎ (Il. 21.456, Od. 9.501, 19.71, 22.477); nemesis at Od. 2.138; cf. “lest your thymos be indignant (πισκύσσαιτο‎)” at Od. 7.306; “but as for those two, their manly hearts were angry (γάσσατο‎),” Od. 4.658.

  • 28. See Onians, Origins, 52, 87.

  • 29. Repeated verbatim at 19.65–66, in the context of Achilles’ formal renunciation of his quarrel with Agamemnon. Cf. Odysseus’s request that the dead Ajax “tame [his] menos and manly thymos,” Od. 11.562. Restraining one’s thymos, however, does not always imply anger; at Od. 11.105 it involves resisting the temptation to eat the cattle of the sun.

  • 30. Anger and grief overlap in Homer, especially in the form of achos (e.g., Il. 23.566–567 θυμὸν ἀχεύων‎ as anger, 22.53, 242 as grief) but also in other locutions (such as θυμῷ ἀνιάζων‎, of frustration/annoyance at Il. 21.270, but of lamentation at Od. 22.88). See Douglas Cairns, “Ethics, Ethology, Terminology: Iliadic Anger and the Cross-Cultural Study of Emotion,” in Ancient Anger: Perspectives from Homer to Galen, ed. S. M. Braund and G. W. Most (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 29–30.

  • 31. Grief/anguish/distress, e.g., Il. 3.97–98 and often, Od. 2.192–193 and often; sorrow/dismay, Il.11. 555, 17.664, 24. 283, Od. 16.342; cares, Il. 23.62, Od. 4.650 and often; mental pain, Il. 5.400 etc., Od. 2.79, 4.813.

  • 32. Il. 8.138 etc. (11x Il.), Od. 7.50–51 etc. (5x Od.). At Il. 17.67–69, the advent of fear entails lack of confidence in the personified thymos; at 17.18–23 its confidence entails the absence of fear.

  • 33. Foreboding: Od. 18.154, 19.390; cf. (with thymos as subject) 20.349. At Od. 10.374, the phrase κακὰ δ’ ὄσσετο θυμός‎ is normally taken to mean “my thymos boded ill” (in the context of Odysseus’s refusal of Circe’s hospitality), but at Il. 1.105 κακ᾽ ὀσσόμενος‎ refers to Agamemnon’s angry, malevolent scowl (cf. 24.172, where the contrast with ἀγαθὰ φρονέουσα‎ in 172 makes it clear that κακὸν ὀσσομένη‎ refers, by metonymy, to ill-will), and so it is not impossible that our phrase in Od. 10.374 is another example of the metaphorical transfer of the outward, physical expression of emotion to the undetectable inner experience of the personified thymos; see Od. 20.301–302, 23.215–216 cited at n. [12]; for sebas (awe/respect), see Il. 6.167, 18.178.

  • 34. Od. 1.323 etc. (8x).

  • 35. For example, Il. 19.178, 24.119, 147, 176, 196.

  • 36. Friendly feeling: see, for example, φίλα φρονέῃσ’/φρονέουσ’ ἐνὶ θυμῷ‎, Od. 6.313, 7.42, 75 (the opposite at 10.317). The joy of friendship: see, for example, κεχαρισμένε θυμῷ‎ at Il. 5.243 etc., Od. 4.71; φίλος ἔπλετο θυμῷ‎ at Il. 23.548; Ἕκτορ ἐμῷ θυμῷ πάντων πολὺ φίλτατε παίδων‎, 24.748 (cf. Helen at 762); κεχάριστο δὲ θυμῷ‎, Od. 6.23; περὶ γάρ μ’ ἐφίλει καὶ κήδετο θυμῷ‎, Od. 14.146.

  • 37. Cf. Il. 7.189 etc. (8x Il.), Od. 1.311 (14 x Od.).

  • 38. See Il. 19.229, 22.142; Od. 5.191, 11.55, 87, 206, 395.

  • 39. For example, Il. 24.568 (anger rooted in grief); Od. 14.360, 15.486–4887, 17.150, 21.86–87 (reminding someone of their troubles; see also 19.117–118). As Od. 18.160–161 shows, the thymos can also be aroused in sexual desire.

  • 40. Il. 9.537, 11.340, Od. 21.302, 23.223–224; see Douglas Cairns, “Atē in the Homeric Poems,” Papers of the Langford International Latin Seminar 15 (2012): 1–52.

  • 41. Enchanted: Il. 15.321–322, 594; cf. erotic enchantment at Od. 18.212; deceived: for example, Od. 4.452–453.

  • 42. Hope: Il. 10.355 etc. (8x Il.), Od. 20.328 (3x Od.); expectation: Il. 13.8 (3x Il.). Od. 3.275 and 319 are ambiguous.

  • 43. Similarly, at Od. 10.415–416, Odysseus’s companions are so glad to see him that their thymos imagined they had actually reached their homeland.

  • 44. See Il. 6.51 etc. (5x Il.), Od. 7.258 etc. (5x Od.).

  • 45. Cf. ὣς γάρ νύ τοι εὔαδε θυμῷ‎, Od. 16.28; ἧδε δέ οἱ/μοι κατὰ θυμὸν ἀρίστη φαίνετο βουλή‎ (3x Il., 3x Od.); on the role of affectivity in motivation, see, for example, Antonio Damasio, Descartes’ Error (New York: Putnam, 1994).

  • 46. See, for example, Il. 4.360–361. On the dispositional “knowledge” involved in such passages, see Douglas Cairns, Aidōs (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), 128–129.

  • 47. For example, the strongly emotional affirmation “For I know this well κατὰ φρένα καὶ κατὰ θυμόν‎ that there will be a day when holy Ilion, and Priam, and his people are destroyed” (Agamemnon, Il. 4.163–165, Hector, 6.447–449). At Od. 22.372–374, the “knowledge” that the herald, Medon, is to take from his experience of being spared by Odysseus and Telemachus (ὄφρα γνῷς κατὰ θυμόν‎) is clearly a matter of “learning his lesson” in a sense that is much more than purely intellectual. See Od. 2.111–112, 13.339–340.

  • 48. Cf., for example, Od. 16.235–239, where Odysseus inquires how many Suitors there are, in order that he can ponder in his thymos and decide whether he and Telemachus should face them alone or seek reinforcements. Less is at stake in Pisistratus’s dilemma in Book 15—he has only to weigh up his obligations to Telemachus, who does not wish to be held up by Nestor’s hospitality, against the risk of offending his father.

  • 49. Thymos itself deliberates: see, for example, Od. 16.73, when Telemachus describes the very dilemma that Penelope will go on to present in terms of the “arousal” of her thymos (Od. 19.524) as something that “her thymos ponders in two ways”; cf. 20.38, where Odysseus’s thymos ponders how to defeat the Suitors. Person deliberates by means of the thymos: see, for example, the variations on the formula μερμήριξε δ’ ἔπειτα κατὰ φρένα καὶ κατὰ θυμὸν‎ (2x Il., 4x Od.); other expressions with mermērizein (Od. 10.50, 16.237); variations on the formula ἧος ὃ ταῦθ’ ὥρμαινε κατὰ φρένα καὶ κατὰ θυμόν‎ (4x Il., 4x Od.); other expressions with hormainein (3x Il., Od. 2.156); cf. Caswell, Thumos, 45–47, 73. For passages in which the person simply “ponders,” without mention of the thymos (or other psychic organ), see Il. 10.28 etc. Od. 2.325 etc. In Il. 14.159–161 and Od. 20.93 the person does not initially deliberate κατὰ θυμόν‎, but subsequent reference to the thymos suggests that the involvement of the thymos (or another “organ”) can often be assumed; deliberation also makes use of the phrenes alone (Il. 2.3 etc. (4 x Il.), Od. 1.427 etc. (9x Od.)), and occasionally also of other “psychic organs” (ētor, Il. 1.188–189, kēr, Od. 7.82–83, 18.344–345, 23.85–86). See Jahn, “Seele-Geist,” 273–285, 291–293.

  • 50. For the same pattern, cf. Od. 6.141–146, 18.90–94.

  • 51. The relevant formulae are used both in cases in which the agent deliberates whether to do x or y and where the issue is how to do x; on these, see Pelliccia, Mind, Body, and Speech, 126–127. Here we concentrate on the former.

  • 52. For the issues here, see Pelliccia, Mind, Body, and Speech, 128–135, 182–199.

  • 53. Pelliccia, Mind, Body, and Speech, especially 121–123, 136–146, 200–203, 212–213; see also Gill, Personality, 58, 187.

  • 54. Od. 5.365 (picking up 355) and 424 (picking up 407). For Sullivan, on the other hand (Psychological and Ethical Ideas, 58, 69), it is addresses to the thymos above all that “emphasize the distinctness of person and thumos.”

  • 55. Il. 11.407, 17.97, 21.562, 22.122: ἀλλὰ τίη μοι ταῦτα φίλος διελέξατο θυμός‎;

  • 56. Cf. the sole occurrence of the phrase in a speech that is not introduced with that formula at Il. 22.385 (with Pelliccia, Mind, Body, and Speech, 205).

  • 57. See Pelliccia, Mind, Body, and Speech, 203–211, 267. On the “self-distancing” that this represents, see Gill, Personality, 187–188.

  • 58. See Stephen Halliwell, “Traditional Greek Conceptions of Character,” in Characterization and Individuality in Greek Literature, ed. C. B. R. Pelling (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), 38–42; Pelliccia, Mind, Body, and Speech, 175–178, 220–224; and Gill, Personality, 183–190.

  • 59. A conscious and knowing approach to the use of such imagery is also suggested by the pun, κύντερον‎ (“more dog-like,” i.e., worse), in 18. See also Od. 19.204–207: in a common metaphor for grief, love, etc., Penelope’s cheeks “melt” (τήκετο‎, 204, 208) in a way that is compared to melting snow on a mountain (205–207). The amplification by means of a simile indicates deliberate, artistic use of metaphorical concepts.

  • 60. See Pelliccia, Mind, Body, and Speech, 175–176, 178; Gill, Personality, 184.

  • 61. As Eustathius acutely noted (Comm. Od. 2.223 Stallbaum on 20.18). See also Halliwell, “Character,” 40 n. 9; Pelliccia, Mind, Body, and Speech, 223 n. 203.

  • 62. For “intrusion,” see Michael Silk, Interaction in Poetic Imagery (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974), especially 138–149.

  • 63. See Pelliccia, Mind, Body, and Speech, 177 n. 123, with Jahn, “Seele-Geist,” 201–209, on Austauschbarkeit. Similarly, κατὰ φρένα καὶ κατὰ θυμόν‎ forms a single adverbial expression, pleonastically modifying μερμήριζε‎ in 10.

  • 64. Thus, the passage combines two conventional objects of deliberation, whether to do x or y and how to do what one has decided to do; see Pelliccia, Mind, Body, and Speech, 220–223; Gill, Personality, 184.

  • 65. See also Arist. Pol. 1315a27–31 (and again at EE 1223b22–4, EN 1105a8).

  • 66. In archaic poetry, see, for example, courage/manliness at Tyrt. 10.17 W, Call. 1.1 W, Pi. N. 3.58; grief/sorrow at Thgn. 1029–1036, Bacchyl. 1.179, Pi. I. 8.52; joy at Sem. 7.70 W, Pi. O. 7.43, I. 7.2, Bacchyl. 3.83–84; character in general at Pi. N. 7.10, 11.32, Bacchyl. 17.82. For thymos as “mind” or “heart” in tragedy, see, for example, Aesch. Pers. 769, where phrenes (intelligence) are said to have “guided the rudder” of Cyrus’ thymos, clearly a more passionate source of motivation, or Soph. Ant. 493, where thymos represents the inner thoughts and emotional turmoil of a malefactor who fears detection. For the association with anger, see, for example, Soph. Aj. 718, Ant. 718, 1085, Trach. 1118, OT 674, OC 1193, 1198; Eur. Med. 108, 878–879, Supp. 556, Hec. 1055, Pho. 454.

  • 67. Thymos and orgē are interchangeable at Hdt, 3.34.3, 3.35.1, 3.50.3, 3.52.3–5.

  • 68. At 4.391.28 Van der Valk (on Il. 20.195) Eustathiusnotes that “casting [ballein] x in one’s thumos is the same as placing [tithenai] it in one’s phrenes. Cf., for example, 2.793.5–7 (on Il. 9.537); also 2.361.9–11 (on 6.444), where he equates thymos and kradiē, and 4.554.14 (on Il. 21.563), thymos and ētor. In the Odyssey commentary, see 1.73.11–13 Stallbaum = 1.322.17–19 Cullhed (on Od. 1.427), phrenes and ētor.

  • 69. See 4.426.24 Van der Valk (on Il. 20.402–406).

  • 70. 1.13.13–22 (on Il. 1.1), 2.824.7–12 (on 9.637), 825.1–3 (on 9.639). Compare and contrast 2.751.8–11 (on 9.436). In the Odyssey commentary, cf. 1.99.38–100.4 Stallbaum = 1.436.3–18 Cullhed (on Od. 2.315), 2.96.41 Stallbaum (on Od. 15.212).

  • 71. Psychē: 1.26.20, 2.133.2, 2.137.13–15, 2.307.19, 2.323.2, 2.383.9, 2.441.13–14, 2.835.11, 3.132.3, 3.153.27–28, 3.206.21–22, 3.696.7–16, 3.837.25–29, 4.424.16, 4.425.6, 4.572.21, 4.790.7–9; nous: 3.108.18–19, 3.766.13–14, 3.788.5–6. In the Odyssey commentary, see 1.62.14 Stallbaum = 1.276.26–27 Cullhed on Od. 1.322–323 (psychē). Also 1.30.21 Stallbaum = 1.136.8–9 Cullhed on Od. 1.114 (ētor as psychē).

  • 72. At 2.383.8–12 (on Il. 6.523) he hedges his bets between “anger” and “mind”; 3.118.20–21 (on 10.495) between psychē and orgē. At 3.696.7–16 (on Il. 16.24) he goes for psychē, not cholos.

  • 73. Tripartition recurs in the Timaeus, where the parts are spatially separate and thymos is a physical organ located in the chest (70a–d); its functions, however, remain those attributed to it in the more extensive accounts of the Republic and the Phaedrus.

  • 74. On the Homeric inspiration for the role of the thymos in the Republic, see Pelliccia, Mind, Body, and Speech, 28–29 n. 38; Gill, Personality, 184, 188, 253; and Olivier Renaut, Platon: La mediation des émotions (Paris: Vrin, 2014), especially 121–134.

  • 75. See Julia Annas, An Introduction to Plato’s Republic (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981), 127–129, 137–141; and Anthony W. Price, Mental Conflict (London: Routledge, 1995), 56–57, 61–63, 68–70.

  • 76. On zesis, boiling, as a thymos-metaphor, see n. [2].

  • 77. Cairns, Aidōs, 381–392.

  • 78. See Cairns, Aidōs, 387–389.

  • 79. See Christopher Bobonich, Plato’s Utopia Recast (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), especially 217–222, 248–251. For Bobonich (p. 228), “Plato’s commitment to agent-like parts of the soul pervades the Republic and he never suggests that such talk is intended as a metaphor or as a convenient way of speaking and not as a literal truth claim.”

  • 80. Cf. Phdr. 246a, 256b–256c on the chariot myth.

  • 81. As do Hendrik Lorenz, The Brute Within: Appetitive Desire in Plato and Aristotle (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 2, 16, 34, 48–49; and Jessica Moss, “Appearances and Calculations: Plato’s Division of the Soul,” Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 34 (2008): 35–68.

  • 82. See Jon Moline, “Plato on the Complexity of the Psyche,” Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 60 (1978): 1–26; Annas, An Introduction, 131, 142–146; and John Cooper, “Plato’s Theory of Human Motivation,” History of Philosophy Quarterly 1 (1984): 3–21.

  • 83. See, for example, 443d–443e, 550a–550b, 553b–553d, 571d–572a, 591e, 606a, with Terence Irwin, Plato’s Ethics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 285–287. For Bobonich, Plato’s Utopia Recast, 234 and n. 27, these are simply cases of “occasional loose language.”

  • 84. See 553d, 571d, 588e–589b, 589d.

  • 85. See Rachana Kamtekar, “Speaking with the Same Voice as Reason: Personification in Plato’s Psychology,” Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 31 (2006): 167–202.

  • 86. See Douglas Cairns, “Psyche, Thymos, and Metaphor in Homer and Plato,” Les Études Platoniciennes 11 (2014); “The Tripartite Soul as Metaphor” in Plato and the Power of Images ed. P. Destrée and R. G. Edmonds (Leiden: Brill, 2017), 219–238. See also Malcolm Schofield, Plato (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 280 n. 48: “I conclude that Plato—always the dramatist of the theatre of the soul—has no non-metaphorical way of articulating his theory of mind.” See also his p. 281 n. 59.

  • 87. See DA 402b1–10, 411a26–b30, 413b11–16, 29–414a3, 432a22–b7, 433b1–4, with Paul Vander Waerdt, “Aristotle’s Criticism of Soul-Division,” American Journal of Philology 108 (1987): 637–643; Jennifer Whiting, “Locomotive Soul: The Parts of Soul in Aristotle’s Scientific Works,” Ο‎xford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 22 (2002): 141–200; Klaus Corcilius and Pavel Gregoric, “Separability vs Difference: Parts and Capacities of the Soul in Aristotle,” Ο‎xford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 39 (2010): 81–120; Thomas Johansen, The Powers of Aristotle’s Soul (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 47–72, 247–251; and Christopher Shields, Aristotle: De Anima (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 88–89, 161–162, 185–188, 191–192, 349, 361–362.

  • 88. See DA 414b2, De motu 700b22, EE 1223a26–27, 1225b25, EN 1111b10–13, Rhet. 1369a2–7; cf. De sensu 436a6–11, MM 1187b36–7; see also Ronald Polansky, Aristotle’s De Anima: A Commentary (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 502–505; and Shields, De Anima, 350.

  • 89. Cf. 1334b15–28, with Richard Kraut, Aristotle: Politics Books VII and VIII (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 147–148; see also Probl. 956b35–6.

  • 90. Cf. Top. 156a31–b4, 127b31–33.

  • 91. For example, EN 1126a16, 19–21, 1135b25–7, Rhet. 1369b11–12, 1370b9–14, 1378b2–6, 1379a4. At Rhet. 1373b36 Aristotle promises a discussion of thymos “in the account of the pathē”; when that account comes, the term used is orgē (1378a30).

  • 92. DA 403a16–18 (cf. 403b18), EE 1220b11–12; cf. EN 1117a9, 1147a14–17 EE 1220a21.

  • 93. By contrast, the old at 1390a11–12 are prone to sharp but less intense outbursts of thymos, while those in their prime are moderate in both thymos and epithymia (1390b2–4).

  • 94. See HA 588a23, PA 650b34–36, 651a1–2, Probl. 889a15–25, 898a4–8, 910a38–b8, 923a9–12, 947b23–948a12, 954a31–4.

  • 95. The phrase “thymos is an indomitable thing” occurs also at EE 1229a28 (see n. [97]). At EE 1222b4 the deficiency that makes one too ready to come to terms and reconcile is said to be rare, because “thymos is not a sycophantic thing.” See, for instance, the thymos that characterizes men rather than women at Physiog. 809a36–37. It is their thymoeidic and warlike character that makes it unlikely, according to Aristotle, that Plato’s Auxiliaries would have acquiesced in being ruled but never ruling (Pol. 1264b8–10).

  • 96. Thus it is not quite right to say that, for Aristotle, thymos, unlike boulēsis and epithymia, “seems to be explicable only with reference to a past event,” as does Martha Nussbaum, Aristotle’s De Motu Animalium (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1978), 336.

  • 97. See EE 1229a20–29, 1229b28–32, EN 1116b23–1117a9.

  • 98. EN 1145b19–20, 1147a14–17, 1147b29–34, 1148b10–14, 1149a24–b27; see Carlo Natali, “Nicomachean Ethics VII. 5–6: Beastliness, Irascibility, and Akrasia” in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, Book VII., ed. C. Natali (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 103–129.

  • 99. The equivalent discussion in EN mostly uses orgē (EN 1125b26, 30–31, 1126a3–4, 6–7, 13–20, 22, 1126b5–6, 10) but has thymos as a synonym at 1126a20–1.

  • 100. Dogs: HA 488b21–22; categories: Top. 113a33–b3; see William L. Newman, The Politics of Aristotle (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1887), iii. 367. For thymos and friendly feeling, see, for example, passages in which the friend is addressed as “you who delight my thymos” (Il. 5.243, Od. 4.71, etc.) or those in which friendly feeling itself is a function of the thymos (Od. 6.313, 7.42, 14.146); for the willingness to be reconciled, see for example, Il. 19.178 (“let your thymos be reconciled”). Cf. the “softening” of Achilles’ thymos by gifts at Il. 24.119, 147, 176, 196.

  • 101. Barbara Koziak, Retrieving Political Emotion: Thumos, Aristotle, and Gender (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000) (quotations from pp. 96, 111).

  • 102. Stob. 2.90.19–91.2, 2.91.10–15 (SVF 3.394–395); D. L. 7.113 (SVF 3.396), Andronicus περὶ παθῶν‎ 4 (SVF 3.397); Nemes. De nat. hom. 20 (SVF 3.416). See the table in Margaret Graver, Stoicism and Emotion (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2007), 56 (with her pp. 55–58).

  • 103. See refs in n. [102].

  • 104. See also PHP 4.2.1–6 = SVF 3.463, with Graver, Stoicism 70–74; and the anti-Stoic, Platonist arguments for reason-passion conflict in Plutarch, De virt. mor. 441B–454C (with frequent citations of Homer and other literary sources, as well as of Chrysippus).

  • 105. Even if, in insisting that logismos and thymos are distinct parts or powers, he still cannot help resorting extensively to metaphor in order to talk about them.

  • 106. As at Plut. De virt. mor. 441C, 446F–447A; see Graver, Stoicism and Emotion, 71. For the view that motivational conflict is a possibility in Stoic theory at all stages of its development, from Zeno to Posidonius, see Christopher Gill, “Did Galen Understand Platonic and Stoic Thinking on Emotions?” in The Emotions in Hellenistic Philosophy, ed. J. Sihvola and T. Engberg-Pedersen (Stuttgart: Springer, 1998), 138–148; Graver, 69, 75–81; and Christopher Gill, “Competing Readings of Stoic Emotions” in Metaphysics, Soul, and Ethics: Themes from the Work of Richard Sorabji, ed. R. Salles (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 445–470. Note, for example, the dramatic dialogue between thymos and logismos in the verses of Cleanthes (SVF 1.570) cited from Posidonius’s discussion (frr. 33, 166) by Gal. PHP 5.6.34–37.