Show Summary Details

Page of

Printed from Oxford Classical Dictionary. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 28 June 2022



  • Christopher Rowe


The term in Greek nearest to English ‘soul’, ψυχή (psyche, Latin anima), has a long history and a wide variety of senses in both philosophical and non-philosophical contexts. In *Homer, the psyche is what leaves the *body on death (i.e. life, or breath?), but also an insubstantial image of the dead person, existing in *Hades and emphatically not something alive. But some vague idea of psyche as the essence of the individual, capable of surviving the body (and perhaps entering another) is well-established by the 5th cent. (e.g. IG 13. 1179. 6; Pind., Ol. 2. 56–80), though without necessarily displacing the older idea and even being combined with it (Pind., fr. 131 b Snell/Maehler). Simultaneously, in medical contexts and elsewhere, psyche begins to be found regularly in contrast with σῶμα (sōma), suggesting something like the modern contrast between ‘mind’ and body.All of these ideas are found, separately or in combination, in the philosophers. *Democritus stresses the interconnectedness of psyche (‘mind’) and body, while *Socrates regards the psyche primarily as our essence qua moral beings.


  • Philosophy

You do not currently have access to this article


Please login to access the full content.


Access to the full content requires a subscription