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Philotimo (also spelled filotimo; Greek: φιλότιμο) is a Greek noun translating to "love of honor". However, philotimo is difficult to translate sufficiently as it describes a complex array of virtues.


Modern uses

Philotimo is considered to be the highest of all Greek virtues which determines and regulates how someone should behave in their family and social groups. It is mostly about respect and doing the right thing. In its simplest form it means "doing good", and it ensures your behavior will make you stand out from others. It will demonstrate what kind of a person you are and the manner in which you were brought up. Philotimo to a Greek is essentially a way of life.

Children are said to have philotimo when they display unconditional love and respect towards their parents, grandparents and friends. It can mean gratitude for a small gift someone might have given you, or a small random act of kindness someone may have shown you. It is an appreciation and admiration for heritage and ancestorsphilotimo is honor and pride.

During the Second World War, strong bonds were formed and still exist in places like the Greek island of Crete where the locals would risk their own lives to hide and shelter Australian and British soldiers from the Nazi occupying forces. The locals felt duty-bound to help, their philotimo urged them on - If caught, they risked facing a firing squad.

Philotimo is the feeling of not being able to do enough for your family, society and your community; it is expressed through acts of generosity and sacrifice without expecting anything in return. Philotimo is to get more satisfaction from giving than from taking.

Ancient uses

The 7th-century BC pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Thales, one of the Seven Sages of Greece says that philotimo is part of the essence of being Greek. “Philotimo to the Greek is like breathing. A Greek is not a Greek without it. He might as well not be alive.”

The word is used extensively in Hellenistic period literature. In early writings, sometimes in a bad sense - Plato's Republic uses it ironically "loving honour or distinction, ambitious"[1] or Demosthenes meaning "prodigal" or "lavish".[2] However, later uses develop the word in its more noble senses. By the time of the Christian era, the word was firmly a positive and its use in the Bible probably cemented its use in modern Greek culture.

Biblical uses

The word appears three times in the text of letters written by the Apostle Paul. Paul was a native Greek speaker and, by his writing, shows he was well educated in Hellene literature. His letters were originally written in Greek and therefore the choice of the word was deliberate and the sophisticated choice of an educated man.

While it is a challenging word to translate into English the King James Version correctly has:

Romans 15:20 "so have I strived to preach the gospel"
2 Corinthians 5:9 "Wherefore we labour, that, whether"
1 Thessalonians 4:11 "And that ye study to be quiet,"

Some other translations vary with; ambition, endeavour earnestly, aspire, being zealous, strive eagerly, desire very strongly or study.[3] In each case Paul is conveying a desire to do a good thing and his choice of word gives this honourable pursuit extra emphasis.

In Romans 15:20 he makes it his philotimo to preach the good news of the Gospel to people who haven't heard it.

In 2 Corinthians 5:9, he uses it to describe his "labour" in the sense of his life's work and strivings.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:11 he uses it to describe the sort of studious ambition believers should have to conduct their lives with philotimo: - a studious life above reproach, well respected and regarded by their community for their kindness.

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