Thursday, October 13, 2016

What is Virtue? Part 1

Herakles, Divine Protector of Mankind.  By Paul Stevenson -, CC BY 2.0,

Like it or not, the word "virtue" comes from the Latin
"...virtutem (nominative virtus) "moral strength, high character, goodness; manliness; valor, bravery, courage (in war); excellence, worth," which in turn comes from the root vir "man."
"Virtue" is thus related to virile which has cognates in several European languages:
"characteristic of a man; marked by manly force," from Middle French viril (14c.) and directly from Latin virilis "of a man, manly, worthy of a man," from vir "a man, a hero," from PIE *wi-ro- "man, freeman" (source also of Sanskrit virah, Avestan vira-, Lithuanian vyras, Old Irish fer, Welsh gwr, Gothic wair, Old English wer "man"). 
Thus, virtue originally refers to manliness and in particular, strength and courage.

In antiquity, an exemplary or heroic woman was respectfully called a virago.

"A woman, however, if exceptional enough could earn the title virago. In doing so, she surpassed the expectations for what was believed possible for her gender, and embodied masculine-like aggression and/or excellence. Virago, then, was a title of respect and admiration."
But it is important to note that in European antiquity, women (femina) were not held to the military standard of virtue expected of men.  Make no mistake, both men and women were encouraged to live noble and virtuous lives, to be noblemen and noblewomen, but traditionally women were not expected to live up to the same standards of strength, bravery and courage in combat as men.

The Greek word for virtue is aret√™.  The goddess, or more correctly, personified spirit (daimona) Arete "was depicted as a fair woman of high bearing, dressed in white."

Her opposite was the daimona Kakia (Cacia), lady of vice.  

Xenophon (5th-4th century BCE) wrote that the Sophist Prodikos gave an account of these opposing spirits in an essay entitled On Herakles.  In this story, Herakles, coming upon the age of manhood, goes to a quiet place to contemplate whether he will, as a man, take the path of virtue, or the path of vice.

As Herakles meditates on his question, he sees two women "of great stature" approach him.  One "was fair to see and of high bearing; and her limbs were adorned with purity, her eyes with modesty; sober was her figure, and her robe was white."  The other:
 "...was plump and soft, with high feeding. Her face was made up to heighten its natural white and pink, her figure to exaggerate her height. Open-eyed was she; and dressed so as to disclose all her charms. Now she eyed herself; anon looked whether any noticed her; and often stole a glance at her own shadow."
Source: Greek mythology Wikia

 The dignified one was Arete; the conceited whore was Kakia.

"When they drew nigh to Herakles, the first pursued the even tenor of her way: but the other, all eager to outdo her, ran to meet him, crying : ‘Herakles, I see that you are in doubt which path to take towards life. Make me your friend; follow me, and I will lead you along the pleasantest and easiest road. You shall taste all the sweets of life; and hardship you shall never know. First, of wars and worries you shall not think, but shall ever be considering what choice food or drink you can find, what sight or sound will delight you, what touch or perfume; what tender love can give you most joy, what bed the softest slumbers; and how to come by all these pleasures with least trouble. And should there arise misgiving that lack of means may stint your enjoyments, never fear that I may lead you into winning them by toil and anguish of body and soul. Nay; you shall have the fruits of others' toil, and refrain from nothing that can bring you gain. For to my companions I give authority to pluck advantage where they will.’"

When Kakia finishes her attempted seduction, Arete addresses Herakles thus:
"‘I, too, am come to you, Herakles: I know your parents and I have taken note of your character during the time of your education. Therefore I hope that, if you take the road that leads to me, you will turn out a right good doer of high and noble deeds, and I shall be yet more highly honoured and more illustrious for the blessings I bestow. But I will not deceive you by a pleasant prelude: I will rather tell you truly the things that are, as the gods have ordained them. For of all things good\par and fair, the gods give nothing to man without toil and effort. If you want the favour of the gods, you must worship the gods: if you desire the love of friends, you must do good to your friends: if you covet honour from a city, you must aid that city: if you are fain to win the admiration of all Hellas [Greece] for virtue, you must strive to do good to Hellas: if you want land to yield you fruits in abundance, you must cultivate that land: if you are resolved to get wealth from flocks, you must care for those flocks: if you essay to grow great through war and want power to liberate your friends and subdue your foes, you must learn the arts of war from those who know them and must practice their right use: and if you want your body to be strong, you must accustom your body to be the servant of your mind, and train it with toil and sweat.’"
In response, Kakia makes another attempt at seduction:
 "‘Herakles, mark you how hard and long is that road to joy, of which this woman tells? but I will lead you by a short and easy road to happiness.’"
And before Herakles takes the bait, Arete puts Kakia in perspective:
 "‘What good thing is thine, poor wretch, or what pleasant thing dost thou know, if thou wilt do nought to win them? Thou dost not even tarry for the desire of pleasant things, but fillest thyself with all things before thou desirest them, eating before thou art hungry, drinking before thou art thirsty, getting thee cooks, to give zest to eating, buying thee costly wines and running to and fro in search of snow in summer, to give zest to drinking; to soothe thy slumbers it is not enough for thee to buy soft coverlets, but thou must have frames for thy beds. For not toil, but the tedium of having nothing to do, makes thee long for sleep. Thou dost rouse lust by many a trick, when there is no need, using men as women: thus thou trainest thy friends, waxing wanton by night, consuming in sleep the best hours of day. Immortal art thou, yet the outcast of the gods, the scorn of good men. Praise, sweetest of all things to hear, thou hearest not: the sweetest of all sights thou beholdest not, for never yet hast thou beheld a good work wrought by thyself. Who will believe what thou dost say? who will grant what thou dost ask? Or what sane man will dare join thy throng? While thy votaries are young their bodies are weak, when they wax old, their souls are without sense; idle and sleek they thrive in youth, withered and weary they journey through old age, and their past deeds bring them shame, their present deeds distress. Pleasure they ran through in their youth: hardship they laid up for their old age. But I company with gods and good men, and no fair deed of god or man is done without my aid. I am first in honour among the gods and among men that are akin to me: to craftsmen a beloved fellow-worker, to masters a faithful guardian of the house, to servants a kindly protector: good helpmate in the toils of peace, staunch ally in the deeds of war, best partner in friendship. To my friends meat and drink bring sweet and simple enjoyment: for they wait till they crave them. And a sweeter sleep falls on them than on idle folk: they are not vexed at awaking from it, nor for its sake do they neglect to do their duties. The young rejoice to win the praise of the old; the elders are glad to be honoured by the young; with joy they recall their deeds past, and their present well-doing is joy to them, for through me they are dear to the gods, lovely to friends, precious to their native land. And when comes the appointed end, they lie not forgotten and dishonoured, but live on, sung and remembered for all time. O Herakles, thou son of goodly parents, if thou wilt labour earnestly on this wise, thou mayest have for thine own the most blessed happiness.’"

So, deep in the European pagan soul, self-reliance, industriousness, temperance in food and sex, loyalty, friendliness, honesty, discipline, courage, martial artistry, physical fitness training, service to one's people and honor all are manifestations of manliness, excellence, VIRTUE.

Self-indulgence, laziness, hedonism, weakness, meekness, intemperance in food and sex, living at the expense and taking advantage of others for one's own benefit – basically, all the values promoted by Hollywood, feminism and socialism – all are manifestations of weakness and VICE.

Since, thanks to 2 millennia of lies and propaganda, many people believe that Europeans were vicious, hedonistic barbarians before being yoked by wholly foreign Middle Eastern Abrahamic doctrines, I want to emphasize, this is PAGAN religion and morality, at least 5 centuries before Christianity – a.k.a. Messianic Judaism – emerged and became the state religion of Rome.

European pagans had high morals and never needed so-called "redemption" by Christianity.


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