I am afraid that my mind is getting a little too old and feeble to be original. Therefore I tend to purloin where I can and invent where I cannot.
With that confession out of the way I continue with a paraphrasing or lifting of the words by H. D. F. Kitto’s “The Greeks.”
A being is identified by his usefulness. A racehorse by his speed, a wagon horse by his strength, and a man by the things that a man is capable of doing excellently.
Man can be excellent by his intellectual capabilities, his physical ability and endurance, in is practical sensibilities and of course his ability to build wealth as well as being moral. Arête means the excellent combination of all of these. The Greeks did not think that specialization was a good thing. Specialization was something that a slave should be trained to do. A man with arête was a great fighter, a wily schemer, a ready speaker, a man of stout heart and great wisdom.
A man of arête could endure what life handed him without too much complaining to the Gods. He could engage in boxing, throwing the discus, wrestle and run. Not run today’s marathon for that was a specialization which the Greeks would have frowned upon.
A man of arête could slay an ox, skin it and cook it and also be moved to tears by a song, play a flute or simply be a doer of deeds.
This is why the Greeks were independent and creative thinkers. They had no ideals to follow or chase – except for those that they considered their own.
They did it their way – and a man who could do all of those things his own way and do it with excellence was immortalized in prose, poetry and song.
This was the arête of the Greeks.
End of series on arête.