Prome¯theia ("forethought") until Plato

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Starting in Archilochus and ending in Plato's Protagoras, this article reconstructs the meaning of prome\theia and the related verb and adjective. Both the word's relation with the god Prometheus and its etymology are uncertain, and dictionary definitions, treating it as meaning either "forethought" or "due regard, caution," are imprecise. On the basis of the several dozen uses of prome¯theia (and its relatives) in archaic and Classical Greek, I argue that exercising prome¯theia means deciding on what bases to act-in other words, discerning what is practically important. Prome¯theia is related to so¯phrosune¯ and aido¯s; is called for in contexts of ignorance about the future; and was a natural choice when Plato sought a term meaning "rational reflection."

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)381-420
Number of pages40
JournalAmerican Journal of Philology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Classics
  • Cultural Studies
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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