Thumos: How to Re-Ignite The Fire Within You

Cam Billings
7 min readMay 27, 2022
Photo by Ryan Cryar on Unsplash

The ancient Greek philosopher Plato used an allegory of the chariot to describe the psyche or soul of a man. This psyche has three distinct elements that together make a man. These three elements are rationality, appetites, and thumos.

In the allegory, the three elements were represented by a chariot, charioteer, dark horse, and white horse.

The chariot is the soul, comprising all three elements. Reason or rationality is represented by the charioteer. The dark horse is rebellious, representing a man’s appetites or desires. And the white horse represents a man’s thumos.

In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into the white horse… the element of thumos.

What is thumos?

The word “thumos”, also commonly known as “thymos”, loosely translates to spiritedness. Thumos represents the spirit within a man. This spiritedness is not spiritual in the religious sense.

Thumos is the power within a man. The Energy. The drive to win. Ambition. Courage. Honor.

The element of thumos can act as a separate entity from you. But it could also act with you as a tool, an accompaniment, or motivation that compels you to take action (1).

Thumos is “the fire in the belly,” which was an idea developed by philosopher Sam Keen.

It’s what gives men willpower and self-discipline.

Thumos is what gives you “oomph” in your life.

There is no exact translation of the word today. This is an interesting observation that we’ll discuss shortly.

Why is thumos important?

Thumos is the force inside of a man that pushes him to do great things. A man uses his thumos to face challenges head-on. To face his fears. To overcome obstacles. To win.

Not only is thumos the root cause of an emotion, but it is also the actual emotion itself (1). The source and the emotion are tied together, acting as one.

When a man has thumos, he seeks glory and honor. His actions become his path to these goals. He is a man on a mission.

According to the Greek philosopher Empedocles, thumos is “the seat of life.” It…

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Cam Billings

Copywriter. Take action. Make mistakes. Learn. Implement. Win.