The history of the word “philanthropy” comes from the Greeks who coined the phrase over 2,500 years ago around 500 BC. They defined the word to mean “the love of humanity.”
The word found its origin in the ancient Greek myth, Prometheus Bound. The tale goes a little something like this: Zeus wanted to destroy all of the humans on the earth, but a titan named Prometheus stood in his way. Prometheus had a humanity-loving character, what the Greeks call “philanthropos tropos.” Because of his love for humans, he gave the humans two gifts: fire and blind hope. Fire represented knowledge and skills, while blind how was a symbol of optimism. With the use of fire, humans could become optimistic, and with their optimism, they could improve their lives with the use of fire.
Let’s go back to “philanthropos tropos.” The word philanthropos is a combination of two words: philos and anthropos. Philos means to love, to care for, or to nourish. Anthropos is the word for human begins or mankind. With the two gifts from Prometheus, human beings were now considered a civilized animal and their essence of civilization was “philanthropia,” the love of benefiting humans.
The gifts that Prometheus bestowed upon the human were empowering and were often associated with democracy and freedom. This why the ancient laws of Athens and Socrates are described as “philanthropic and democratic.” Philanthropic efforts became signs of solidarity and community strength in the Greek culture. The wealthy held the civic duty of giving back to the community whether it was voluntary or by peer pressure. With wealth comes great responsibility.
To this day, the Greek culture educates their community with the importance of giving back to society. Sharing your wealth with others is one of the many goals of excellence taught in Greek communities.