What Was Arete in Ancient Greece?

Arete was an essential concept in ancient Greece, often associated with the idea of excellence or virtue. The term Arete comes from the Greek word arête, which means “excellence” or “virtue.” This concept was a fundamental part of Greek society and culture, and it influenced many aspects of life, including politics, education, and philosophy.

What is Arete?

Arete is a term that encompasses the idea of excellence in all aspects of life. It is not just about being good at one thing but rather about being excellent in everything you do.

This includes being physically fit, mentally strong, morally upright, and socially responsible. In other words, Arete refers to the complete development of an individual’s potential.

The Origins of Arete

The concept of Arete can be traced back to Homer’s epic poems Iliad and Odyssey. In these works, heroes were praised for their bravery in battle and their ability to excel in all areas of life. The ideal Greek hero was not just a warrior but also a wise leader who possessed moral integrity and intellectual acumen.

Arete in Education

In ancient Greece, education played a significant role in shaping individuals into virtuous citizens who could contribute to society positively. The Greeks believed that education should focus on developing the whole person rather than just imparting knowledge.

To achieve this goal, they included physical training and moral education alongside academic instruction. Physical training included gymnastics and athletics aimed at developing physical fitness and coordination. Moral education emphasized ethics and character development through the teaching of virtues such as courage, honesty, justice, and self-control.

Arete in Philosophy

Greek philosophers also embraced the concept of Arete in their teachings. Socrates believed that knowledge led to virtue, which was essential for achieving happiness. Plato argued that true happiness could only be attained by living a virtuous life, while Aristotle believed that the ultimate goal of human life was to achieve eudaimonia, which he defined as a state of happiness and fulfillment resulting from the development of one’s potential.


In conclusion, Arete was an essential concept in ancient Greek culture that emphasized excellence in all areas of life. It influenced education, politics, and philosophy and was seen as essential for creating virtuous citizens who could contribute positively to society. Arete remains relevant today as we strive to develop our potential and lead fulfilling lives.