The original meaning of the word philanthropy
Westerners owe the word philanthropy to the Greeks, who, since the fifth century BC ceaselessly elaborated on their idea of philanthropia. Etymologically, philanthropy means ‘the love of humanity’ and is generally believed to have been coined 2,500 years ago by its use in the myth Prometheus Bound.
In this mythic tale we are told how the primitive creatures that were created to be human at first had no knowledge, skills, or culture of any kind and so they lived in caves, in the dark, in constant fear for their lives.
Zeus, the tyrannical king of the gods, decided to destroy them, but Prometheus, a Titan whose name meant forethought, out of his ‘philanthropos tropos’ or ‘humanity-loving character’ gave them two empowering, life-enhancing, gifts: fire, which symbolises all knowledge, skills, technology, arts, and science, and ‘blind hope’ or ‘optimism’.