The 4 Cardinal Virtues

Wisdom * Bravery * Temperance * Justice

Plato considered that the ideal state should be governed by ‘the wise, brave, temperate, and just.’ These virtues—often listed as Prudence, Fortitude, Temperance, and Justice—were popularized by Christian apologists and combined with the three theological virtues (Faith, Hope, and Charity) to create a group of virtues to stand in opposition to the Seven Deadly Sins. Wisdom (or its feminine archetype, Prudence) is often depicted with a book, mirror, snake, and compass. Bravery (fortitude) may be found standing next to a Greek helmet, a spear, shield, Samson’s pillars or a Herculean club and Nemean lion skin. Temperance may be spotted holding a sheathed sword, a torch, a clock, or mixing water into wine. Justice remains a familiar modern figure with her blindfold, an upheld sword in one hand and a pair of scales in the other.

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

 

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