Philanthropy, the Greek-Roman Tradition
In any event, this is an area of concern likely to be around for a long time. Somewhere back in time the notion of private individuals of great wealth building facilities and devoting funds for the general public good developed. We see clear evidence of this in the Greek and Roman societies, although in ancient Egypt as well Royal families were involved in establishing libraries and centers of learning.
Unlike charity which tended to focus on individual need and distress, this form of philanthropy focused upon the people-at-large. We know of an Athenian, Herodes Atticus, who gave a water supply for the City of Troas, a theater for Corinth, public baths for Thermopylae and a stadium for Delphi (in Italy).
We know of the landmark institution of higher education founded in Athens in 387 BC, Platos Academy. This voluntary association for the public good was established with the intent that it would continue after Platos lifetime, to be carried on by former students.
Plato left the Academy plus an endowment of productive land to a nephew with the stipulation it be administered for the benefit of his followers. The nephew, in turn, left it to Xenocrates, a philosopher and one of Platos former students.
The Academy thus continued as a center of learning until finally being closed by the Emperor Justinian in 529 AD. It was the first of the many institutions of higher education that have developed since in Western civilization.
It is from this tradition of giving for the general public good that much of modern institutional philanthropy has evolved.
We could further trace the development of this trend in philanthropy here but, because it is essentially institutional, we will defer to the next section, Voluntary Association, which is intended to fully develop the notion of institutional philanthropy.
The Greek-Roman tradition leads particularly to development of our private institutions of education, as well as libraries and museums---in short, to those devoted to education, culture and the arts.
We do know that this tradition is represented by an important element of contemporary American philanthropy. Nearly a third of all giving in this country goes to causes other than charity or health care---about 20% to education and cultural pursuits, much of the remainder to public benefit, the environment or international affairs.