Editable Codex
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For the article on all of the virtues in the entire Ultima series and their relationships, see Virtues.


The Eight Virtues (sometimes known as the Eight Virtues of the Avatar,[​1]​[​2]​[​3]​​ the Eight Virtues of Avatarhood, and the Eight Virtues of Goodness[​4]​​) is a Virtue system featured in the Ultima series. The player is required to follow this system in the game as the Avatar. These Virtues were intended to enlighten this CRPG series.[​5]​


After the defeat of Exodus and the closing of the Age of Darkness, Lord British created a Virtue system designed to be a new vision of life, for which people might strive. As most of the evil from outside had been vanquished, Lord British wanted people to start rooting out the evil that lurks within themselves. Each of the eight main towns was dedicated to one of the Eight Virtues, and Shrines were built near each one of them. Castles and Shrines were also created to be dedicated to the Three Principles that lead to the Virtues.

In order for this new philosophy to work, Lord British created the Quest of the Avatar, to find someone that could achieve enlightenment in all Virtues. This embodiment of the Virtues, the Avatar, would then become an example for the rest of Britannia, to motivate people into improving themselves in the different Virtues.


The Three Principles[]

The Eight Virtues, defined first in Ultima IV, are based on Three Principles:

Principle Place associated Item Color
Truth Lycaeum Book of Truth Blue
Love Empath Abbey Candle of Love Yellow
Courage Serpent's Hold Bell of Courage Red

These Principles are themselves derived from the Axiom of Infinity, which is represented in Castle Britannia. They are also represented by the Flames of the Principles.

The Eight Virtues[]

Symbols of the virtues.gif

The Principles are combined to form the following Eight Virtues:

Virtue Principles Towns associated Mantra Shrine Player Class Color Symbol Dungeon Word of Power
Honesty Pure Truth Moonglow Ahm Shrine of Honesty Mage Blue Open hand Deceit Fallax
Compassion Pure Love Britain¹, Cove Mu Shrine of Compassion Bard Yellow Heart/Rose Despise Vilis
Valor Pure Courage Jhelom Ra Shrine of Valor Fighter Red Sword Destard Inopia
Justice Truth, Love Yew Beh Shrine of Justice Druid Green Scales Wrong Malum
Sacrifice Love, Courage Minoc Cah Shrine of Sacrifice Tinker Orange Tear Covetous Avidus
Honor Truth, Courage Trinsic Summ Shrine of Honor Paladin Purple Chalice Shame Infama
Spirituality Truth, Love, and Courage Skara Brae Om Shrine of Spirituality Ranger White Ankh Hythloth Ignavus
Humility Truth, Love, and Courage independently New Magincia² Lum Shrine of Humility Shepherd Black Shepherd staff None N/A


  1. Britain is the original town of Compassion, Cove is nearest the shrine.
  2. Magincia was destroyed by demons for its Pride (Pride's mantra is Mul, the reverse of Humility's mantra). New Magincia, built in its ruins, was founded on Humility.

The Embodiment of the Virtues in the game is the Avatar, the character who the player is roleplaying. He (or she) is commonly seen with an Ankh which represents life.

Codex colored.png

The relationship between the Principles and Virtues is often explained this way:

  • Honesty is respect for Truth
  • Compassion is Love of others
  • Valor is Courage to stand up against risks
  • Justice is Truth, tempered by Love
  • Sacrifice is Courage to give oneself in name of Love
  • Honor is Courage to seek and uphold the Truth
  • Spirituality is to seek Truth, Love and Courage from one's own self and the world around
  • Humility is the opposite of Pride - the absence of Truth, Love or Courage

Humility is the most difficult Virtue to describe, as it cannot really be understood without its Anti-Virtue, Pride. Pride merely has nothing to do with Truth, Love and Courage; Humility is similar, but rather than being a complete antithesis, it exists independently of the Principles and acts as their foundation.

The New Magincian ghosts also have a few things to say about Humility and Pride, from which the following may be constructed:

Humility: The absence of Truth, Love, and Courage is Pride. Pride is the surest measure of goals never attained. Pride goeth before, Shame cometh after. This Shame leads to awareness of Humility, the root from which all Virtues grow. Humility is to strip oneself of all conceits.

See also The Codex Symbol, which explains the relationships between the virtues through colors.

For a similar additive conceptual model applied in contemporary psychology, see Robert Sternberg's triangular theory of love.

The Principles of the Shadowlords[]


In Ultima V, each of the Shadowlords opposed one of the three Principles.

Principle Opposing principle Shadowlord
Cowardice Courage Nosfentor
Hatred Love Astaroth
Falsehood Truth Faulinei

Lord Blackthorn's Code of Virtue[]

In Ultima V, Lord Blackthorn, the tyrant who ruled in Lord British's absence, codified the Britannian Virtues into a set of draconian laws, known as Lord Blackthorn's Code of Virtue, and Blackthorn's Eight Laws of Virtue.

Virtue Law
Honesty Thou shalt not lie, or thou shalt lose thy tongue.
Compassion Thou shalt help those in need, or thou shalt suffer the same need.
Valor Thou shalt fight to the death if challenged, or thou shalt be banished as a coward.
Justice Thou shalt confess to thy crime and suffer its just punishment, or thou shalt be put to death.
Sacrifice Thou shalt donate half of thy income to charity, or thou shalt have no income.
Honor If thou dost lose thine own honor, thou shalt take thine own life.
Spirituality Thou shalt enforce the laws of virtue, or thou shalt die as a heretic.
Humility Thou shalt humble thyself to thy superiors, or thou shalt suffer their wrath.

Blackthorn's Code is a good illustration of the fact that the Virtues always come from one's own self rather than the norms of society; codifying ethics into law does not automatically make evil people good. Further, unethical lawmakers can take the Virtues and turn them into something that is quite contrary to what Virtues actually stand for.

Real Life Development[]

Strangely enough, The Wizard of Oz played a part in the creation of the virtues, with designer Richard Garriott stating at one time that the three companions of Dorothy Gale could be linked to the three principles — Scarecrow (Truth), Tin Woodsman (Love) and Cowardly Lion (Courage). This is also alluded to in Ultima VI and Ultima VII, where one can find a copy of the book - the description blurb the game gives alludes to this relationship as well. Richard Garriott claims it is his favourite book.

In an interview with Computer Games Online, Richard Garriott revealed some things about how he developed the Eight Virtues for Ultima IV:

"I started with a whiteboard and wrote down all of the virtues and vices I could think of, the seven deadly sins, many, many others. Obviously I wanted to talk about a few of these, but I couldn't address them all."

"As I did more research, I began to notice things like greed and envy would have some overlap, so I needed to create a core set. You can easily split them up into virtues and vices, and eventually arrived at three primary aspects, which became the principle virtues of Truth, Love and Courage. Truth became Honesty, Love became Compassion, Courage became Valor, and I created the eight possible combinations of these three. Truth tempered by Love became Justice, Love and Courage became Personal Self-sacrifice, Courage and Truth became Chivalric Honor. Truth Love and Courage was kind of arbitrary, so I thought, "What is the all-encompassing virtue?" I said, "Spirituality," whether or not you're doing good or bad deeds in the world."

"And what if you do none of the above? If not being virtuous is part of your psyche, I call it pride. Pride is not a virtue, so I decided to use the opposite, Humility. Since the eighth combination created a non-virtue, I began to create bits of pseudo-science I was pretty pleased with."

"Ultimas are big in mathematical pseudo-science and alchemy, so I invented the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom to graphically illustrate their relationship. Then I associated the cities with the virtues, with the eighth one - which I called Magincia, the city of Pride - destroyed. Having these seven positive things with one eighth one that had to be flipped made for a nice variety of quests you could create."

"Once the eight virtues were created, I needed to come up with quotes that expressed why each was important. And had to think of tests for people to see if they were supporting that virtue. Honesty was easy - I let you cheat shopkeepers and steal things, but the game kept a record where it could, later in the game, come back to haunt you. Just like the real world. Why is it you don't steal from people? Because if you do they'll throw you in jail or disown you. So that's how I designed the game - people will reject you if you're not honest."

"So I went virtue by virtue and tried to craft these types of experiences."


  1. Kyle the Younger. "Chapter X: Modern Civilization and Our Universe". The History of Britannia. Ultima IV.
  2. Lord British. "Afterword". The History of Britannia. Ultima IV.
  3. Lord British. Online transcripts, Notable Ultima Transcript. Ultima IV. "virt".
  4. Lord British Online transcripts, Notable Ultima Transcript. Ultima IV. "ques".
  5. Addams, Shay. "A Philosophical Message". The Official Book of Ultima. COMPUTE! Publications, Inc.: 1990. Page 41-42.

The Eight Virtues
Principles TruthLoveCourage
Virtues HonestyCompassionValorJusticeSacrificeHonorSpiritualityHumility