Temperance (Sophrosyne in Greek) is the practice of moderation. It was one of the four "cardinal" virtues held to be vital to society in Hellenic culture. It is one of the Four Cardinal Virtues considered central to Christian behaviour by the Catholic Church and is an important tenet of the moral codes of other world religions—for example, it is one of the Five Precepts of Buddhism.
Classically, temperance was defined as governing natural appetites for the pleasure of senses according to the bounds of reason. No virtue could be sustained in the face of inability to control oneself, if the virtue was opposed to some desire; this is why it is classified as a cardinal virtue, where "cardinal" signifies "pivotal."
The virtues of abstinence, chastity, and modesty are considered sub-classes of the virtue of temperance, as it governs the practice of eating and drinking, practice of sexual intercourse, and the restraint of vanity.
Temperance movements were originally aimed at generating temperance – moderation – in drinking of alcoholic beverages. In its prohibition aspects, it was wittily described by G.K. Chesterton as "an intemperate denunciation of temperate drinking."
With regard to Christian theology, the word temperance is used by the King James Version in Galatians 5:22 for the Greek word engkrateia, which means self-control or discipline (Strong's, 1466). It is believed to be a fruit, or demonstrated evidence of the influence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, but it is not implied that every person who has discipline is a believer or necessarily under the Holy Spirit's influence. Rather, the believer who is continually yielding their life to God will be thus influenced by the Holy Spirit, and demonstrate the characteristics described in verses 21-22.