Some sayings of ancient Greek philosophers have become proverbs too. Here are 129 quotations of Greek thinkers, in English.
A hero is born among a hundred, a wise man is found among a thousand, but an accomplished one might not be found even among a hundred thousand men. - Plato
A rich bride should fit in with her husband. - Plato
Appearances and reality do not always agree. - Synesius
As little as possible, or as pleasant as possible. - Aesop to Solon of the language needed by courtiers.
Beauty lies [in part] in the eyes of the beholder. - Plato
Beauty of style and harmony and grace and good rhythm depend on simplicity - I mean the true simplicity of a rightly and nobly ordered mind and character, not that other simplicity which is only a euphemism for folly. - Plato
Big book, big bore. - Callimachus
But most of all respect thyself. - From the Golden Verses of the Pythagoreans.
By trusting I lost money, and by distrusting I saved it. - Theognis
Charity seldom breeds gratitude. - Anaxandrides
Components of virtue are . . . gentleness, prudence, wisdom. - Aristotle
Do not attempt what is beyond your capability. - Democritus
Education is teaching our children to desire the right things. - Plato
Envy creates the beginning of strife. - Democritus
Even the fool knows when he has suffered. - Hesiod
Father Jove, grant us good, whether we pray for it or not; and avert from us evil, even though we pray for it. - A prayer by an unknown poet, highly commended by Plato.
Fools . . . squander what they have. - Democritus
Free is living as you choose. - Epictetus
Full oft does a whole city suffer from one bad man. - Hesiod
God . . . is pleased with just deeds, and not with unjust. - Menander
Goodness is simple, badness is manifold. - Anon.
Graciousness knows no repentance. - Theophrastus
Great undertakings require great preparations. - Heliodorus
Guard against bad men lest they seize their opportunity. - Democritus
He is a fool who leaves certainties for uncertainties. - Hesiod, Fragments
He who commits injustice is ever made more wretched than he who suffers it. - Plato
He who is wicked in his private life, may not be trustworthy in public affairs. - With Aeschines
Heureka! "I have found [it]!" - Archimedes [While he was taking a bath, he noticed that the level of the water rose as he got in, and he realized that the volume of water displaced must be equal to the volume of the part of his body he had submerged. This meant that the volume of irregular objects could be measured with precision, a previously intractable problem. He was so excited that he ran through the streets naked and still wet from his bath, crying "I have found it!"]
Him who is dead and gone, honour with your remembrance, not, with your tears. - Dio Chrystostom
How small things overthrow us! - Euripides
I grow old ever learning many things. • As I grow older, I constantly learn more. - Solon
I hate the philosopher who is not wise for himself. - Euripides, quoted by Cicero
I look upon it as more difficult to find a man who bears prosperity well than one who bears misfortune well. - Xenophon
If women are expected to do the same work as men, we must teach them the same things. - Plato
If you add little to little, and do so repeatedly, it will very quickly become much. - Hesiod
If you associate with the wicked, you will become wicked yourself. - Menander
If you kill such a one as I am, you will injure yourselves more than you will injure me. - Socrates
If you put by little to little, and often, it will quickly become much. - Hesiod
In every undertaking there is nothing worse than evil company. - Aeschylus
Insolence is a prelude to destruction. - Proverb quoted by Gregory Nazianzen.
It does not always happen that those who are in positions of authority are gentlemen. - Aristotle
It is more prudent not to trust the wicked than to trust them first and then censure them. - Dionysius of Halicarnassus
Justice is not long in overtaking those who do ill. - Opp. Orpheus
Keep a healthy mind in a healthy body. - Aristides
Know your opportunity. - Pittacus, one of the Seven Wise Men of Greece.
Know yourself. - Aphorism inscribed over the entrance to the temple of Apollo at Delphi.
Knowledge which is acquired under compulsion has no hold on the mind. Therefore, do not use compulsion, but let early education be a sort of amusement; you will then be better able to discover the child's natural bent. - Plato
Knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind. - Plato
Language is to the mind what beauty is to the body. - Aristides the Rhetorician
Láthe biosas - "Live hidden" • Remain hidden in life. - Epicurean phrase. Epicurus suggested that everybody should live "Hidden" far from cities, not even considering a political career. Cicero criticized this idea because, as a stoic, he had a completely different opinion of politics, but the sentiment is echoed by Ovid's statement bene qui latuit bene vixit - "he has lived well who has stayed well hidden", Tristia 3.4.25). Plutarch elaborated it in his essay Is the Saying "Live in Obscurity" Right?
Law is order, and good law is good order. - Aristotle
Let us drink gently with beautiful songs. - Anacreon
Let us seize opportunity; for as it comes we may catch it, but when it has passed 'tis vain to seek it. - Gregory Nazianzen
Life is short and the art (of healing) is long. - Hippocrates. Aphorism No. 1
Live an orderly life in small things and great alike. - Aristotle
Make not evil gains; evil gains are equal to a loss. - Hesiod
Man [is] the measure [of all things]. [Protagoras
Man is born to do good. - Antoninus
Many a friendship based on utility dissolves as soon as its profit ceases. - With Aristotle
Medàn ágan. - "Nothing in excess". - Inscription, the temple of Apollon in Delhi
Métron áriston - "Moderation is best." On occasions where neither too much nor too little is a good choice, as when eating or celebrating. - From Herodotus (7,152 etc.) and Cleobulus
Milk the ewe that is at hand; why pursue the one that flies? - Theocritus
Mind is the swiftest - for it runs through everything. - Thales
Musical training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul. - Plato
My advice to you is get married: if you find a good wife you'll be happy; if not, you'll become a philosopher. - Socrates
Noble deeds are recognised and emulated by those of natural virtue. - Democritus
Not every man can do good to another. - Plato
Not life, but good life, is to be chiefly valued. - Socrates
Often evil men are rich . . . But we will not exchange with them. - Solon
One swallow does not make a [the] spring. - Aristotle
One tyrant helps another. - Herodotus
Play in order that you may work. - Anacharsis
Precaution [forethough] is better than repentance. - Dionysius of Halicarnassus
Put the blame where it belongs. - Sophocles
Quickness of apprehension and clearsightedness direct most things in life. - Democritus
Refrain from evil not out of fear but because it is right. - Democritus
Relaxation and amusement seem to be a necessary element in life. - Aristotle
Say not a little with a lot, but a lot with a little. - Pythagoras
Sleeping during the day indicates a distressed body or a troubled mind or idleness or lack of education. - Democritus
Small opportunities are often the beginning of great enterprises. - Demosthenes
Speaking little is a woman's ornament. - Democritus
Surgeons have their implements and instruments at hand for an operation on an emergency. - Antoninius, mod
The art of living well and the art of dying well are one. - Epicurus
The basis of a democratic state is liberty. - Aristotle
The best citizen [is] to be in charge of education. - Plato
The better city is without high buildings. - Epictetus
The evil never attains to any real friendship, either with good or evil. - Plato
The first and best victory is to conquer self. - What matters is what is meant by that, and how it is best done.] [Plato
The foundation of every state, is its education of its youth. - Diogenes
The Indian elephant does not heed the fly. - Phalaris
The most effective kind of education is that a child should play among lovely things. - Plato
The most valuable thing to spend is time. - Theophrastus
The object of education is to teach us to love what is beautiful. - Plato
The older I grow, the more I learn. - Solon
The right time and for the right length of it. - Aristotle
The ruler is as much a part of the state as those who are ruled. - Maximus from Tyrus
The soul takes . . . with her to the next world but her education and her culture. At the beginning of the journey to the next world, one's education and culture can either provide the greatest assistance, or else act as the greatest burden, to the person who has just died. - Plato
The successful man is attended with no small envy. - Pindar
The tongue can turn a trifling cause to violence. - Euripides
The truth is bitter and disagreeable to fools; while falsehood is sweet and soothing. - Dio Chrysostom
The wise man carries with him his wealth. - Menander
There is nothing more inventive than adversity. - Gregory Nazianzen
There's no place like home. - Hesiod
Foresight, too, is a manly quality (i.e. caution is true valour). - Euripides
Those who are able to see beyond the shadows and lies of their culture will never be understood, let alone believed, by the masses. - Plato
Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber. - Plato
Those who go to sea are only four inches from death. - Anacharsis, a Scythian philosopher.
Though both [Plato and truth] are dear to me, it is right to prefer truth. [Plato is my friend, but truth is a better friend (literally: Plato is friend, but truth is more friend (to me than he is).] - Aristotle, attr.
To be avoided: . . . brutishness. - Aristotle, abr.
To be conscious that we are . . . thinking is to be conscious that we exist. - Aristotle
Up to the age of five . . ., children should be allowed enough movement to avoid bodily inactivity. - Aristotle
Victory is not always on the side of numbers. - Thucidides
Virtue consists not in avoiding wrongdoing, but in having no desire for it. - Democritus
We know, when we choose, how to convey the truth in fables. - Hesiod
We must look to the mind, and not to the outward appearance. - Aesop, attr.
Wealth . . . wrongfully to get it, I do not wish. Justice, even if slow, is sure. - Solon
Wealth consists rather in how it is used than in possessing it. - Aristotle
Well, this is solitude; whatever I say, there's no one here to listen. - Anon.
Wellbeing is attained by little and little, and nevertheless is no little thing itself." - Citium Zeno
What in life gives greater pleasure, . . . Than to stroll in easy leisure . . .? - Anacreontea
What is easy? To advise another. - Thales
What soon grows old? Gratitude. - Aristotle
Which was to be proved. [hoper edei deixai (The very thing it was required to have shown). Its Latin translation, Quod erat demonstrandum (- what was to be demonstrated) - or , shown or proved), is abbreviated into Q.e.d. or QED, which is put after a demonstration or proof as a more or less formal conclusion sign.]
Who will teach the children? what [will] they teach them? - Plato
Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something. - Plato
You can never bring a crab to walk straight. - Aristophanes
You can't take from one who doesn't have. - Menippus to Charon
You must not severely scrutinize the actions of others unless you have first done your duty yourselves. - Demosthenes
You should not honour men more than truth. - Plato
Youth is the best time to be rich, and the best time to be poor. - Euripides
Benham, William Gurney. A Book of Quotations, Proverbs and Household Words. London: London: Cassell and Co., 1907. ⍽▢⍽ More recent reprint editions exist.
Inwood, Brad, and L. P. Gerson, trs. Hellenistic Philosophy: Introductory Readings. 2. utg. London: Hackett Publishing Company, 1997.
Yeroulanos, Marinos, red. A Dictionary of Classical Greek Quotations. London: I. B. Tauris, 2016.
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