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Greek Quotations

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. (A precept 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]!" [While Archimedes 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. [Epikurean frase, 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 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)

Medčn 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)


Gems from the East, Eastern quotes, citations, Asian quotations, Literature  

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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