A selection of Proverbs

fish vase

“A spider doesn’t know how she teaches her children”. This is because after she feeds them, she dies at their hands. This is a proverb about taking care of something against your own interest.”

Ἀγνοεῖ δ’ ἀράχνη παῖδας ὡς παιδεύεται. θρέψασα γὰρ τέθνηκε πρὸς τῶν φιλτάτων: ἐπὶ τῶν καθ’ ἑαυτῶν τι πραγματευομένων. [Suda]

“Shake down a different oak tree”. This is a proverb about those who are constantly asking something or borrowing something from the same people. There is another one too: “enough oak!” This is about those who eat something with difficulty and without pleasure but then find something better.”

Ἄλλην δρῦν βαλάνιζε: ἐπὶ τῶν ἐνδελεχῶς αἰτούντων τι ἢ παρὰ τῶν αὐτῶν ἀεὶ δανειζομένων. καὶ ἑτέρα παροιμία: Ἅλις δρυός. ἐπὶ τῶν δυσχερῶς μέν τι καὶ ἀηδῶς ἐσθιόντων, ἕτερον δὲ βέλτιον εὑρόντων. [Suda]

“The owl says one thing; a crow says another”. A proverb concerning people who are not in harmony with each other”

Ἄλλο γλαὺξ, ἄλλο κορώνη φθέγγεται: παροιμία ἐπὶ τῶν ἀλλήλοις οὐσυμφωνούντων. [Suda]

“Aiks, aigos: also in a proverb: “The she-goat gives the blade”.

For when the Corinthians sacrifice in the temple to Hera Akraia which they say was founded by Medeia, the hired men hid the knife in the ground and pretended they forgot it. But the she-goat uncovered it with her feet.”

Αἴξ, αἰγός. καὶ παροιμία· ῾Η αἲξ δοῦσα τὴν μάχαιραν. Κορινθίων γὰρ ῞Ηρᾳ ᾿Ακραίᾳ θυόντων, ἣν λέγεται ἱδρῦσαι Μήδειαν, οἱ ἐν τῇ παρόχῳ μεμισθωμένοι γῇ κρύψαντες τὴν μάχαιραν ἐσκήπτοντο ἐπιλελῆσθαι. ἡ δὲ αἲξ αὐτὴν τοῖς ποσὶν ἀνεσκάλευσεν.

“Wineless” : It is a common idiom.  There is also a proverb: “if he asks for wine, give him a punch.” This is used in reference of people who ask for good things but get something bad.  The origin of this is when the Kyklops asks for wine but gets blinded instead.”

᾿Ανοινάριος· ὡς ἡ κοινὴ συνήθεια. καὶ παροιμία· ῍Αν οἶνον αἰτῇ, κονδύλους αὐτῷ δίδου· ἐπὶ τῶν ἀγαθὰ αἰτούντων, κακὰ δὲ λαμβανόντων. ἡ ἱστορία ἀπὸ τοῦ Κύκλωπος οἶνον αἰτήσαντος καὶ τυφλωθέντος. [Suda]

“You destroyed the wine when you added water!” This is a proverb used to refer to things that were going well but were ruined by some small mistake. It is also used of those who use deception to get what they want and are insincere in their dealings. This proverb comes from the Cylcopes of the poet Aristias according to Khaimeleon in his book about Satyr-plays.”

᾿Απώλεσας τὸν οἶνον ἐπιχέας ὕδωρ: ἐπὶ τῶν τὰ καλῶς πρότερον γενόμενα ὕστερον μικροῦ τινος ἕνεκεν κακοῦ ἀνατρεπόντων. ἢ ἐπὶ τῶν ἃ χαρίζονται δολούντων καὶ μὴ ἀκέραια παρεχομένων. αὕτη δὲ ἡ παροιμία γέγονεν ἐκ τοῦ ᾿Αριστίου Κύκλωπος, ὥς φησι Χαμαιλέων ἐν τῷ περὶ Σατύρων. [Suda]

“To flay a wineskin”: A proverb used in reference to people who set out to do something to excess. It means “to flay my skin to make a wine skin.”

᾿Ασκὸν δέρειν: ἐπὶ τῶν καθ’ ὑπερβολὴν ἐπαγγελλομένων πράττειν τι. τὸ δέρμα μου εἰς ἀσκὸν ἐκδερματίζειν. [Suda]

“An ox sits in the yard.”  A proverb concerning useless people.

Βοῦς ἐν αὐλίῳ κάθῃ: παροιμία ἐπὶ τῶν ἀχρήστων. [Suda]

To learn pottery on a wine-jar”: A proverb concerning students who jump beyond their first lessons, grasping at greater things. This is for those who miss out on their first lessons because they are eager for the last.”

Ἐν πίθῳ τὴν κεραμίαν μανθάνειν: παροιμία ἐπὶ τῶν τὰς πρώτας μὲν μαθήσεις ὑπερβαινόντων, ἁπτομένων δὲ τῶν μειζόνων. τουτέστι τῶν παριέντων τὰς πρώτας μαθήσεις καὶ ἐφιεμένων τῶν τελευταίων. [Suda]

“Let everyone take a turn prodding the fire.” A Proverb used when people don’t take an equal responsibility for a common effort. Also: Let the man who gives more, take more in turn.”

Ἐν τῷ μέρει τις καὶ τὸ πῦρ σκαλευσάτω: παροιμία ἐπὶ τῶν εἰς κοινὸν μὴ τὰ ἴσα παρεχομένων. πλείονα δῶρα δοὺς καὶ ἀντιλαβὼν ἐν τῷ μέρει. [Suda]

“Erginos’ gray hair: A proverb applied to the prematurely gray. This man was a child of Klumenos, one of the Argonauts. When Hypsipyle, the daughter of Thoas, the king of the Lemnians, held funeral games for her father, even though Erginos was young, he was prematurely gray, and he went there to compete in the games only to be mocked by the Lemnian women because of his gray hair. Therefore, he competed in the context most nobly and overcame his competitors the sons of Boreas, Zêthus and Kalaïs—he was wondered at for how far ahead he was! Pindar speaks about him when he says “a trial is a test of a man”.

᾿Εργίνου πολιαί: ἐπὶ τῶν προπολίων· οὗτος ἦν παῖς Κλυμένου, εἷς τῶν ᾿Αργοναυτῶν· ῾Υψιπύλης δὲ τῆς θυγατρὸς Θόαντος βασιλέως Λημνίων ἐπιτάφιον ἀγῶνα τοῦ πατρὸς προτεθεικυίας, ᾿Εργῖνος νέος μὲν ὢν τῇ ἡλικίᾳ, προπόλιος δέ, παρῆλθεν ἀγωνισόμενος, καὶ ἐγελᾶτο ὑπὸ τῶν Λημνιάδων γυναικῶν διὰ τὰς πολιάς· κάλλιστα οὖν τὸν ἀγῶνα διενεγκὼν καὶ τοὺς συνάθλους νικήσας Βορεάδας Ζῆθον καὶ Κάλαϊν, εἰς ὑπερβολὴν ἐθαυμάσθη. περὶ οὗ καὶ ὁ Πίνδαρος εἶπε, διάπειρά τοι βροτῶν ἔλεγχος. [Mich. Apost.]

“Ekhinos: Sea-urchin.  There is also this proverb: “[Not before] two sea urchins would become friends—one from the sea, and one from land.” A saying about dissimilar things.”

ἐχῖνος:… καὶ παροιμία· πρίν κε δύο ἐχῖνοι ἐς φιλίαν ἔλθοιεν, ὁ μὲν ἐκ πελάγους, ὁ δὲ ἐκ χέρσου· ἐπὶ τῶν ἀνομοίων. [Suda]

“He hammers a nail with a nail: This is a proverb for when you hurry to clean up one mistake by making another. This is impossible.”

῞Ηλῳ τὸν ἧλον ἐκκρούει: παροιμία. ἀντὶ τοῦ ἁμαρτήματι τὸ ἁμάρτημα σπεύδεις ἐξελάσαι· τὸ δὲ οὐχ οἷόν τε. [Suda]

“Herakles is being entertained: A proverb for those who proceed slowly. This is because people who welcome Herakles are occupied for a longtime since the hero is a glutton. The etymology of his name comes from a certain oracle: “Phoibus names you Herakles for you will earn immortal fame [kleos] in performing labors [êra] for men.”

῾Ηρακλῆς ξενίζεται: παροιμία ἐπὶ τῶν βραδυνόντων. οἱ γὰρ ὑποδεχόμενοι τὸν ῾Ηρακλέα βραδύνουσι· πολυφάγος γὰρ ὁ ἥρως. ἡ ἐτυμολογία τῆς κλήσεως ἀπό τινος χρησμοῦ· ῾Ηρακλῆν δέ σε Φοῖβος ἐπώνυμον ἐξονομάζει· ἦρα γὰρ ἀνθρώποισι φέρων, κλέος ἄφθιτον ἕξεις. [Suda]

“The interest speeds faster than Heraclitus of Perineum”: This man was a marvel for his speed. For this reason a proverb is used for people who borrow money at interest.”

Θᾶττον ὁ τόκος Ἡρακλείτω Περινέω τρέχει: οὗτος ἐθαυμάσθη ἐπὶ τάχει. εἴρηται οὖν ἡ παροιμία ἐπὶ τῶν δανειζομένων διὰ τὸν τόκον. [Suda]

“There is a proverb: “Shamelessness is a god. This is spoken for those who aid someone because of shamelessness. Shamelessness was honored as a god in Athens. She also had a temple there, as Istros records in his 14th book.”

καὶ παροιμία: Θεὸς ἡ Ἀναίδεια. λέγεται κατὰ τῶν δι’ ἀναισχυντίαν τινὰ ὠφελούντων. ἐτιμᾶτο δὲ καὶ Ἀθήνησιν ἡ Ἀναίδεια, καὶ ἱερὸν ἦν αὐτῆς, ὡς Ἴστρος ἐν ιδ#. [Suda]

“A seven-layered temper”: This means a big temper. It comes as a metaphor from Ajax’s shield.  Kreon in Oedipus claims “the temper has no other age but death / and no pain touches the dead.” This means that it is not possible for someone to control a temper when still a human.

Temper’s rawness does not age except when a person exits life. It is impossible for someone not to give into a temper while still alive. This is also reported proverbially: “the temper ages last.” This derives from the fact that the elderly only develop a more robust temper as they age. Alkaios also repeats a version of this.

Θυμὸς ἑπταβόειος: ὁ μέγας. ἀπὸ μεταφορᾶς τῆς ἀσπίδος τοῦ Αἴαντος. Κρέων Οἰδίποδι: θυμοῦ γὰρ οὐδέν ἐστιν ἄλλο γῆρας πλὴν θανεῖν. θανόντων δ’ οὐδὲν ἄλγος ἅπτεται. οἷον οὐκ ἔστι θυμοῦ κρατῆσαι ἄνθρωπον ὄντα. οὐ καταγηράσκει τὸ ὠμὸν τοῦ θυμοῦ, εἰ μὴ ἐξέλθοι τοῦ βίου ὁ ἄνθρωπος: ἀδύνατον γάρ ἐστιν ὄντα ἄνθρωπον μὴ θυμῷ χρήσασθαι. τοῦτο καὶ παροιμιακῶς λέγεται, ὅτι ὁ θυμὸς ἔσχατον γηράσκει. λέγεται δὲ διὰ τοὺς πρεσβυτέρους: ὅσον γηράσκουσι, τὸν θυμὸν ἐρρωμενέστερον ἔχουσι. καὶ Ἀλκαῖος ὡς λεγομένου κατὰ τὸ κοινὸν αὐτοῦ μιμνήσκεται. [Suda]

“He fishes: this means someone hunts for fish. There is also a proverb: “you are teaching a fish to swim”. This is applied to those who teach what people already know.”

᾿Ιχθυάᾳ: ἰχθῦς ἀγρεύει. καὶ παροιμία· ᾿Ιχθῦν νήχεσθαι διδάσκεις. ἐπὶ τῶν διδασκόντων ἃ ἐπίστανται.

λάθε βιώσας· “Live in secret”: This is said customarily in a proverb but enacted by deed. “Live in secret so that I might expect no one living or deed to understand what I say”

Λάθε βιώσας: τοῦ τε ἐν παροιμίᾳ λέγεσθαι εἰωθότος, ἔργῳ βεβαιωθέντος ὑπ’ ἐκείνου, τοῦ λάθε βιώσας: ὥστε οὐδένα τῶν τότε ζώντων ἀνθρώπων οὔτε τῶν πρεσβυτέρων ἐλπίσαιμ’ ἂν εἰδέναι οἷον λέγω. [Suda]

“Neokles, an Athenian philosopher and Epicurus’ brother. He wrote a book defending his own choice [of discipline]. The saying “Live in secret” is his.

Νεοκλῆς, ᾿Αθηναῖος, φιλόσοφος, ἀδελφὸς ᾿Επικούρου. ὑπὲρ τῆς ἰδίας αἱρέσεως. ὅτι Νεοκλέους ἐστὶ τό, λάθε βιώσας. [Suda]

Melei: It means “it seems” and is used this way in Homer. It also appears in a proverb: “None of these things matter more to me than I do to frogs in the marshes.”

Μέλει: ἔοικεν. οὕτω τέθειται παρ’ Ὁμήρῳ. καὶ παροιμία: μέλει μοι τῶν τοιούτων οὐδὲν ἧττον ἢ τῶν ἐν τοῖς τέλμασι βατράχων. [Suda]

Meta Lesbion ôdon: ‘After the Lesbian singer’. A proverb spoken for those who come in second. For the Spartans used to summon Lesbian citharodes. This is because when the city was divided in conflict their oracle instructed them to send for a singer from Lesbos. They summoned Terpander from Antissa—he was in exile for blood-crime—and listened to him in their mess-halls and were reunited. So, the Spartans, when they were divided in strife, summoned the musician Terpander from Lesbos and he brought harmony to their minds and stopped the conflict. Every time the Spartans heard any singer after that, they said he came [second] “after the Lesbian singer.”

Μετὰ Λέσβιον ᾠδόν: παροιμία λεγομένη ἐπὶ τῶν τὰ δεύτερα φερομένων· οἱ γὰρ Λακεδαιμόνιοι τοὺς Λεσβίους κιθαρῳδοὺς πρώτους προσεκαλοῦντο· ἀκαταστατούσης γὰρ τῆς πόλεως αὐτῶν χρησμὸς ἐγένετο τὸν Λέσβιον ᾠδὸν μεταπέμπεσθαι· οἱ δ’ ἐξ ᾿Αντίσσης Τέρπανδρον ἐφ’ αἵματι φεύγοντα μεταπεμψάμενοι ἤκουον αὐτοῦ ἐν τοῖς συσσιτίοις καὶ κατεστάλησαν. ὅτι οἱ Λακεδαιμόνιοι στασιάζοντες μετεπέμψαντο ἐκ Λέσβου τὸν μουσικὸν Τέρπανδρον, ὃς ἥρμοσεν αὐτῶν τὰς ψυχὰς καὶ τὴν στάσιν ἔπαυσεν. εἴποτε οὖν μετὰ ταῦτα μουσικοῦ τινος ἤκουον οἱ Λακεδαιμόνιοι, ἔλεγον μετὰ Λέσβιον ᾠδόν. [Suda]

“Drinking water in moderation, but eating bread without end.”: “This line developed into a proverb from an oracle which the god delivered to the men of Sybaris. For they perished at the hands of the men of Kroton because they were sacrilegious and drunkards. This was the prophecy given to the men who fled.”

Μέτρῳ ὕδωρ πίνοντες, ἀμετρίαν δὲ μᾶζον ἔδοντες:οὗτος ὁ στίχος εἰς παροιμίαν περιέστη ἔκ τινος χρησμοῦ, ὃν ἀνεῖλεν ὁ θεὸς Συβαρίταις· ὑβρισταὶ γὰρ ὄντες καὶ ἀμετροπόται ἀπώλοντο ὑπὸ Κροτωνιατῶν. τοῖς οὖν διαφυγοῦσιν αὐτῶν οὕτως ἐχρήσθη. [Suda]

“A beetle on mice”: A proverb used for people [or things] who are worthless.”

Μυσὶ κανθαρίς: ἐπὶ τῶν μηδενὸς ἀξίων. [Suda]

“A White Mouse”: Pet mice are compelled to mate excessively—especially the white ones (which are female) This proverb is used for those who are powerless in sexual matters”

Μῦς λευκός: οἱ κατοικίδιοι μύες ἄγαν πρὸς τὴν ὀχείαν κεκίνηνται, καὶ μάλιστα οἱ λευκοί. οὗτοι δέ εἰσι θήλεις. ἐπὶ τῶν ἀκρατῶν περὶ τὰ ἀφροδίσια ἡ παροιμία εἴρηται. [Suda]

“A mouse tasting pine-pitch”: A proverb used of those who just attempted something with great effort. There is also “as much as a mouse in pitch” which is taken from Muos of Tarentium who competed poorly at the Olympic games.

Μῦς πίσσης γεύεται: ἐπὶ τῶν νεωστὶ ἀπαλλασσόντων μετὰ κόπου. καὶ Ὅσα μῦς ἐν πίσσῃ, ἀπὸ Μυὸς τοῦ Ταραντίνου, κακῶς Ὀλυμπίασιν ἀπαλλάξαντος. [Suda]

“A Mouse just tasting pine-pitch”: A saying used for those who act boldly at the start and without shame but eventually prove to be cowards. There is also a dream-interpretation: when a mouse appears again, he is tricky in his ways.”

Μῦς ἄρτι πίττης γευόμενος: ἐπὶ τῶν πρῴην μὲν τολμηρῶν καὶ ἀναιδῶν, ἀθρόον δὲ δειλῶν ἀναφανέντων. λύσις ὀνείρου: Μῦς δ’ αὖ φανεὶς ἔνδολος ἐν τρόποις πέλει. [Suda]

“There’s no sense to Centaurs.” A proverb applied to impossible and silly things. There’s another version: “Your hair has no sense—you suppose I can’t think, but I am stupid on purpose.”

Νοῦς οὐκ ἔνι Κενταύροισι: παροιμία ἐπὶ τῶν ἀδυνάτων καὶ ἀνοήτων ταττομένη. καὶ ἄλλως· νοῦς οὐκ ἔνι ταῖς κόμαις ὑμῶν, ὅτε μ’ οὐ φρονεῖν νομίζετ’, ἐγὼ δ’ ἑκὼν ταῦτ’ ἠλιθιάζω. [Suda]

“A Donkey’s death”: A saying for those who tell stories about strange things

῎Ονου θάνατος: ἐπὶ τῶν ἀλλόκοτα διηγουμένων [Photius]

“A Tipping Donkey”: When a donkey leans in suddenly, hens are frightened and bust out of their pen. The owner of the birds brings a suit against the owner of the donkey. This is where the proverb comes from.

῎Ονου παρακύψεως: ὄνου παρακύψαντος, ὄρνιθες πτοηθεῖσαι ἱστὸν ἀνέρρηξαν· ὁ δὲ δεσπότης τοῦ ἱστοῦ τοῦ ὄνου δεσπότηι ἐνεκάλεσεν· ὅθεν ἡ παροιμία. [Photius]

“Donkey Shearings”: A saying applied by Attic writers to endless and impossible things. These following sayings are similar: “washing a brick”; “plucking a wineskin”; “decorating a pot” and “fumigating an outhouse”. Aristarchus says that this saying developed because Cratinus imagined a man braiding a rope in Hades and a donkey eating it as he did so.”

῎Ονου πόκαι: ἐπὶ τῶν ἀνηνύτων καὶ τῶν μὴ ὄντων λέγεται ἡ παροιμία ὑπὸ τῶν ᾿Αττικῶν· ὥσπερ αἱ τοιαῦται· πλίνθον πλύνειν· ἀσκὸν τίλλειν· χύτραν ποικίλλειν· εἰς κοπρῶνα θυμιᾶν· ᾿Αρίσταρχος δὲ διὰ τὸ Κρατῖνον ὑποθέσθαι ἐν Αἵδου σχοινίον πλέκοντα· ὄνον δὲ τὸ πλεκόμενον ἀπεσθίοντα· [Photius]

“Iron mind: This means an unpersuadable spirit. There is also the saying “Atlas’ iron shoulders.” The fact is that a Samian man named Glaukos first developed the welding of iron. From this we have the proverb “The art of Glaukos” which is applied to things done easily.” [Suda]

Σιδηρέαν ψυχήν: τὴν ἀμείλικτον. καὶ σιδηρέους ῎Ατλαντος ὤμους. ὅτι Γλαῦκός τις Σάμιος πρῶτος σιδήρου κόλλησιν ἐξεῦρε. καὶ παροιμία· Γλαύκου τέχνη, ἐπὶ τῶν ῥᾳδίως κατεργαζομένων. [Suda]

“Simôn, Simônos: a proper name. There is also the proverb “more rapacious than Simon”. This comes from Aristophanes, whenever men saw Simon, they immediately became wolves. He was a sophist who stole public property.”

Σίμων, Σίμωνος: ὄνομα κύριον. καὶ παροιμία· Σίμωνος ἁρπακτικώτερος. ᾿Αριστοφάνης· ὅταν ἴδωσι Σίμωνα, λύκοι ἐξαίφνης γίνονται. σοφιστὴς δὲ ἦν, ὃς τῶν δημοσίων ἐνοσφίζετο. Suda]

“You’re expecting the Samians’ fate.” This proverb is used for those who are fearing insurmountable betrayals of evil.  It developed from the terrible things the Samians suffered at the Athenians’ hands. When the Athenians captured them, they killed some and tattooed a sign called the “Samê” on the others. This is itself a type of Samian suffering. Later, the Samians tattooed the Athenians they captured in vengeance.

Τὰ Σαμίων ὑποπτεύεις: παροιμία αὕτη λέγεται ἐπὶ τῶν δεδιότων τινὰς ἀνηκέστους κακῶν προδοσίας. παρῆλθε δὲ ἀπὸ τῶν γενομένων ὑπὸ Ἀθηναίων εἰς Σαμίους αἰκισμῶν: ἑλόντες γὰρ αὐτοὺς οἱ Ἀθηναῖοι τοὺς μὲν ἀπέκτειναν, τοὺς δὲ ἔστιξαν τῇ καλουμένῃ σάμῃ, ἥ ἐστιν εἶδος πάθους Σαμιακοῦ: ἀνθ’ ὧν καὶ οἱ Σάμιοι τοὺς ἁλόντας μετὰ ταῦτα Ἀθηναίων ἔστιξαν. [Suda]

“He tilts the talents of Tantalus”: Tantalos had so much wealth that it became proverbial. For this wealthy Phrygian was famous for his talents* and was rumored to be a son of Plouto and Zeus.  Anacreon uses this proverb in his third book. This plays on the word talent and is used as well by the comic poet: “he touts the talents of Tantalus”. People compose these words, toying in this way with the sound and the form of talent in the same way as a “good deal of goodies” or “wiser than wise” in Epicharmus.”

*talent is a term for a weight of gold or silver, a large amount of money.

Τὰ Ταντάλου τάλαντα ταλαντίζεται: διεβεβόητο ὁ Τάνταλος ἐπὶ πλούτῳ, ὡς καὶ εἰς παροιμίαν διαδοθῆναι. οὗτος γὰρ πλούσιος Φρὺξ ἐπὶ ταλάντοις διεβεβόητο, Πλουτοῦς καὶ Διὸς λεγόμενος. κέχρηται δὲ τῇ παροιμίᾳ καὶ Ἀνακρέων ἐν τρίτῳ. γέγονε δὲ παρὰ τὸ ὄνομα τάλαντα, ὡς καὶ παρὰ τῷ κωμικῷ εἴρηται: Ταντάλου τάλαντα τανταλίζεται. αὕτη οὖν ἡ παροιμία παρὰ τὴν ὁμοιότητα τῶν ὀνομάτων εἴρηται: ἐπείπερ παίζοντες πολλὰ τοιαῦτα καὶ ἄλλα πεποιήκασιν, οἷον ἀγαθῶν ἀγαθίδες, καὶ σοφώτερος σοφοῦ παρ’ Ἐπιχάρμῳ. [Suda]

“Why don’t you hang yourself and become a hero at Thebes? Zenobius explains this one in his Common Proverbs (6.17): “Plato uses this line in his Menelaus. And the reason is that they say that in Thebes men who kill themselves receive no kind of honor. Aristotle says the same thing about Thebes, namely that they do not honor suicides there. Hence “so you may become a hero” is added ironically.”

Τί οὐκ ἀπήγξω, ἵνα Θήβησιν ἥρως γένῃ; ταύτης Πλάτων ἐν Μενέλεῳ μέμνηται. Φασὶ δὲ, ὅτι ἐν Θήβαις οἱ ἑαυτοὺς ἀναιροῦντες οὐδεμιᾶς τιμῆς μετεῖχον. Καὶ ᾿Αριστοτέλης δέ φησι περὶ Θηβαίων τὸ αὐτὸ τοῦτο, ὅτι τοὺς αὐτόχειρας ἑαυτῶν γινομένους οὐκ ἐτίμων. Τὸ οὖν, ῞Ινα ἥρως γένῃ, κατ’ εὐφημισμὸν εἴρηται.

“The old age of Tithonos”: A proverb applied for people who live a long time and are extremely old. The myth is that Tithonos, led by a desire to escape his old age, changed shape into a cicada. Aristophanes has: “ripping, hassling, and disturbing a Tithonos-man.”

Τιθωνοῦ γῆρας: παροιμία. ἐπὶ τῶν πολυχρονίων καὶ ὑπεργήρων τάσσεται. ἱστορεῖται δὲ ὅτι ὁ Τιθωνὸς ἐπιθυμίᾳ τοῦ τὸ γῆρας ἐκδύσασθαι εἰς τέττιγα μετέβαλεν. Ἀριστοφάνης: ἄνδρα Τιθωνὸν σπαράττων καὶ ταράττων καὶ κυκῶν. [Suda]

“Healthier than a tick”: A proverb used for people who are entirely healthy. It comes from the animal, the tick which is completely smooth and has neither blemish nor injury.”

Ὑγιέστερος Κρότωνος: ἐπὶ τῶν πάνυ ὑγιαινόντων ἡ παροιμία. ἀπὸ τοῦ ζῴου τοῦ κρότωνος: λεῖον γάρ ἐστιν ὅλον καὶ χωρὶς ἀμυχῆς καὶ μηδὲν ἔχον σίνος. [Suda]

“Turning a pestle”: A proverb used for people who keep doing the same things and accomplish nothing. These proverbs also indicate this: “Zeus’ son Korinthos”; “Again on the road to Pytho”; “The man carrying a plank”; and “Not blind, but eyeless.” Plato* writes also in the Adonis “I hope I don’t have a pestle’s turn”.

Ὑπέρου περιτροπή: ἐπὶ τῶν τὰ αὐτὰ ποιούντων καὶ μηδὲν περαινόντων. καὶ αὗται δ’ αἱ παροιμίαι τοῦτο δηλοῦσιν: ὁ Διὸς Κόρινθος. καί, αὖθις αὖ Πυθώδε ὁδός. καί, ὁ τὴν δοκὸν φέρων. καί, οὐ τυφλός, ἀλλ’ ἐξώρυκται. Πλάτων Ἀδώνιδι: εἶτ’ οὐχ ὑπέρου μοι περιτροπὴ γενήσεται.

*The comic poet, not the philosopher.

“A Pestle’s Turn”: A proverb about those who keep doing the same thing and accomplish nothing. There is also the proverb: “More naked than a pestle and a discarded skin.”

῾Υπέρου περίτροφον: παροιμία ἐπὶ τῶν τὰ αὐτὰ ποιούντων καὶ μηδὲ περαινουμένων. καὶ παροιμία· γυμνότερος ὑπέρου καὶ λεβηρίδος. [Suda]

“Off the list”: A saying for those who have grown old.”

Ὑπὲρ τὸν κατάλογον: παροιμία ἐπὶ τῶν γεγηρακότων.

“A hog under a club”: A proverb applied by Deinolokhos to those who put themselves in danger.”

῝Υς ὑπὸ ῥόπαλον: παροιμία παρὰ Δεινολόχῳ ἐπὶ τῶν ἑαυτοὺς εἰς ὄλεθρον ἐμβαλλόντων. [Suda]

“Khamai: on the ground.  There is also a proverb: ‘to trace water on the ground’—which is the same as accomplishing nothing. Another example of this is “washing a brick”. These are uttered for tasks that have no end.”

Χαμαί: ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς. καὶ παροιμία· Χαμαὶ ἀντλεῖν, ἐν ἴσῳ τῷ οὐδὲν ἐργάζεσθαι. οἷον καὶ τὸ πλίνθον πλύνειν. ἐπὶ τῶν ἀνηνύτων λέγεται. [Suda]

“Khoiros: An animal, piglet, piggy. But in Corinth this also means female genitals. This is the origin of the proverb: “You seem like you’re going to sell piggies in Acrocorinth”; we use this to mean “earning a wage in Corinth” because there are many prostitutes there.”

Χοῖρος: τὸ ζῷον. παρὰ Κορινθίοις δὲ τὸ γυναικεῖον αἰδοῖον. ἔνθεν καὶ παροιμία· ᾿Ακροκορινθία ἔοικας χοιροπωλήσειν. ἀντὶ τοῦ ἔοικας μισθαρνήσειν ἐν Κορίνθῳ· πολλαὶ γὰρ ἐκεῖ ἑταῖραι. [Suda]

“You control a lentil’s corner”: A proverb used for weak people. There is also this proverb:

“You are chopping a lentil”—something said of things that are endless and imaginary.”

Φακοῦ γωνίαν κρατεῖς• ἐπὶ τῶν ἀδυνάτων. παροιμία• Φακὸν κόπτεις• ἐπὶ τῶν ἀνηνύτων καὶ μὴ ὄντων λέγεται. [Suda]

“Phôkos: A porpoise. But also a proverb: “A Feast of Phôkos.” This is used for those who accrue harm when they prepare a dinner-party. For there was a man named Phôkos who was trying to marry off his daughter. There were many courting here but when he prepared the feast and entertained the suitors he put off the wedding. Because the suitors were angry about this, they killed Phôkos at his own dinner-party”

Φῶκος. καὶ παροιμία• Φώκου ἔρανος• κατὰ τῶν εὐωχίας συναγόντων ἐπὶ τῷ ἑαυτῶν κακῷ• Φῶκος γάρ τις θυγατέρα ἔχων ἐπὶ γάμῳ, πολλῶν αὐτὴν μνηστευομένων, ἐράνους συνῆγε καὶ ἑστιῶν τοὺς μνηστῆρας ἀνεβάλλετο τὸν γάμον. ὀργισθέντες οὖν ἐκεῖνοι ἐν τῷ συμποσίῳ ἀπέκτειναν τὸν Φῶκον. [Suda]

“Worshiping Dionysus in Psyra”: A Proverb found in Cratinus.  Psyra is a poor, small island close to Khios and it is unable to produce wine.  Therefore, we use this proverb for people reclining at the symposium but not drinking.  It is also used in reference to other displays of poverty.”

Ψύρα τὸν Διόνυσον ἄγοντες: ἡ παροιμία παρὰ Κρατίνῳ. τὰ δὲ Ψύρα εὐτελὴς νῆσός ἐστι καὶ μικρὰ πλησίον Χίου, μὴ δυναμένη οἶνον ἐνεγκεῖν. λέγομεν οὖν τὴν παροιμίαν ἐπὶ τῶν ἐν συμποσίῳ ἀνακειμένων καὶ μὴ πινόντων. λέλεκται δὲ καὶ ἐπὶ τῶν εὐτέλειαν σημαινόντων. [Suda]

4 thoughts on “A selection of Proverbs

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