The Sayings of Anacharsis the Scythian

Anarchasis the Scythian, Diogenes Laertius 1.8 103-105

“He said that the vine bears three grapes: pleasure, inebriation, and disgust. He said that he was surprised how among the Greeks experts competed and amateurs judged them. When he asked how someone could avoid being a drunk, he said “if you keep the shame of drunks before you.” He also used to say that he was surprised how the Greeks make laws against arrogance when they honor athletes for hitting each other. When he learned that a ship’s side was four-fingers thick, he said that the sailors were only that far from death.

He used to say that olive oil was a drug of madness since Athletes went crazy at each other when they rubbed it on themselves. He used to ask how we outlaw lies, but lie openly in commerce. And he used to wonder at how the Greeks drink from small cups at the beginning of the feast, but big ones when they are full.  This is inscribed on his statues: Master your tongue, your stomach, and your genitals.” When asked if there were pipes in Skythia, he said “No, nor grapevines.” When asked what kind of boats were safest, he said “those on shore.” And he said that the most amazing thing he saw among the Greeks was that they leave the smoke on the mountains and take the wood into the cities.

When asked whether there were more men living or dead he asked, “Where would you count the men on the sea?” When he was reproached by some Attic man for being Skythian, he said, “my country is a reproach to me; but you are a reproach to your country.” When asked what is good and what is bad for men, he said “the tongue.” He used to say that it was better to have one friend worth much than many worth little. He called the market a place designated for deceiving and depriving one another. When he was insulted over wine by a young man he said, “boy, if you can’t handle wine when you’re young, you’ll be carrying water when you’re old.”


Οὗτος τὴν ἄμπελον εἶπε τρεῖς φέρειν βότρυς: τὸν πρῶτον ἡδονῆς: τὸν δεύτερον μέθης: τὸν τρίτον ἀνδίας. θαυμάζειν δὲ ἔφη πῶς παρὰ τοῖς Ἕλλησιν ἀγωνίζονται μὲν οἱ τεχνῖται, κρίνουσι δὲ οἱ μὴ τεχνῖται. ἐρωτηθεὶς πῶς οὐκ ἂν γένοιτό τις φιλοπότης, “εἰ πρὸ ὀφθαλμῶν,” εἶπεν, “ἔχοι τὰς τῶν μεθυόντων ἀσχημοσύνας.” θαυμάζειν τε ἔλεγε πῶς οἱ Ἕλληνες νομοθετοῦντες κατὰ τῶν ὑβριζόντων, τοὺς ἀθλητὰς τιμῶσιν ἐπὶ τῷ τύπτεινἀλλήλους. μαθὼν τέτταρας δακτύλους εἶναι τὸ πάχος τῆς νεώς, τοσοῦτον ἔφη τοῦ θανάτου τοὺς πλέοντας ἀπέχειν.

4 [104] Τὸ ἔλαιον μανίας φάρμακον ἔλεγε διὰ τὸ ἀλειφομένους τοὺς ἀθλητὰς ἐπιμαίνεσθαι ἀλλήλοις. πῶς, ἔλεγεν, ἀπαγορεύοντες τὸ ψεύδεσθαι ἐν ταῖς καπηλείαις φανερῶς ψεύδονται; καὶ θαυμάζειν φησὶ τῶς Ἕλληνες ἀρχόμενοι μὲν ἐν μικροῖς πίνουσι, πλησθέντες δὲ ἐν μεγάλοις. ἐπιγράφεται δὲ αὐτοῦ ταῖς εἰκόσι: “γλώσσης, γαστρός, αἰδοίων κρατεῖν.” ἐρωτηθεὶς εἰ εἰσὶν ἐν Σκύθαις αὐλοί, εἶπεν, “ἀλλ᾽ οὐδὲ ἄμπελοι.” ἐρωτηθεὶς τίνα τῶν πλοίων εἰσὶν ἀσφαλέστερα, ἔφη, “τὰ νενεωλκημένα.” καὶ τοῦτο ἔφη θαυμασιώτατον ἑωρακέναι παρὰ τοῖς Ἕλλησιν, ὅτι τὸν μὲν καπνὸν ἐν τοῖς ὄρεσι καταλείπουσι, τὰ δὲ ξύλα εἰς τὴν πόλιν κομίζουσιν. ἐρωτηθεὶς πότεροι πλείους εἰσίν, οἱ ζῶντες ἢ οἱ νεκροί, ἔφη, “τοὺς οὖν πλέοντας ποῦ τίθης;” ὀνειδιζόμενος ὑπὸ Ἀττικοῦ ὅτι Σκύθης ἐστίν, ἔφη, “ἀλλ᾽ ἐμοῦ μὲν ὄνειδος ἡ πατρίς, σὺ δὲ τῆς πατρίδος.” 5 [105] ἐρωτηθεὶς τί ἐστιν ἐν ἀνθρώποις ἀγαθόν τε καὶ φαῦλον, ἔφη, “γλῶσσα.” κρεῖττον ἔλεγεν ἕνα φίλον ἔχειν πολλοῦ ἄξιον ἢ πολλοὺς μηδενὸς ἀξίους. τὴν ἀγορὰν ὡρισμένον ἔφη τόπον εἰς τὸ ἀλλήλους ἀπατᾶν καὶ πλεονεκτεῖν. ὑπὸ μειρακίου παρὰ πότον ὑβρισθεὶς ἔφη, “μειράκιον, ἐὰν νέος ὢν τὸν οἶνον οὐ φέρῃς, γέρων γενόμενος ὕδωρ οἴσεις.”

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