Scoundrels, Fools, and Failing States

Antisthenes, fr. 103 [=Diogenes Laertius 6.11]

“He used to say that states fail when they cannot distinguish fools from serious men.”

τότ’ ἔφη τὰς πόλεις ἀπόλλυσθαι, ὅταν μὴ δύνωνται τοὺς φαύλους ἀπὸ τῶν σπουδαίων διακρίνειν.


“He used to say that it is strange that we sift out the chaff from the wheat and those useless for war, but we do not forbid scoundrels in politics.”

ἄτοπον ἔφη τοῦ μὲν σίτου τὰς αἴρας ἐκλέγειν καὶ ἐν τῷ πολέμῳ τοὺς ἀχρείους, ἐν δὲ πολιτείᾳ τοὺς πονηροὺς μὴ παραιτεῖσθαι.


“Phaulos: evil, tricky, mean; simple, dumb. Ridiculous”

φαῦλος· κακός, δόλιος, χαλεπός. εὐτελής, ἁπλοῦς. καταγέλαστος

Phaulos lsj

Apostolius Paroemiographus, 9.18.12

“Fish start to stink at the top”: [this is a proverb] applied to people who have scoundrels for leaders.”

᾿Ιχθὺς ἐκ τῆς κεφαλῆς ὄζειν ἄρχεται: ἐπὶ τῶν ἐπιστάτας φαύλους ἐχόντων.

Stobaeus, 2.3.4

“When Plato saw that someone was doing evil things, but claiming that he was carrying out justice for other people, he said. “This man carries his mind on his tongue.”

᾿Ιδών τινα Πλάτων φαῦλα μὲν πράττοντα, δίκας δὲ ὑπὲρ ἑτέρων λέγοντα, εἶπεν, Οὗτος νοῦν „ἐπὶ γλώσσῃ φέρει”.

2.14.3 Mousonius

“[He said] that associating with wise people is worth a lot, but that you should avoid scoundrels and the uneducated.”

῞Οτι χρὴ περὶ πολλοῦ ποιεῖσθαι τὰς τῶν σοφῶν συνουσίας, ἐκκλίνειν δὲ τοὺς φαύλους καὶ ἀπαιδεύτους

Menander fr. 274

“It is much better to have learned one thing well,
Than to cast about for many deeds foolishly.”

Πολὺ κρεῖττόν ἐστιν ἓν καλῶς μεμαθηκέναι,
ἢ πολλὰ φαύλως περιβεβλῆσθαι πράγματα.

From Beekes 2010

phaulos Beekes 1Phaulos beekes 2

Democritus fr. 234

“Associating with scoundrels frequently increases the possession of wickedness.”

Φαύλων ὁμιλίη ξυνεχὴς ἕξιν κακίης συναέξει.

Socrates, Stobaeus 2.45.3

“It is the same thing to attach your boat to a weak anchor and your hopes to foolish judgment.”

Ταὐτὸν ἐξ ἀσθενοῦς ἀγκυρίου σκάφος ὁρμίζειν καὶ ἐκ φαύλης γνώμης ἐλπίδα.


Eusebius, fr. 7 [=Stobaeus 3.4.104]

“Foolish people honor and wonder at those who have a lot of money and are scoundrels, and hold serious people in contempt when they see that they are poor.”

Οἱ μάταιοι τῶν ἀνθρώπων τοὺς μὲν μεγάλα χρήματα ἔχοντας καὶ φαύλους ἐόντας τιμῶσί τε καὶ τεθωυμάκασι· τῶν δὲ σπουδαίων, ἐπειδὰν ἀχρηματίην καταγνῶσιν, ὑπερφρονέουσιν.

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