Hipparchia and His Wealth

Diogenes Laertes 6. 96-98 Hipparkhia

“Hipparkhia, Metrokles’s sister, was also attracted to their theories. They were both from Marôneia. She fell in love with Kratês’s words and his life and paid no attention to any of her suitors, ignoring their wealth, nobility, and beauty. No, Kratês was everything to her. She even used to threatened her parents, in fact, that she would kill herself if she were not married to him.

So, when Kratês was summoned her her parents to discourage the girl, he was trying everything and when he finally could not persuade her, he stood up and stripped off his clothes and said, “Look, this is the bridegroom; this is his wealth; you are choosing these things. You will not be my partner unless you share these practices.”

The girl made the choice and once she took up the same dress she used to travel with her husband and appeared in public and went to meals with him. Once when she went to Lysimakhos’ home for a symposium, she insulted Theodoros, nicknamed the Atheist, by applying the following witticism: “If whatever Theodoros does is not called unjust then it would not be unjust if Hipparkhia did it. But if Theodoros hit himself, it would not be called wrong, nor would it be wrong if Hipparkhia hit him.”

He had nothing to say in response to this, but he started to take away Hipparkhia’s cloak. But Hipparkhia was neither surprised nor troubled in the way a woman typically is. Instead, when he said, ““Who is this who is abandoning the shuttle at the loom?” She replied, “It’s me, Theodorus—do I seem to have made a mess of my life if, instead of wasting the time to come at the loom, I have used it for education?” There are tons of other tales like this about the lady-philosopher.

Ἐθηράθη δὲ τοῖς λόγοις καὶ ἡ ἀδελφὴ τοῦ Μητροκλέους Ἱππαρχία. Μαρωνεῖται δ’ ἦσαν ἀμφότεροι.

Καὶ ἤρα τοῦ Κράτητος καὶ τῶν λόγων καὶ τοῦ βίου, οὐδενὸς τῶν μνηστευομένων ἐπιστρεφομένη, οὐ πλούτου, οὐκ εὐγενείας, οὐ κάλλους· ἀλλὰ πάντ’ ἦν Κράτης αὐτῇ. καὶ δὴ καὶ ἠπείλει τοῖς γονεῦσιν ἀναιρήσειν αὑτήν, εἰ μὴ τούτῳ δοθείη. Κράτης μὲν οὖν παρακαλούμενος ὑπὸ τῶν γονέων αὐτῆς ἀποτρέψαι τὴν παῖδα, πάντ’ ἐποίει, καὶ τέλος μὴ πείθων, ἀναστὰς καὶ ἀποθέμενος τὴν ἑαυτοῦ σκευὴν ἀντικρὺ αὐτῆς ἔφη, “ὁ μὲν νυμφίος οὗτος, ἡ δὲ κτῆσις αὕτη, πρὸς ταῦτα βουλεύου· οὐδὲ γὰρ ἔσεσθαι κοινωνός, εἰ μὴ καὶ τῶν αὐτῶν ἐπιτηδευμάτων γενηθείης.”

Εἵλετο ἡ παῖς καὶ ταὐτὸν ἀναλαβοῦσα σχῆμα συμπεριῄει τἀνδρὶ καὶ ἐν τῷ φανερῷ συνεγίνετο καὶ ἐπὶ τὰ δεῖπνα ἀπῄει. ὅτε καὶ πρὸς Λυσίμαχον εἰς τὸ συμπόσιον ἦλθεν, ἔνθα Θεόδωρον τὸν ἐπίκλην Ἄθεον ἐπήλεγξε, σόφισμα προτείνασα τοιοῦτον· ὃ ποιῶν Θεόδωρος οὐκ ἂν ἀδικεῖν λέγοιτο, οὐδ’ Ἱππαρχία ποιοῦσα τοῦτο ἀδικεῖν λέγοιτ’ ἄν· Θεόδωρος δὲ τύπτων ἑαυτὸν οὐκ ἀδικεῖ, οὐδ’ ἄρα Ἱππαρχία Θεόδωρον τύπτουσα ἀδικεῖ. ὁ δὲ πρὸς μὲν τὸ λεχθὲν οὐδὲν ἀπήντησεν, ἀνέσυρε δ’ αὐτῆς θοἰμάτιον· ἀλλ’ οὔτε κατεπλάγη Ἱππαρχία οὔτε διεταράχθη ὡς γυνή. ἀλλὰ καὶ εἰπόντος αὐτῇ,

“αὕτη ἐστὶν / ἡ τὰς παρ’ ἱστοῖς ἐκλιποῦσα κερκίδας;”, “ἐγώ,” φησίν, “εἰμί, Θεόδωρε· ἀλλὰ μὴ κακῶς σοι δοκῶ βεβουλεῦσθαι περὶ αὑτῆς, εἰ, τὸν χρόνον ὃν ἔμελλον ἱστοῖς προσαναλώσειν, τοῦτον εἰς παιδείαν κατεχρησάμην;” καὶ ταῦτα μὲν καὶ ἄλλα μυρία τῆς φιλοσόφου.

File:Crates and Hipparchia Villa Farnesina.jpg
Crates and Hipparchia at the Villa Farnesina

Influential Teachers and the Meaning of the Good: Two Anecdotes Concerning Epicurus

Diogenes Laertius 10.2

“Apollodorus the Epicurian writes in his first book of On the Life of Epicurus that the philosopher turned to the study of philosophy when he noted that his teachers could not explain to him the meaning of Chaos in Hesiod.”

᾿Απολλόδωρος δ’ ὁ ᾿Επικούρειος ἐν τῷ πρώτῳ περὶ τοῦ ᾿Επικούρου βίου φησὶν ἐλθεῖν αὐτὸν ἐπὶ φιλοσοφίαν καταγνόντα τῶν γραμματιστῶν ἐπειδὴ μὴ ἐδυνήθησαν ἑρμηνεῦσαι αὐτῷ τὰ περὶ τοῦ παρ’ ῾Ησιόδῳ χάους.


“I cannot conceive what the good is if I separate it from the pleasures of taste, from the pleasures of sex, from the pleasures of sound, or those of beautiful bodies.”

Οὐ γὰρ ἔγωγε ἔχω τί νοήσω τἀγαθόν, ἀφαιρῶν μὲν τὰς διὰ χυλῶν ἡδονάς, ἀφαιρῶν δὲ τὰς δι᾽ ἀφροδισίων καὶ τὰς δι᾽ ἀκροαμάτων καὶ τὰς διὰ μορφῆς.


Image result for Ancient Greek Epicurus

A few maxims to round things out



  1. “If fear of the skies or about death had never afflicted us—along with the ignoring of the limits of pain and desires—we never would have needed natural science”

Εἰ μηθὲν ἡμᾶς αἱ τῶν μετεώρων ὑποψίαι ἠνώχλουν καὶ αἱ περὶ θανάτου, μή ποτε πρὸς ἡμᾶς ᾖ τι, ἔτι τε τὸ μὴ κατανοεῖν τοὺς ὅρους τῶν ἀλγηδόνων καὶ τῶν ἐπιθυμιῶν, οὐκ ἂν προσεδεόμεθα φυσιολογίας.

  1. “It is not possible to eliminate fear about the most important things unless one understands the nature of everything—otherwise, we live fearing things we heard from myths. Therefore, it is not possible to enjoy unmixed pleasures without natural science.”

XII. Οὐκ ἦν τὸ φοβούμενον λύειν ὑπὲρ τῶν κυριωτάτων μὴ κατειδότα τίς ἡ τοῦ σύμπαντος φύσις, ἀλλ’ ὑποπτευόμενόν τι τῶν κατὰ τοὺς μύθους· ὥστε οὐκ ἦν ἄνευ φυσιολογίας ἀκεραίους τὰς ἡδονὰς ἀπολαμβάνειν.

“Don’t Be Empty-Minded or Rude” – Cleobolus of Caria

Cleobolus of Caria,  According to Diogenes Laertius 1.6 91-93


“These were the most famous of Cleobolus’ songs

Poor taste has the greater share among mortals, along with an excess of arguments: but timeliness is enough. Think about something good. Don’t be empty-minded or rude. He used to say that it was right to marry off daughters who were maidens in age but women in their minds—he showed in this that it was also right to have girls educated. He used to say that it was necessary to do good work for a friend so he might become a better friend and to make an enemy into a friend. For we should guard against the reproach of a friend and the plotting of an enemy. Whenever you leave your home, figure out first what you plan to do; when you return again, consider what you have done.

He used to advise that we exercise our bodies well; that it is better to be fond of listening than fond of talking. Keep a righteous tongue. Be friendly to virtue and hostile to vice. Avoid injustice; advise the best to the city. Conquer pleasure. Do nothing by violence. Educate children. Resolve hatred.  Don’t be too kind or fight with your wife when strangers are around—the former shows stupidity; the latter is madness. Don’t chastise a servant over wine, for you will seem drunk. Marry an equal: if you take a spouse from a higher class, you get her relatives as masters.  Don’t laugh at men who are being mocked: they will hate you. Don’t be arrogant when you are lucky or wretched when you’re not. Learn how to endure luck’s changes with nobility.”


Τῶν δὲ ᾀδομένων αὐτοῦ εὐδοκίμησε τάδε: Ἀμουσία τὸ πλέον μέρος ἐν βροτοῖσι, λόγων τε πλῆθος: ἀλλ᾽ ὁ καιρὸς ἀρκέσει. φρόνει τι κεδνόν. μὴ μάταιος ἄχαρις γινέσθω. ἔφη δὲ δεῖν συνοικίζειν τὰς θυγατέρας, παρθένους μὲν τὴν ἡλικίαν, τὸ δὲ φρονεῖν γυναῖκας: ὑποδεικνὺς ὅτι δεῖ παιδεύεσθαι καὶ τὰς παρθένους. ἔλεγέ τε τὸν φίλον δεῖν εὐεργετεῖν, ὅπως μᾶλλον ᾖ φίλος: τὸν δὲ ἐχθρὸν φίλον ποιεῖν. φυλάσσεσθαι γὰρ τῶν μὲν φίλων τὸν ψόγον, τῶν δὲ ἐχθρῶν τὴν ἐπιβουλήν. καὶ ὅταν τις ἐξίῃ τῆς οἰκίας, ζητείτω πρότερον τί μέλλει πράσσειν: καὶ ὅταν εἰσέλθῃ πάλιν, ζητείτω τί ἔπραξε. συνεβούλευέ τε εὖ τὸ σῶμα ἀσκεῖν: φιλήκοον εἶναι μᾶλλον ἢ φιλόλαλον: [φιλομαθῆ μᾶλλον ἢ ἀμαθῆ:] γλῶσσαν εὔφημον ἴσχειν: ἀρετῆς οἰκεῖον εἶναι, κακίας ἀλλότριον: ἀδικίαν φεύγειν: πόλει τὰ βέλτιστα συμβουλεύειν: ἡδονῆς κρατεῖν: βίᾳ μηδὲν πράττειν: τέκνα παιδεύειν: ἐχθρὰν διαλύειν. γυναικὶ μὴ φιλοφρονεῖσθαι, μηδὲ μάχεσθαι, ἀλλοτρίων παρόντων: τὸ μὲν γὰρ ἄνοιαν, τὸ δὲ μανίαν σημαίνειν. οἰκέτην παρ᾽ οἶνον μὴ κολάζειν, δοκεῖν γὰρ ἂν παροινεῖν. γαμεῖν ἐκ τῶν ὁμοίων: ἂν γὰρ ἐκ τῶν κρειττόνων λάβῃς, φησί, 5 [93] δεσπότας κτήσῃ τοὺς συγγενέας. μὴ ἐπεγγελᾶν τοῖς σκωπτομένοις: ἀπεχθήσεσθαι γὰρ τούτοις. εὐτυχῶν μὴ ἴσθι ὑπερήφανος: ἀπορήσας μὴ ταπεινοῦ. τὰς μεταβολὰς τῆς τύχης γενναίως ἐπίστασο φέρειν.

Socrates’ Dream-Bird

From Diogenes Laertius’ Lives of the Philosophers 3.5-7

“[Plato] learned his basic grammar at Dionysius’ school, which he also recalls in his dialogue the Lovers. He exercised at the wrestling school of Ariston the Argive which is where he was nicknamed ‘Platôn’ because of his fine body. Before, he was called Aristokles after his grandfather, according to Alexandros in his Diadokhai. There are some who claim he was named this because of the breadth [platutêta] of his interpretive ability or that it was because of the width of his forehead, as Neanthes claims. There are also those who say that he wrestled at the Isthmus, according to Dikaiarkhos too in the first book of his Lives. He is also said to have pursued a passion for painting; he wrote poetry, first dithyrambs, then lyric, and tragedy.

Plato had a strong voice, they claim, as Timotheus attests too in his book on Lives. It is reported that Socrates had a dream of holding a swan chick in his lap: after it grew wings it immediately flew away, uttering a sweet cry. On the next day, Plato joined him; and Socrates said that he was the bird.

Plato began philosophizing in the Akademia and then moved into a garden at Colonos, as Alexander records in his Successions, according to Herakleitos. When he was going to compete in tragedy, once he had heard Socrates in front of the Dionysian theater, he burned all his poems, saying “Hephaestos, come here, Plato needs you now…”


Καὶ ἐπαιδεύθη μὲν γράμματα παρὰ Διονυσίῳ, οὗ καὶ μνημονεύει ἐν τοῖς ᾿Αντερασταῖς (Amat. 132a). ἐγυμνάσατο δὲ παρὰ ᾿Αρίστωνι τῷ ᾿Αργείῳ παλαιστῇ· ἀφ’ οὗ καὶ Πλάτων διὰ τὴν εὐεξίαν μετωνομάσθη, πρότερον ᾿Αριστοκλῆς ἀπὸ τοῦ πάππου καλούμενος [ὄνομα], καθά φησιν ᾿Αλέξανδρος ἐν Διαδοχαῖς (FGrH

273 F 88). ἔνιοι δὲ διὰ τὴν πλατύτητα τῆς ἑρμηνείας οὕτως ὀνομασθῆναι· ἢ ὅτι πλατὺς ἦν τὸ μέτωπον, ὥς φησι Νεάνθης (FGrH 84 F 21). εἰσὶ δ’ οἳ καὶ παλαῖσαί φασιν αὐτὸν ᾿Ισθμοῖ, καθὰ καὶ Δικαίαρχος ἐν πρώτῳ Περὶ βίων (Wehrli i, fg. 40), καὶ

γραφικῆς ἐπιμεληθῆναι καὶ ποιήματα γράψαι, πρῶτον μὲν διθυράμβους, ἔπειτα καὶ μέλη καὶ τραγῳδίας. ἰσχνόφωνός τε, φασίν, ἦν, ὡς καὶ Τιμόθεός φησιν ὁ ᾿Αθηναῖος ἐν τῷ Περὶ βίων (FHG iv. 523). λέγεται δ’ ὅτι Σωκράτης ὄναρ εἶδε κύκνου νεοττὸν ἐν

τοῖς γόνασιν ἔχειν, ὃν καὶ παραχρῆμα πτεροφυήσαντα ἀναπτῆναι ἡδὺ κλάγξαντα· καὶ μεθ’ ἡμέραν Πλάτωνα αὐτῷ συστῆναι, τὸν δὲ τοῦτον εἰπεῖν εἶναι τὸν ὄρνιν.

᾿Εφιλοσόφει δὲ τὴν ἀρχὴν ἐν ᾿Ακαδημείᾳ, εἶτα ἐν τῷ κήπῳ τῷ παρὰ τὸν Κολωνόν, ὥς φησιν ᾿Αλέξανδρος ἐν Διαδοχαῖς (FGrH 273 F 89), καθ’ ῾Ηράκλειτον. ἔπειτα μέντοι μέλλων ἀγωνιεῖσθαι τραγῳδίᾳ πρὸ τοῦ Διονυσιακοῦ θεάτρου Σωκράτους ἀκούσας κατέφλεξε τὰ ποιήματα εἰπών·

῞Ηφαιστε, πρόμολ’ ὧδε· Πλάτων νύ τι σεῖο χατίζει.

On the Origins of Philosophy in Greece

From Diogenes Laertius’ Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, Preface

“Some say that the work of philosophy had its starts among the barbarians, noting that there are Magi among the Persians, Chaldeans among the Babylonians or Assyrians, the gymnosophists among the Indians, the people called Druids or Holy-men among the Celts and Galatians, following what Aristotle says in his Magicus and Sotion writes in the twenty-third book of his Succession. They also say that Okhos was a Phoenician, Zamolksis was Thracian, and Atlas was Libyan.

The Egyptians claim that Hephaistos was a child of Nile and that he began philosophy, making priests and prophets its leaders. From him to Alexander of Macedon there were 48,863 years during which there occurred 373 solar eclipses and 832 lunar eclipses.

From the Magi, whose art was initiated by the Persian Zoroaster, Hermodorus the Platonist in his work on mathematics says that there were 5000 years to the sack of Troy. The Lydian Xanthos says that the period from Zoroaster to Xerxes’ invasion was 6000 years. After that, there were a series of Magi in order named Ostanas, Astrampsykhos, Gobryas, and Pazatas until Persia was subdued by Alexander.

But the writers who attribute this to the barbarians overlook the fact that these achievements are the Greeks, from whom not just philosophy began but the human race too. Look—Mousaios was born among the Athenians, Linus lived in Thebes. The first one, the son of Eumolpos, wrote a Theogony and made the first sphere, and he argued that everything comes from a single thing to which it eventually returns. He died at Phaleron and this is his epitaph:

The Phalerian earth holds Eumolpus’ dear son
Musaios, his body ruined, beneath this stone.

(The Eumolpidai of Athens get their name from Musaios’ father)

They also say that Linus was the son of Hermes and the Muse Ourania. He wrote a poem about the creation of the universe, the path of the sun and moon, and the creation of the animals and plants. His poem begins: “Once upon a time, everything came into being together.” This is where Anaxagoras got it when he said that all things were originally whole until mind came and separated them. Linus perished in Euboea, shot by Apollo. This is inscribed there:

The earth here received Theban Linus when he died,
The son of the muse Ourania, well-crowned.

And so, philosophy began among the Greeks, which is why its very name resists a foreign translation.”


Τὸ τῆς φιλοσοφίας ἔργον ἔνιοί φασιν ἀπὸ βαρβάρων ἄρξαι. γεγενῆσθαι γὰρ παρὰ μὲν Πέρσαις Μάγους, παρὰ δὲ Βαβυλωνίοις ἢ ᾿Ασσυρίοις Χαλδαίους, καὶ γυμνοσοφιστὰς παρ’ ᾿Ινδοῖς, παρά τε Κελτοῖς καὶ Γαλάταις τοὺς καλουμένους Δρυΐδας καὶ Σεμνοθέους, καθά φησιν ᾿Αριστοτέλης ἐν τῷ Μαγικῷ (Rose 35) καὶ Σωτίων ἐν τῷ εἰκοστῷ τρίτῳ τῆς Διαδοχῆς. Φοίνικά τε γενέσθαι ῏Ωχον, καὶ Θρᾷκα Ζάμολξιν, καὶ Λίβυν ῎Ατλαντα.

Αἰγύπτιοι μὲν γὰρ Νείλου γενέσθαι παῖδα ῞Ηφαιστον, ὃν ἄρξαι φιλοσοφίας, ἧς τοὺς προεστῶτας ἱερέας εἶναι καὶ προφήτας.ἀπὸ δὲ τούτου εἰς ᾿Αλέξανδρον τὸν Μακεδόνα ἐτῶν εἶναι μυριάδας τέσσαρας καὶ ὀκτακισχίλια ὀκτακόσια ἑξήκοντα τρία· ἐν οἷς ἡλίου μὲν ἐκλείψεις γενέσθαι τριακοσίας ἑβδομήκοντα τρεῖς, σελήνης δὲ ὀκτακοσίας τριάκοντα δύο.

᾿Απὸ δὲ τῶν Μάγων, ὧν ἄρξαι Ζωροάστρην τὸν Πέρσην, ῾Ερμόδωρος μὲν ὁ Πλατωνικὸς ἐν τῷ Περὶ μαθημάτων (Zeller p. 18) φησὶν εἰς τὴν Τροίας ἅλωσιν ἔτη γεγονέναι πεντακισχίλια· Ξάνθος δὲ ὁ Λυδὸς (FGrH 765 F 32) εἰς τὴν Ξέρξου διάβασιν ἀπὸ τοῦ Ζωροάστρου ἑξακισχίλιά φησι, καὶ μετ’ αὐτὸν γεγονέναι πολλούς τινας Μάγους κατὰ διαδοχήν, ᾿Οστάνας καὶ ᾿Αστραμψύχους καὶ Γωβρύας καὶ Παζάτας, μέχρι τῆς τῶν Περσῶν ὑπ’ ᾿Αλεξάνδρου καταλύσεως.

Λανθάνουσι δ’ αὑτοὺς τὰ τῶν ῾Ελλήνων κατορθώματα, ἀφ’ ὧν μὴ ὅτι γε φιλοσοφία, ἀλλὰ καὶ γένος ἀνθρώπων ἦρξε, βαρβάροις προσάπτοντες. ἰδοὺ γοῦν παρὰ μὲν ᾿Αθηναίοις γέγονε  Μουσαῖος, παρὰ δὲ Θηβαίοις Λίνος. καὶ τὸν μὲν Εὐμόλπου παῖδά φασι, ποιῆσαι δὲ Θεογονίαν καὶ Σφαῖραν πρῶτον· φάναι τε ἐξ ἑνὸς τὰ πάντα γίνεσθαι καὶ εἰς ταὐτὸν ἀναλύεσθαι. τοῦτον τελευτῆσαι Φαληροῖ, καὶ αὐτῷ ἐπιγεγράφθαι τόδε τὸ ἐλεγεῖον

(A. Pal. vii. 615)·

Εὐμόλπου φίλον υἱὸν ἔχει τὸ Φαληρικὸν οὖδας,

Μουσαῖον, φθίμενον σῶμ’, ὑπὸ τῷδε τάφῳ.

ἀπὸ δὲ τοῦ πατρὸς τοῦ Μουσαίου καὶ Εὐμολπίδαι καλοῦνται παρ’ ᾿Αθηναίοις.

Heroon of Mousaios
The Hero-Shrine of Musaios

Τὸν δὲ Λίνον παῖδα εἶναι ῾Ερμοῦ καὶ Μούσης Οὐρανίας· ποιῆσαι δὲ κοσμογονίαν, ἡλίου καὶ σελήνης πορείαν, καὶ ζῴων καὶ καρπῶν γενέσεις. τούτῳ ἀρχὴ τῶν ποιημάτων ἥδε·

ἦν ποτέ τοι χρόνος οὗτος, ἐν ᾧ ἅμα πάντ’ ἐπεφύκει.

ὅθεν λαβὼν ᾿Αναξαγόρας πάντα ἔφη χρήματα γεγονέναι ὁμοῦ, νοῦν δὲ ἐλθόντα αὐτὰ διακοσμῆσαι. τὸν δὲ Λίνον τελευτῆσαι ἐν Εὐβοίᾳ τοξευθέντα ὑπ’ ᾿Απόλλωνος, καὶ αὐτῷ ἐπιγεγράφθαι (A.Pal. vii. 616)·

ὧδε Λίνον Θηβαῖον ἐδέξατο γαῖα θανόντα,

Μούσης Οὐρανίης υἱὸν ἐϋστεφάνου.

καὶ ὧδε μὲν ἀφ’ ῾Ελλήνων ἦρξε φιλοσοφία, ἧς καὶ αὐτὸ τὸ ὄνομα τὴν βάρβαρον ἀπέστραπται προσηγορίαν.


“Two Ears, One Mouth” (Forever): From Zeno to Seven-Word Autobiographies

Over the weekend I reached out over twitter to Paul Holdengräber about his seven-word autobiography from Brainpickings.org‘s “The 7-Word Autobiographies of Famous Writers, Artists, Musicians and Philosophers”. It had been in my head for a few days: “Mother always said: Two ears, one mouth.” 

(And for an interview with the master of eclecticism, Paul, himself, check out the most recent Believer Magazine)

He has two ears and one mouth...
He has two ears and one mouth…

The phrase echoed in my head and it seemed to me like the type of gnomic utterance one might find from the fragments of a Greek philosopher. Without much rigor, I decided Heraclitus could say this.  I said as much to Paul over twitter, and he encouraged me to put it into ancient Greek:

[Ἡράκλειτος γὰρ φησί] ὦτα μὲν δύο, ἕν δὲ στόμα

My friend, the Fantastic Festus, suggested that Heraclitus or Hesiod would not use use μὲν and δὲ so, so he suggested losing them for something like this:

μήτηρ ἀεὶ ἔφη ὦτα δύο, ἕν στόμα

And for a bit things got hot and heavy over particles:

I settled on this: μήτηρ ἀεὶ ἔφη ὦτα δύο, ἕν δὲ στόμα

Armand D’Angour gave us a nice version in elegiac couplet:

ῥᾴδιόν ἐστι Λόγον τε νοεῖν ξυνετόν τε ποιῆσαι·
τοῦτο γάρ ἐστι βροτῶν, ἓν στόμα τ᾽, ὦτα δύο.

Armand added a Latin Elegiac couplet too!

en clarum est rerum ratio, nam invenimus aures
esse homini geminas, os tamen unicum adest.

But not to be completely left out, Gerrit Kloss joined in with his own version:

illud (vera patet ratio) tibi mente tenendum:
auribus est geminis, unius oris homo

So I put one version from above on twitter, and it received some positive feedback:

This was picked up with a ‘novel’ attribution by Salman Rushdie:

At first I joked to my wife that Salman Rushdie had bought a forgery! (In truth, I was pretty excited to get retweeted by him no matter what the context.)  But the story was not over.

In reality, I considered this a tribute more to Paul’s mother than our poor forgeries, until Gerrit Kloss struck again!

So, the quote I thought sounded Greek, turns out to have a parallel in Greek (if not an antecedent!). According to Diogenes Laertius, Zeno said something powerfully similar (the full text is available on Perseus). And, honestly, without preening too much, I was happy that the version I settled on (μήτηρ ἀεὶ ἔφη ὦτα δύο, ἕν στόμα) wasn’t too different from the words attributed to Zeno: δύο ὦτα ἔχομεν, στόμα δὲ ἕν). But, to be more honest, this is not the most complicated composition.  Armand’s efforts are far more impressive.

But the discussion engaged more people, and we received this information:

As Gerrit discovered for us, the life of this proverbial statement is pretty interesting:

Of course, here we have a German testimony to a Danish proverb–and I have no idea what kind of authority this has.

Ein dänisches Sprichwort sagt: “Der Mensch hat zwei Ohren und nur einen Mund. Wir sollten also doppelt so viel zuhören, wie wir sprechen.”

(“A Danish saying goes: “Man has two ears and only one mouth. Therefore, we should listen twice as much as we speak.”)

And I couldn’t settle on this alone.  I needed Danish to add to the mix. (Twitter is an amazing drug):

Before I go on and get dizzy, I want to include the original source and a translation.  Note Diogenes is separated from Zeno (founder of Stoicism) by five centuries or so..

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers Book 7, 23.6-24.3 (3rd Century CE)

“When Dionysus the rebel asked Zeno why he failed to correct only him, Zeno replied “Because I do not trust you.” To a youth talking nonsense, he said “We have two ears, but one mouth so that we may hear more but speak less.” When he was asked the reason he was reclining at the symposium in silence, he told the man asking to inform the king that someone present knew how to be quiet.”

“Those who questioned him were envoys from Ptolemy and they wished to know what they should say from Zeno when they returned to the king. When he was asked how he feels about slander, he said “The way an envoy does when he returns without an answer.” Apollonius of Tyre recounts that when Krates tried to drag him by the cloak from Stipo, Zeno said, “Crates, the best way to grab philosophers is by the ears. Move them by persuasion. If you force me, my body will be yours, but my soul will be with Stilpo.”

Διονυσίου  δὲ τοῦ Μεταθεμένου εἰπόντος αὐτῷ διὰ τί αὐτὸν μόνον οὐ διορθοῖ, ἔφη, “οὐ γάρ σοι πιστεύω.” πρὸς τὸ φλυαροῦν μειράκιον, “διὰ τοῦτο,” εἶπε, “δύο ὦτα ἔχομεν, στόμα δὲ ἕν, ἵνα πλείονα μὲν ἀκούωμεν, ἥττονα δὲ λέγωμεν.” ἐν συμποσίῳ κατακείμενος σιγῇ τὴν αἰτίαν ἠρωτήθη· ἔφη οὖν τῷ ἐγκαλέσαντι ἀπαγγεῖλαι πρὸς τὸν βασιλέα ὅτι παρῆν τις σιωπᾶν ἐπιστάμενος·

ἦσαν δὲ οἱ ἐρωτήσαντες παρὰ Πτολεμαίου πρέσβεις ἀφικόμενοι καὶ βουλόμενοι μαθεῖν τί εἴποιεν παρ’ αὐτοῦ πρὸς τὸν βασιλέα. ἐρωτηθεὶς πῶς ἔχει πρὸς λοιδορίαν, “καθάπερ,” εἶπεν, “εἰ πρεσβευτὴς ἀναπόκριτος ἀποστέλλοιτο.” φησὶ δ’ ᾿Απολλώνιος ὁ Τύριος, ἕλκοντος αὐτὸν Κράτητος τοῦ ἱματίου ἀπὸ Στίλπωνος, εἰπεῖν, “ὦ Κράτης, λαβὴ φιλοσόφων ἐστὶν ἐπιδέξιος ἡ διὰ τῶν ὤτων· πείσας οὖν ἕλκε τούτων· εἰ δέ με βιάζῃ, τὸ μὲν σῶμα παρὰ σοὶ ἔσται, ἡ δὲ ψυχὴ παρὰ Στίλπωνι.”

Note how listening and silence (alternating with speech) are recurring motifs in this section…

But the ancients weren’t done with us yet. Now it seems that during the Roman Imperial period, the saying “two ears, one mouth” had gained  proverbial status. Gerrit  shared this:

Apuleius too!

Now, some “conclusions”:

  1. Rushdie is smarter than me (but I knew that)
  2. Zeno might be Paul’s Mother (or not)
  3. Paul’s mother may or may not have read Zeno
  4. The sentiment is meaningful enough to have been (a) repeated in different cultural contexts; (b) be generated multiple times; or (c) both.
  5. Armand, again a font of wisdom, waved any existential worry away with Goethe:

To Paul, his mother, and Zeno: I have now started saying this to my children (who look at me and then promptly turn away).

To Armand, Gerrit, Robert and everyone else who helped pull all this together: thanks for some fun and distraction on the internet.

Pythagoras Saw Homer and Hesiod Punished in Hell! (plus an etymology for his name)

Diogenes Laertius, 8.21 (Lives of the Sophists)


“Hieronymos says that when Pythagoras went down into Hades he saw the ghost of Hesiod bound to a bronze pillar, squeaking, and that Homer’s ghost was hanging from a tree surrounded by snakes. They were being punished for the things they said about the gods. And in addition he saw men who were not willing to have sex with their own wives. This is the reason, that Pythagoras was honored by the inhabitants of Croton. Aristippos of Cyrene in his work Peri Physiologoi says that Pythagoras was given his name because he spoke the truth publically [agoreuô] no less than the Pythian oracle.”

φησὶ δ’ ῾Ιερώνυμος (Hiller xxii) κατελθόντα αὐτὸν εἰς ᾅδου τὴν μὲν ῾Ησιόδου ψυχὴν ἰδεῖν πρὸς κίονι χαλκῷ δεδεμένην καὶ τρίζουσαν, τὴν δ’ ῾Ομήρου κρεμαμένην ἀπὸ δένδρου καὶ ὄφεις περὶ αὐτὴν ἀνθ’ ὧν εἶπον περὶ θεῶν, κολαζομένους δὲ καὶ τοὺς μὴ θέλοντας συνεῖναι ταῖς ἑαυτῶν γυναιξί· καὶ δὴ καὶ διὰ τοῦτο τιμηθῆναι  ὑπὸ τῶν ἐν Κρότωνι. φησὶ δ’ ᾿Αρίστιππος ὁ Κυρηναῖος ἐν τῷ Περὶ φυσιολόγων Πυθαγόραν αὐτὸν ὀνομασθῆναι ὅτι τὴν ἀλήθειαν ἠγόρευεν οὐχ ἧττον τοῦ Πυθίου.


The sacrilege of Homer and Hesiod is an ancient motif finding its earliest extant articulation in the pre-Socratic poet Xenophanes:

Xenophanes, fragments 9-11


“From the beginning, according to Homer, since everyone has learned [from him…]

*          *          *

“Homer and Hesiod have attributed everything to the gods
that is shameful and reprehensible among men:
theft, adultery and deceiving each other

*          *          *

How they have sung the most the lawless deeds of the gods!
That they steal, commit adultery and deceive one another…


Fr. 9

ἐξ ἀρχῆς καθ’ ῞Ομηρον, ἐπεὶ μεμαθήκασι πάντες …


Fr. 10

πάντα θεοῖσ’ ἀνέθηκαν ῞Ομηρός θ’ ῾Ησίοδός τε,
ὅσσα παρ’ ἀνθρώποισιν ὀνείδεα καὶ ψόγος ἐστίν,
κλέπτειν μοιχεύειν τε καὶ ἀλλήλους ἀπατεύειν.


Fr. 11

ὡς πλεῖστ’ ἐφθέγξαντο θεῶν ἀθεμίστια ἔργα,
κλέπτειν μοιχεύειν τε καὶ ἀλλήλους ἀπατεύειν.

Homerists Are a Quarrelsome Bunch (And Have been for A While: Pausanias, 9.30.3)

In his Description of Greece, Pausanias comes to the topic of the age of Homer and Hesiod and begs off discussing it, though he admits giving much thought to it, because of the character of people who work on such things:

“It would not be sweet for me to write about the relative age of Homer and Hesiod, even though I have worked on the problem as closely as possible. This is because I am familiar with the fault-finding character of others and not the least of those who dominate the study of epic poetry in my time.”

περὶ δὲ ῾Ησιόδου τε ἡλικίας καὶ ῾Ομήρου πολυπραγμονήσαντι ἐς τὸ ἀκριβέστατον οὔ μοι γράφειν ἡδὺ ἦν, ἐπισταμένῳ τὸ φιλαίτιον ἄλλων τε καὶ οὐχ ἥκιστα ὅσοι κατ’ ἐμὲ ἐπὶ ποιήσει τῶν ἐπῶν καθεστήκεσαν.

(The more things change….)

According to the biographer of sophists, Diogenes Laertius, the 4th century Heraclides Ponticus wrote “Two books about the age of Homer and Hesiod” and “Two books about Archilochus and Homer” (Περὶ τῆς ῾Ομήρου καὶ ῾Ησιόδου ἡλικίας α′ β′, Περὶ ᾿Αρχιλόχου καὶ ῾Ομήρου α′ β′; see Koning 2010, 40).

Of course, antiquity presented every possible opinion on this:

Suda s.v. ῾Ησίοδος

“He was according to some older than Homer; but according to others he was the same age. Porphyry and most others argue that he is one hundred years younger…”

ἦν δὲ ῾Ομήρου κατά τινας πρεσβύτερος, κατὰ δὲ ἄλλους σύγχρονος· Πορφύριος καὶ
ἄλλοι πλεῖστοι νεώτερον ἑκατὸν ἐνιαυτοῖς ὁρίζουσιν.

(You can probably expect more of this. Palaiophron and I are developing a fixtion with the silliness of the Suda. He has confessed to fantasizing and developing “a book of refutations titled Suda Says: Everything that Classicists Know is Wrong.”)

Like this kind of stuff? These books are good:

Barbara Graziosi. The Invention of Homer. Cambridge, 2002.

Hugo Koning. Hesiod: The Other Poet. Leiden, 2010.

Messing More with Homer: Megara, Salamis, Athens and Solon

A few weeks back we posted a passage from Plutarch implying that Athenians manipulated the Homeric epics to political ends. Here’s another accusation from Plutarch’s Life of Solon (10.2-3).

“Many report that the record of Homer was introduced into the contest by Solon. They say that he read this line he interpolated this line into the Catalogue of Ships at the trial

“Ajax led twelve ships from Salamis
And after he arrived he stationed his troops where the Athenians were”

But the Athenians themselves believe that this assertion [i.e. that Solon interpolated lines] is nonsense.”

οἱ μὲν οὖν πολλοὶ τῷ Σόλωνι συναγωνίσασθαι λέγουσι τὴν ῾Ομήρου δόξαν· ἐμβαλόντα γὰρ αὐτὸν ἔπος εἰς νεῶν κατάλογον ἐπὶ τῆς δίκης ἀναγνῶναι (Il. 2. 557)·

Αἴας δ’ ἐκ Σαλαμῖνος ἄγεν δυοκαίδεκα νῆας,
στῆσε δ’ ἄγων ἵν’ ᾿Αθηναίων ἵσταντο φάλαγγες.

αὐτοὶ δ’ ᾿Αθηναῖοι ταῦτα μὲν οἴονται φλυαρίαν εἶναι

The context of the anecdote is a trial over Athenian claims to the island of Salamis. Solon insisted that the Salaminian and Athenian contingents were together and thus had a shared history, justifying Athenian control over the island. For other versions of this ‘trial’, see Aristotle Rhet. 1335b26-30; Strabo 9.1.9-10; and Diogenes Laertius. 1.48.

Strabo’s version, in fact, gives the Megarians a Homeric response of their own:

“The Athenians seemed to have provided this kind of a testimony from Homer, but the Megarians sang in response that “Ajax, led ships from Salamis, Polikhnê, and from Aigeiroussê, Nisaia, and Tripodes”. These are Megarian lands, of which they say that “Tripodes” is the Tripodiskion where the marketplace of the Magarians is currently situated.”

οἱ μὲν δὴ ᾿Αθηναῖοι τοιαύτην τινὰ σκήψασθαι μαρτυρίαν παρ’ ῾Ομήρου δοκοῦσιν, οἱ δὲ Μεγαρεῖς ἀντιπαρῳδῆσαι οὕτως „Αἴας „δ’ ἐκ Σαλαμῖνος ἄγεν νέας, ἔκ τε Πολίχνης, ἔκ τ’ „Αἰγειρούσσης Νισαίης τε Τριπόδων τε.” ἅ ἐστι χωρία Μεγαρικά, ὧν οἱ Τρίποδες Τριποδίσκιον λέγονται, καθ’ ὃ ἡ νῦν ἀγορὰ τῶν Μεγάρων κεῖται.

Here, the people of Megara claim that Ajax’s contingent included men from their lands. Thus, their connection is closer! For a great article on this exchange, see Carolyn Higbie. “The Bones of a Hero, the Ashes of a Politician: Athens, Salamis, and the Usable Past.” Classical Antiquity 16 (1997) 278-307.