A Most Important Foundation For Thought: Student Proverbs

Literary Papyri 115 (LCL360 Collart, Les Papyrus Bouriant, Paris, 1926, no. 1, p. 17) This is from a list of proverbs copied over in a student’s hand.

“Letters are the most important foundation for thought.”
(1) ἀρχὴ μεγίστη τοῦ φρονεῖν τὰ γράμματα.

“Respect the elder, an image of a god.”
(2) γέροντα τίμα τοῦ θεοῦ τὴν εἰκόνα.

“Lust is the most ancient of all the gods.”
(3) ἔρως ἁπάντων τῶν θεῶν παλαίτατος.

“I say that possessions are the most beautiful of all things.”
(4) κάλλιστά φημι χρημάτων τὰ κτήματα.

“Give in return when you have received so that you may take whenever you want.”
(5) λαβὼν πάλιν δός, ἵνα λάβηις ὅταν θέληις.

“The mind in us is the most prophetic god.”
(6) ὁ νοῦς ἐν ἡμῖν μαντικώτατος θεός.

“Your father is the one who raised you not the one who gave you life.”
(7) πατὴρ ὁ θρέψας κοὐχ ὁ γεννήσας πατήρ.

“Rescue yourself from wicked affairs.”
(8) σῶσον σεαυτὸν ἐκ πονηρῶν πραγμάτω(ν).

“Return a favor to friends in a timely fashion.”
(9) χάριν φίλοις εὔκαιρον ἀπόδος ἐν μέρει.

“Gratitude, you are the greatest of all riches!”
(10) ὦ τῶν ἁπάντων χρημάτων πλείστη χάρις.

Manuscript illustration depicts King Henry II of England demanding that the Arthurian romances be written down. It is taken from the beginning of La mort au Roy Artus, in a 13th-century manuscript of Arthurian romances (Yale ms. 229, f. 272v, Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University
Image taken from here

A Downtrodden Man Writes To His Sister

Personal Letters, 4th Century CE Hermias (162)

“Hermias greets his sister. For the rest of it, I don’t know what I should write to you about—for I have talked myself to exhaustion again and again to you and you do not listen. It is right, when a man notices that he is in rough times, to retreat and not merely fight against what has been allotted him. Even though we are by birth from modest and ill-starred folk, should we not still yield and give some space to ourselves?

At this point, nothing has happened. Even so, if it is sweet to you, have someone come to me, either Gounthos or Ammonios who may remain until I know how my affairs are. Should I be slowed down or even cut off until God should pity us?”

Τῇ ἀδελφῇ Ἑρμείας χαίρειν. λοιπὸν τί σοι γράψω οὐκ οἶδα, ἀπαίκα-{κα}μον γάρ σοι αἵκαστον λέγων καὶ οὐκ αἰνακούεις. χρὴ γάρ τινα ὁρῶντα αἱαυτὸν ἐν δυστυχίᾳ κἂν ἀναχωρῖν καὶ μὴ ἁπλῶς μάχαισθαι τῷ δεδογμένῳ. μετρίων γὰρ καὶ δυστυχῶν γένεσιν αἴχοντες οὐδὲ οὕτω αἱαυτοῖς προσαίχομεν; τέως μὲν οὖν οὐδὲν οὐδέπω παίπρακται. κἂν ὥς, εἴπερ μέλι σοι, ἀπόστιλόν μοί τινα ἢ Γοῦνθον ἢ Ἀμμώνιον παραμένοντά μοι ἄχρις ἂν γνῶ πῶς τὰ κατ᾿ αἰμαὶ ἀποτίθαιται. μὴ ἄρα παρέλκομαι ἢ καὶ εἴργομαι ἔστ᾿ ἂν ὁ θεὸς ἡμᾶς αἰλαιήσῃ;

Margery Kempe (1373-1438) was a medieval housewife who, after a religious experience, left her husband and children to go on a great journey of travel and mysticism. She dictated 'The Book of Margery Kempe', a work considered by some to be the first autobiography in the English language. This book chronicles her extensive pilgrimages to various holy sites in Europe and Asia, as well as her mystical conversations with God. An illumination from M.S. Royal 15 D 1.
Image from here