The Balance of Silence and Speech

These sayings come from the Gnomologium Vaticanum


58 “When Aristotle was asked what the most burdensome thing in life is he said “staying silent.”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἐρωτηθείς, τί δυσκολώτατόν ἐστιν ἐν βίῳ, εἶπε· „τὸ σιωπᾶν”.


547 “Philoxenos said that peoples’ ears get worn out by a tongue for they are eager to tell people what they don’t know before listening well.”

Φιλόξενος ἔφησε τῶν ἀνθρώπων τὰς ἀκοὰς τῇ γλώσσῃ συντετρῆσθαι· πρὶν γὰρ ἢ καλῶς ἀκοῦσαι, σπουδάζειν αὐτοὺς ἅπερ οὐκ ἐπίστανται πρὸς ἄλλους λέγειν.


456 “Pittakos asked Bias “what is hardest in life?” And when he answered “to know yourself”, he asked again, “what is easiest?” And Bias said in response “to criticize someone else.”

῾Ο αὐτὸς Βίαντα ἠρώτησε· „τί δυσχερέστερον ἐν τῷ βίῳ”; τοῦ δὲ εἰπόντος· „τὸ ἑαυτὸν γνῶναι” πάλιν ἤρετο· „τί δὲ ῥᾴδιον”; καὶ πάλιν Βίας φησί· „τὸ ἕτερον ψέξαι”.


382 “[Kratês] the Cynic used to say that it is better to slip with your foot than your tongue.”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἔφη κρεῖττον εἶναι τῷ ποδὶ ὀλισθῆσαι ἢ τῇ γλώττῃ.


219 “When Demosthenes was asked what kind of thing is the greatest weapon, he said “speech”.

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἐρωτηθεὶς ποῖον μέγιστον ὅπλον εἶπε· „λόγος”.


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Poets and Audiences, Some Pithy Sayings

The following anecdotes are taken from the Gnomologium Vaticanum


“When Antagoras the poet had a performance at Thebes and obtained no honor, he said “Thebans, Odysseus screwed up when he covered his companions’ ears as he was sailing by the Sirens. It would have been right for him to hire you as sailors.”

᾿Ανταγόρας ὁ ποιητὴς ἀκρόασιν παρέχων ἐν Θήβαις καὶ μηδεμιᾶς τυγχάνων τιμῆς εἶπεν· „ὦ ἄνδρες Θηβαῖοι· ἥμαρτεν ᾿Οδυσσεὺς ἐμφράξας τῶν ἑταίρων τὰς ἀκοάς, ὅτε τὰς Σειρῆνας παρέπλει· ἔδει γὰρ αὐτὸν ὑμᾶς ναύτας μισθώσασθαι.”



“When Antagoras the Rhodian epic poet was reading his composition the Thebais in Thebes and no one was applauding him, he took the book and said, “You are rightly called Boiotians, for you all have cows’ ears!”

᾿Ανταγόρας ὁ ῾Ρόδιος ἐποποιὸς ἐν Θήβαις ἀναγινώσκων τὸ τῆς Θηβαΐδος σύγγραμμα, ὡς οὐδεὶς ἐπεσημαίνετο, εἱλήσας τὸ βιβλίον εἶπεν· „δικαίως καλεῖσθε Βοιωτοί· βοῶν γὰρ ὦτα ἔχετε.”



“When Persinos the poet was asked who the best poet is he says “each poet is to himself, but Homer to everyone else.”

Περσῖνος ὁ ποιητὴς ἐρωτηθεὶς τίς ἄριστός ἐστι ποιητὴς „παρ’ ἑαυτῷ μὲν ἕκαστος”, <εἶπε>, „παρὰ δὲ τοῖς ἄλλοις ῞Ομηρος”.



“Protagoras, when he was slandered by some poet because he didn’t take his poems, said “Wretch—it’s better for me to be slandered by you than to listen to your poems.”

Πρωταγόρας ἐποποιοῦ τινος αὐτὸν βλασφημοῦντος ἐπὶ τῷ μὴ ἀποδέχεσθαι τὰ ποιήματα αὐτοῦ „ὦ τάν”, ἔφη· „κρεῖττόν μοι ἐστι κακῶς ἀκούειν ὑπό σου ἢ τῶν σῶν ποιημάτων ἀκούειν”.


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