Manic Monday: Euripidean Fragments on Fortune, Suffering and Intelligence

Euripides, fr. 102 (Alcmene)

“We are all wiser at weighing our neighbor’s bad luck than our own.”

σοφώτεροι γὰρ συμφορὰς τὰς τῶν πέλας
πάντες διαθρεῖν ἢ τύχας τὰς οἴκοθεν.

Euripides fragment

Euripides,fr. 205 (Antiope)


“I know that I suffer and this is no small pain:
Not to know, now that brings some pleasure to
The troubled—ignorance is an advantage amid grief.”

φρονῶ δ’ ὃ πάσχω, καὶ τόδ’ οὐ σμικρὸν κακόν·
τὸ μὴ εἰδέναι γὰρ ἡδονὴν ἔχει τινὰ
νοσοῦντα, κέρδος δ’ ἐν κακοῖς ἀγνωσία.


Euripides, fr. 290 (Bellerophon)

“I always fear less a dull man who is naturally strong
Than someone who is weak and clever.”

ἀεὶ γὰρ ἄνδρα σκαιὸν ἰσχυρὸν φύσει
ἧσσον δέδοικα τἀσθενοῦς τε καὶ σοφοῦ.

Nobility Comes Not from Noble Birth: Euripides, fr. 52

“Our conversation will be superfluous if
We praise nobility in human birth.
For long ago at the moment we were first created
And the earth produced mortals one could distinguish
She raised us all up with similar appearance.
We have no special trait. One race
Are the well-born and the low-born.
Time makes some haughty with custom.
But god makes some noble with intelligence
and understanding, not wealth….”

περισσόμυθος ὁ λόγος, εὐγένειαν εἰ
βρότειον εὐλογήσομεν.
τὸ γὰρ πάλαι καὶ πρῶτον ὅτ’ ἐγενόμεθα,
διὰ δ’ ἔκρινεν ἁ τεκοῦσα γᾶ βροτούς,
ὁμοίαν χθὼν ἅπασιν ἐξεπαίδευσεν ὄψιν.
ἴδιον οὐδὲν ἔσχομεν• μία δὲ γονὰ
τό τ’ εὐγενὲς καὶ τὸ δυσγενές•
νόμῳ δὲ γαῦρον αὐτὸ κραίνει χρόνος.
τὸ φρόνιμον εὐγένεια καὶ τὸ συνετὸν
ὁ θεὸς δίδωσιν, οὐχ ὁ πλοῦτος.

This is from Euripides’ lost play Alexandros.

Diogenes F6 (from Simplicius Physics152.21-153.13)

And yet all things live, see and hear though the same thing; and they derive every other part of their mind from that very source.


ὅμως δὲ πάντα τῶι αὐτῶι καὶ ζῆι καὶ ὁρᾶι καὶ ἀκούει, καὶ τὴν ἄλλην νόησιν ἔχει ἀπὸ αὐτοῦ πάντα

Homer, Odyssey 8.167-70

“The gods don’t bless men with everything—

not with looks, brains and persuasive speech.

One man may not appear very impressive

But god crowns his form with words…”

οὕτως οὐ πάντεσσι θεοὶ χαρίεντα διδοῦσιν

ἀνδράσιν, οὔτε φυὴν οὔτ᾽ ἂρ φρένας οὔτ᾽ ἀγορητύν.

ἄλλος μὲν γάρ τ᾽ εἶδος ἀκιδνότερος πέλει ἀνήρ,

ἀλλὰ θεὸς μορφὴν ἔπεσι στέφει …

This, of course, is Odysseus’ response to being told that “the greatest glory a man can acheive is with his hands and his feet”.