“Like the Full Moon…” Some Greek Proverbs on Gratitude

thanksgiving

Arsenius, 6.38b

“If you are able to give thanks, don’t tarry, but give it—since you know that things are not everlasting.”

Δυνάμενος χαρίζεσθαι, μὴ βράδυνε, ἀλλὰ δίδου, ἐπιστάμενος μὴ εἶναι τὰ πράγματα μόνιμα.

Arsenius, 6.95c

“Humans have greater thanks for the unexpected”

᾿Εκ τῶν ἀέλπτων ἡ χάρις μείζων βροτοῖς

Arsenius 8.42p

“Just like food for the starving, well-timed thanks tunes and heals what the soul is missing.” – Heraclitus

 ῾Η εὔκαιρος χάρις λιμῷ καθάπερ τροφὴ ἁρμόττουσα τὴν τῆς ψυχῆς ἔνδειαν ἰᾶται ῾Ηρακλείτου.

Zenobius, 36.3

“The Graces are naked: [a proverb] indicating that it is right to give unsparingly and in the open.”

Αἱ Χάριτες γυμναί: ἤτοι ὅτι δεῖ ἀφειδῶς καὶ φανερῶς χαρίζεσθαι·

Arsenius 8.77b

“Thanks for the wise never dies”

῾Η χάρις πρὸς εὐγνώμονας οὐδέποτε θνήσκει.

Aresnius 8.77d

“Thanks looks as beautiful as the moon when it is full”

῾Η χάρις ὥσπερ ἡ σελήνη, ὅταν τελεία γένηται, τότε καλὴ φαίνεται.

Aresnius 8.77d

‘Thanks, like nothing else in life, ages quickest among most people”

῾Η χάρις, ὡς οὐδὲν ἄλλο ἐν βίῳ, παρὰ τοῖς πολλοῖς τάχιστα γηράσκει.

Arsenius 18.59f 

“Don’t hesitate to die for the very things for which you want to live.”

῟Ων ἕνεκα ζῆν ἐθέλεις, τούτων χάριν καὶ ἀποθανεῖν μὴ κατόκνει.

Michaelos Apostolios, 5.18

“A field with a clod of dirt”: [a proverb applied to those] who show thanks for great things with small gestures.”

     Βώλοις ἄρουραν: ἐπὶ τῶν τοῖς μικροῖς χαριζομένων τοὺς μεγάλους.

Michaelos Apostolios, 13.37

“It is right neither to seek friendship from a corpse nor thanks from the greedy”

Οὔτε παρὰ νεκροῦ ὁμιλίαν, οὔτε παρὰ φιλαργύρου δεῖ χάριν ἐπιζητεῖν.

Image result for Ancient Greek dedicatory offerings

More on proverbs, go here.

Greek kharis (χάρις, “thanks”) is related to the verb khairô (χαίρω), “to feel joy”

From Beekes 2010:

Kharis 1

Kharis 2

We Have Two Ears, One Mouth: δύο ὦτα ἔχομεν, στόμα δὲ ἕν

I am reposting this in honor of Paul Holdengraber who is leaving the New York Public Library at the end of this year to become the Founding Executive Director of The Onassis Foundation LA. I am eager to see the amazing things Paul will do there, but I know that the NYPL will not be the same without him.

The first version of this post emerged from a conversation Paul and I had on twitter. The conversation and the post were turning points for this blog–it showed me how social media could be a force for good and that there was a lot more we could do with this project in addition to posting passages from Latin and Greek. I wish Paul the best of luck in his new mission.

A few years ago now I noticed the Paul Holdengraber‘s 7-word autobiography from brainpickings.org.: “Mother always said: Two Ears, One mouth.” The phrase bounced around in my head a bit–it has that aphoristic perfection of brevity and familiarity. So, I reached out to Paul over twitter and told him it sounded like something from a Greek philosopher like Heraclitus.

Proverbs have a special place in language and society cross-culturally–they strike a promise of insight that demands  contemplation or explanation. They also have an air of authority and antiquity, even when they actually possess neither. And, unlike longer, less anonymized forms of language, they are repeated, borrowed, and stolen without end.

My late father was a great aphorist–perhaps missing him is part of why Paul’s tweet stuck with me. Most of my father’s words, however, were far more Archie Bunker than Aristotle. Those I can repeat were likely taken from his own father, a Master Sargent in WW2 who died a decade before I was born. The tendency to inherit and pass down proverbs is something I only really noticed when I had children and found myself ‘quoting’ (or becoming?) my father (“if you take care of your equipment it will take care of you”) or my grandmother (cribbing Oscar Wilde: “Only boring people get bored”).

So, when Paul thought it would be a gas if we actually translated his mother’s words into ancient Greek (and eventually Latin), I was ready. I got help from some great Classicists too. We came up with a few versions.

First, I went with classical rhetoric, a close antithesis: μήτηρ ἀεὶ ἔφη ὦτα μὲν δύο, ἕν δὲ στόμα. But our friend the Fantastic Festus argued 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 [“mother always used to say two ears, one mouth”]

This gave us Paul’s mother’s advice in seven Greek words and his mother’s advice. But this didn’t get us out of trouble. The critic, author and Classicist Daniel Mendelsohn suggested hexameters and from across the Atlantic the extraordinary Armand D’Angour obliged with a composition of his own:

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

[Literally, this is “it is easy to know the Logos and make it understood: Mortals have this [character]: one mouth and two ears” Go to the full post for all the compositional glory and an appearance from Salman Rushdie].

At this point, I felt like I had entertained myself on a Saturday morning, involved my internet friends in a silly, though somewhat academic caper, and done a favor for a new friend to please the spirits of parents no longer with us. But the world wide web had a a plot twist I should have thought of.

Ancient Greek and Roman authors and scholars loved proverbs. Writers like Zenobius and Photius made collections and interpretations of them. The Byzantine Encyclopedia, the Suda, uses the word for proverb (in Greek paroimia) over 600 times and presents nearly as many distinct proverbs. (Many of which are wonderful.) And in the modern world, we have an entire academic field dedicated to the study of proverbial sayings: paroemiology. Let me tell you, we could have used en expert last fall.

While we were playing around with translations, one of our ‘players’, the grand Gerrit Kloss, let us know we were, to use a proverbial saying, reinventing the wheel. Zeno, the Cynic philosopher, was credited with this saying over two thousand years ago:

So, the quote I thought sounded Greek, turned out to be Greek. 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).

And yet, the story was not over. Gerrit Floss was far from done with us–he found an even earlier Latin version of the line attributed to Apuleius.

As we began to discuss these versions, other voices chimed in with accounts from even more languages. Gerrit helped us trace the life of this proverbial statement to German and Danish:

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.”)

Oh, and later one, we added some Arabic to the mix too!

[The Arabic version of this is dated to the 7th century CE and attributed to a companion of the Prophet Muhammad named Abū ad-Dardā. Thanks to ReemK10 for this]

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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.

One Way to Deal With Men: “The Lame Man is the Best Lover”

Mimnermus fr. 21 [=] Corp. Paroem. suppl., 1961, V), p. 15

“The lame man is the best lover.” They say that the Amazons crippled their male offspring by cutting off either a leg or a hand. When the Skythians were fighting them and they offered to make a treaty, they promised the Amazons that they would not be married to any Skythians who were crippled or mutilated. The leader of the Amazons, Antianeira, responded “The lame man is the best lover.” Mimnermus preserves this proverb.”

“ἄριστα χωλὸς οἰφεῖ.” φησὶν ὅτι αἱ Ἀμαζόνες τοὺς γιγνομένους ἄρσενας ἐπήρουν, ἢ σκέλος ἢ χεῖρα περιελόμεναι· πολεμοῦντες δὲ πρὸς αὐτὰς οἱ Σκύθαι καὶ βουλόμενοι πρὸς αὐτὰς σπείσασθαι ἔλεγον ὅτι συνέσονται τοῖς Σκύθαις εἰς γάμον ἀπηρώτοις καὶ οὐ λελωβημένοις· ἀποκριναμένη δὲ πρὸς αὐτοὺς ἡ Ἀντιάνειρα ἡγεμὼν τῶν Ἀμαζόνων εἶπεν· “ἄριστα χωλὸς οἰφεῖ.” μέμνηται τῆς παροιμίας Μίμ<ν>ερμος.

Cf. Diogenianus 2.2.1

“The lame man is the best lover.” They say that the Amazons crippled their male offspring by cutting off either a leg or a hand. When the Skythians were fighting them and they wanted to deceive them, they said that they would have no crippled or mutilated men marry them, since their husbands were all mutilated. In response to this, the leader of the Amazons, said “A cripple fucks the best” instead of using “sunosiazei” [to have sex with]

῎Αριστα χωλὸς οἰφεῖ: φασὶν ὅτι αἱ ᾿Αμαζόνες τοὺς γεννωμένους ἄῤῥενας ἐπήρουν. ῞Οθεν πολεμοῦντες αὐταῖς οἱ Σκύθαι, καὶ βουλόμενοι αὐτὰς ἐξαπατῆσαι,ἔλεγον ὅτι συνέσονται αὐταῖς εἰς γάμον ἀπήρωτοι καὶ οὐ λελωβημένοι, ὡς τῶν ἐκείνων ἀνδρῶν λελωβημένων ὄντων. ᾿Εξ ὧν ἀποκριθεῖσα ἡ ἡγεμὼν τῶν ᾿Αμαζόνων, ῎Αριστα, φησὶ, χωλὸς οἰφεῖ, ἀντὶ τοῦ συνουσιάζει.

Pausanias, Attic Lexicon alpha 149

“This proverb is used for those who choose local evils rather than foreign goods. For when the Skythians were warring against the Amazons and there was a ceasefire, while they were considering other things they were also saying to the woman that if they consented to them they would have un-disabled husbands instead pf the mutilated, lame, and useless men who were already among them. Antineira, who was leading them, was both bold and persistent, and she said to them: “A lame man fucks the best” instead of using the term for intercourse. For the Amazons handicap those male children born to them in either their legs or their right hands. [hence it is clear they they have lame husbands.]”

     ἄριστα χωλὸς οἰφεῖ (com. fr. ad. 36 K.)· ἐπὶ τῶν οἰκεῖα κακὰ μᾶλλον αἱρουμένων ἢ τὰ ἀλλότρια ἀγαθά. τῶν γὰρ Σκυθῶν ποτε ταῖς ᾿Αμαζόσι πολεμούντων καὶ ἀνοχῆς γενομένης, τά τε ἄλλα φιλοφρονουμένων καὶ φασκόντων αὐταῖς, ὅτι εἰ τούτοις πεισθεῖεν, ἀπηρώτοις συνέσονται ἀνδράσιν, ἀλλ’ οὐχὶ λελωβημένοις καὶ χωλοῖς καὶ ἀχρείοις ὡς οἱ παρ’ αὐταῖς, ᾿Αντιάνειρα ἡ τούτων ἡγουμένη, θρασεῖα ἅμα καὶ ἀκόλαστος οὖσα, εἶπε πρὸς αὐτούς· ‘ἄριστα χωλὸς οἰφεῖ’ ἀντὶ τοῦ συνουσιάζει. αἱ γὰρ ᾿Αμαζόνες τῶν τικτομένων παρ’ αὐταῖς ἀρρένων ἐπήρουν τὰ σκέλη ἢ τὰς δεξιὰς χεῖρας. [δῆλον οὖν ὅτι χωλοῖς ἀνδράσιν ἐχρῶντο].

Photios offers an explanation for the proverb:

“The lame man is the best lover” for, lame men are inclined towards sex. Douris in the 6th book of his Philippika records that the Amazons crippled their male offspring.”

῎Αριστα χωλὸς οἰφεῖ· καταφερεῖς γὰρ οἱ χωλοὶ πρὸς συνουσίαν. Δοῦρις δὲ ἐν ζ′ τῶν Φιλιππικῶν ἱστορεῖ (fr. novum) τὰς ᾿Αμαζόνας χωλοῦν τὴν ἄρρενα γενεάν.

Scholia to Theocritus Prolog. 4.6263

“The proverb, which they say is given, “the lame man makes the best lover, is said since lame men sit at home constantly having sex…”

καὶ ἡ παροιμία ‘ἄριστα χωλὸς οἰφεῖ’, ἥν φασι διαδοθῆναι, ἐπεὶ οἱ χωλοὶ ἐν οἴκῳ καθεζόμενοι συνεχῶς ἀφροδισιάζουσιν.

Image result for ancient greek amazon and lover

A short lexical note to explain why I should translate οἰφεῖ as “fuck”.

In the fourth translation of the proverb I introduce a vulgar variation that I think is probably closer to what is going on with the anecdote. I think the point is that the Amazon queen is being vulgar to put off the Skythians. The verb used here, oiphein, is rare and vulgar enough that the LSJ does not provide a decent translation.

oipho lsj

Henderson (Maculate Muse, 157) follows LSJ in translating as “mount”

oipho hend

But Beekes (2010) seems to see the verb as more specific and active:

oipho beeks

Some additional Thoughts:

There is an interesting cultural dynamic behind these statements that engages with some of the myths from Ancient Greece that I have mentioned recently, especially in the tension between heroic beauty and disabled bodies. In ancient Greek myth and poetry there is a problematic fetish of the perfect heroic body and within this system, a disfigured body is non-heroic. As a result of an overlap between heroic virtue and the body, negative ethics and character are expressed through a symbolic disfigurement of the body as with Thersites. The Odyssey, of course, adjusts this and deploys Odysseus as a compromised heroic body: he is nearly lamed and thus is capable of demonstrating intelligence instead of force. In the Odyssey, the beautiful and perfect bodies of the suitors are contrasted with Odysseus’ older, scarred body: their perfection becomes a type of deformity and their morals are accordingly distorted.

What I think is going on with this anecdote and the connected proverb is that there is a basic assumption that the disabled are morally corrupt and here that their moral corruption emerges in the form of licentiousness. But the Amazon queen turns the tables on the heroized Skythian leaders and privileges the disabled bodies for their sexual ability over the promised domination of the proper marriage to the able-bodied men. In addition, there is the symbolic valence of the disabled man, who does not represent the threatened violence implicit in the able-bodied man. In a way, this may also help us to think about Odysseus’ value as a husband.

Dancing in the Dark and Drunk Books: More Proverbs

Zenobius

“The word and the deed together”: [a proverb] applied to things which are accomplished quickly and suddenly”

῞Αμ’ ἔπος, ἅμ’ ἔργον: ἐπὶ τῶν ταχέως τε καὶ ὀξέως ἀνυομένων.

 

“Walking on the roof with unwashed feet”: A proverb applied to those who approach certain works and deeds ignorantly”

᾿Ανίπτοις ποσὶν ἀναβαίνων ἐπὶ τὸ στέγος. ἐπὶ τῶν ἀμαθῶς ἐπί τινα ἔργα καὶ πράξεις ἀφικομένων.

 

“To transplant an old tree”: a proverb applied to the impossible

Γεράνδρυον μεταφυτεύειν: ἐπὶ τοῦ ἀδυνάτου.

 

 

Zenobius 3.71

“To dance in darkness”: A proverb applied to those who toil over unwitnessed things—their work is invisible.”

᾿Εν σκότῳ ὀρχεῖσθαι: ἐπὶ τῶν ἀμάρτυρα μοχθούντων, ὧν τὸ ἔργον ἀφανές.

 

Michael Apostol 4.95

“My book is drunk: [a proverb] applied to those who ruin certain works; or to philologists.”

Βιβλίον τοὐμὸν μέθυ: πρὸς τοὺς διαφθείροντάς τινα ἔργα· ἢ ἐπὶ τῶν φιλολόγων

Knowing Helps and Hurts a Lot Too: Some Sayings for Back to School

These sayings [‘Apophthegmata’] are drawn from the Gnomologium Vaticanum.

470: “Socrates, when asked what is sweetest in life, said “education, virtue, and the investigation of the unknown”

Σωκράτης ὁ φιλόσοφος ἐρωτηθεὶς τί ἥδιστον ἐν τῷ βίῳ εἶπε· „παιδεία καὶ ἀρετὴ καὶ ἱστορία τῶν ἀγνοουμένων”.

 

24: “Aristippos used to say the he took money from students not in order to straighten their lives but so they might learn to spend their money on fine things.”

῾Ο αὐτὸς παρὰ τῶν μαθητῶν λαμβάνειν ἔφασκε μισθόν, οὐχ ὅπως τὸν βίον ἐπανορθώσῃ, ἀλλ’ ὅπως ἐκεῖνοι μάθωσιν εἰς τὰ καλὰ δαπανᾶν.

 

50: “Aristotle said that education is a decoration for the lucky but a refuge for the unfortunate.”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἔφη τὴν παιδείαν εὐτυχοῦσι μὲν εἶναι όσμον, ἀτυχοῦσι δὲ καταφύγιον.

 

87: “When he was asked whom he loved more, Phillip or Aristotle, Alexander said “both the same—for the first gave me the gift of life and the second taught me to live well.”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἐρωτηθεὶς τίνα μᾶλλον ἀγαπᾷ, Φίλιππον ἢ ᾿Αριστοτέλην, εἶπεν· „ὁμοίως ἀμφοτέρους· ὁ μὲν γάρ μοι τὸ ζῆν ἐχαρίσατο, ὁ δὲ τὸ καλῶς ζῆν ἐπαίδευσεν.”

 

164: “Glukôn the philosopher called education a sacred refuge.”

Γλύκων ὁ φιλόσοφος τὴν παιδείαν ἔλεγεν ἱερὸν ἄσυλον εἶναι.

259: “When Demetrios [of Phalerus] was asked what was the noblest of animals he said “A human adorned by education.”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἐρωτηθεὶς τί τῶν ζώων κάλλιστόν ἐστιν εἶπεν· „ἄνθρωπος παιδείᾳ κεκοσμημένος”.

 

302: “[Zeno the Stoic] used to say that education was sufficient for happiness”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἔφη τὴν παιδείαν πρὸς εὐδαιμονίαν αὐτάρκη.

 

314: “Heraclitus used to say that learning is a second sun for the educated”

῾Ηράκλειτος τὴν παιδείαν ἕτερον ἥλιον εἶναι τοῖς πεπαιδευμένοις ἔλεγεν.

 

439: [Plato] used to say that someone being educated needs three things: ability, practice and time.”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἔλεγεν ὅτι ὁ παιδευόμενος τριῶν τούτων χρῄζει· φύσεως, μελέτης, χρόνου.

 

469: “[Protagoras] used to say “knowing a lot helps a lot and hurts a lot.”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἔφη· „πολυμαθίη κάρτα μὲν ὠφελέει, κάρτα δὲ βλάπτει”.

Other passages

Euripides, Iphigenia at Aulis 559-567

“People have different natures;
They have different ways. But acting rightly
Always stands out.
The preparation of education
points the way to virtue.
For it is a mark of wisdom to feel shame
and it brings the transformative grace
of seeing through its judgment
what is right; it is reputation that grants
an ageless glory to your life.”

διάφοροι δὲ φύσεις βροτῶν,
διάφοροι δὲ τρόποι· τὸ δ’ ὀρ-
θῶς ἐσθλὸν σαφὲς αἰεί·
τροφαί θ’ αἱ παιδευόμεναι
μέγα φέρουσ’ ἐς τὰν ἀρετάν·
τό τε γὰρ αἰδεῖσθαι σοφία,
†τάν τ’ ἐξαλλάσσουσαν ἔχει
χάριν ὑπὸ γνώμας ἐσορᾶν†
τὸ δέον, ἔνθα δόξα φέρει
κλέος ἀγήρατον βιοτᾶι.

Stobaeus 2.31 88

“Diogenes used to say that educating children was similar to potters’ sculpting because they take clay that is tender and shape it and decorate it how they wish.  But once it has been fired, it can’t be shaped any longer.  This is the way it is for those who were not educated when they were children: once they are grown, they have been hardened to change.”

Διογένης ἔλεγε τὴν τῶν παίδων ἀγωγὴν ἐοικέναι τοῖς τῶν κεραμέων πλάσμασιν· ὡς γὰρ ἐκεῖνοι ἁπαλὸν μὲν τὸν πηλὸν ὄντα ὅπως θέλουσι σχηματίζουσι καὶ ῥυθμίζουσιν, ὀπτηθέντα δὲ οὐκέτι δύνανται πλάσσειν, οὕτω καὶ τοὺς ἐν νεότητι μὴ διὰ πόνων παιδαγωγηθέντας, τελείους γενομένους ἀμεταπλάστους γίνεσθαι.

Antisthenes, fr. 38

“The examination of words is the beginning of education.”

ἀρχὴ παιδεύσεως ἡ τῶν ὀνομάτων ἐπίσκεψις

Alcman, fr. 125

“Trying is the first step of learning”

πῆρά τοι μαθήσιος ἀρχά

Dionysus Thrax, On the Art of Grammar (2nd to 1st Centuries BCE; go here for a nice translation of the remaining works)

“The art of grammar is the experience-derived knowledge of how things are said, for the most part, by poets and prose authors. It has six components. First, reading out loud and by meter; second, interpretation according to customary compositional practice; third, a helpful translation of words and their meanings; fourth, an investigation of etymology; fifth, a categorization of morphologies; and sixth—which is the most beautiful portion of the art–the critical judgment of the compositions.”

Γραμματική ἐϲτιν ἐμπειρία τῶν παρὰ ποιηταῖϲ τε καὶ ϲυγγραφεῦϲιν ὡϲ ἐπὶ τὸ πολὺ λεγομένων.   Μέρη δὲ αὐτῆϲ ἐϲτιν ἕξ· πρῶτον ἀνάγνωϲιϲ ἐντριβὴϲ κατὰ προϲῳδίαν, δεύτερον ἐξήγηϲιϲ κατὰ τοὺϲ ἐνυπάρχονταϲ ποιητικοὺϲ τρόπουϲ,  τρίτον γλωϲϲῶν τε καὶ ἱϲτοριῶν πρόχειροϲ ἀπόδοϲιϲ, τέταρτον ἐτυμολογίαϲ εὕρεϲιϲ, πέμπτον ἀναλογίαϲ ἐκλογιϲμόϲ, ἕκτον κρίϲιϲ ποιημάτων, ὃ δὴ κάλλιϲτόν ἐϲτι πάντων τῶν ἐν τῇ τέχνῃ.

Sophocles, fr. 843

“I learn what can be taught; I seek what
can be found; and I ask the gods what must be prayed for.”

τὰ μὲν διδακτὰ μανθάνω, τὰ δ’ εὑρετὰ
ζητῶ, τὰ δ’ εὐκτὰ παρὰ θεῶν ᾐτησάμην

Phocylides

“It is right to teach noble things to one who is still a child”

χρὴ παῖδ᾿ ἔτ᾿ ἐόντα / καλὰ διδάσκειν ἔργα

 

Aristotle, According to Diogenes Laertius, Vitae Philosophorum 5.21

“He said that the root of education is bitter but the fruit is sweet.”

Τῆς παιδείας ἔφη τὰς μὲν ῥίζας εἶναι πικράς, τὸν δὲ καρπὸν γλυκύν.

“He used to say that three things are needed for education: innate ability, study, and practice”

τριῶν ἔφη δεῖν παιδείᾳ, φύσεως, μαθήσεως, ἀσκήσεως.

When asked what the difference was between those who were educated and those who were not, Aristotle said “as great as between the living and the dead.” He used to say that education was an ornament in good times and a refuge in bad.

ἐρωτηθεὶς τίνι διαφέρουσιν οἱ πεπαιδευμένοι τῶν ἀπαιδεύτων, “ὅσῳ,” εἶπεν, “οἱ ζῶντες τῶν τεθνεώτωντὴν παιδείαν ἔλεγεν ἐν μὲν ταῖς εὐτυχίαις εἶναι κόσμον, ἐν δὲ ταῖς ἀτυχίαις καταφυγήν

Heraclitus, fr. 40

“Knowing much doesn’t teach you how to think.”

πολυμαθίη νόον ἔχειν οὐ διδάσκει.

An Old Attic Woman Once Said…

The following are apophthegmata [“sayings”] preserved in a Byzantine manuscript and attributed to ancient authorities. Many might actually come from prose composition exercises in Byzantine and late antique schools. Most of the collection are attributed to famous male sages. The collection ends with a selection of 

“Sayings of women and their thoughts”

᾿Αποφθέγματα γυναικῶν, ἤτοι φρονήματα. [Gnomologium Vaticanum, 564-567]

“After an Attic woman saw a sign over the door of someone about to get married which said “Herakles lives here, may nothing bad happen” she said “Now may no woman enter!”

᾿Αττικὴ γυνὴ ἰδοῦσα γράμμα ἐπὶ θυρῶν μέλλοντος γαμεῖν· „῾Ηρακλῆς ἐνθάδε κατοικεῖ· μηδὲν εἰσίτω κακὸν” εἶπεν· „νῦν οὖν ἡ γυνὴ οὐ μὴ εἰσελεύσεται.”

 

“When an old Attic woman was asked at a symposium whether Dionysus is mortal after she saw wine being stolen, she said “yes, he’s mortal, for I saw him carried out…”

[῾Η] ᾿Αττικὴ γραῦς ἐρωτηθεῖσα ἐν συμποσίῳ εἰ θνητὸς ὁ Διόνυσος ἰδοῦσα κλεπτόμενον οἶνον εἶπεν· „ναὶ θνητός· εἶδον γὰρ αὐτὸν ἐκφερόμενον.”

[the joke is based on part of the Greek burial process, the ekphora, which is carrying out of the body]

 

“When an old Attic woman saw a young man pouring wine she said “Boy! You turned Peleus into Oineus.”

<᾿Α>ττικὴ γραῦς ἰδοῦσα νεανίσκον οἶνον ἐκχέοντα εἶπε· „μειράκιον· τὸν Οἰνέα Πηλέα ἐποίησας.”

 

“When an old Attic woman saw an Olympic victor taking sheep out to pasture she said “Ah, he went quickly from the Olympic to the Nemean games.”

Γραῦς ᾿Αττικὴ θεασαμένη ᾿Ολυμπιονίκην ἀθλητὴν πρόβατα βόσκοντα εἶπε· „ταχέως ἀπὸ ᾿Ολυμπίων ἐπὶ Νέμεα.”

 

571: “When a Syracusan woman was summoned by Dionysus the tyrant because he was claiming that he wanted her and would give her whatever she wanted, she said “Let me go—since you believe that women are the same, whenever the lamp goes out.”

Γυνὴ Συρακοσία μεταπεμφθεῖσα ὑπὸ Διονυσίου τοῦ τυράννου [καὶ] φάσκοντος ἐρᾶν αὐτῆς καὶ χαριεῖσθαι ὃ ἂν ἐθέλῃ· „ἄφες τοίνυν με” εἶπε „νομίσας τὰς γυναῖκας ὁμοίας εἶναι, ὅταν ὁ λύχνος ἀποσβεσθῇ.”

 

The website “Sharing Ancient Wisdom” is a really interesting and useful collection of proverbial sayings. Check it out.

Image result for Ancient Greek Woman

Spartan Women Once Said…

This is the second part of the sayings attributed to women in the Gnomologium Vaticanum (568-576)

“Sayings of women and their thoughts”

᾿Αποφθέγματα γυναικῶν, ἤτοι φρονήματα.

 

“When a Spartan woman was speaking to her son who had been crippled in battle and was depressed because of that she said “don’t be sad, child—for each step recalls your private virtue”

Γυνὴ Λάκαινα τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτῆς ἐν παρατάξει χωλωθέντος καὶ δυσφοροῦντος ἐπὶ τούτῳ „τέκνον”, εἶπε, „μὴ λυποῦ· καθ’ ἕκαστον γὰρ βῆμα τῆς ἰδίας <ἀρετῆς ὑπομνησθήσῃ.”>

 

“When a Spartan woman heard that her son died in the battle line she said “Child, you paid your country back well for your upbringing.”

Γυνὴ Λάκαινα ἀκούσασα τὸν υἱὸν αὐτῆς ἐν παρατάξει τεθνηκέναι „τέκνον”, εἶπεν, „ὡς καλὰ τροφεῖα τῇ πατρίδι ἀπέδωκας!”

 

“The mother of Clearchus the Ramphian, after her son was slandered for betraying Greece to the Persians, wrote this kind of letter. “To Klearchus the son from his Mother: evil rumors are falling all around you. Either get rid of them or no longer be [alive? My son?]”

῾Η Κλεάρχου τοῦ ῾Ραμφίου μήτηρ ἐπειδὴ διεβλήθη ὁ υἱὸς αὐτῆς προδιδόναι τοῖς Πέρσαις τὴν ῾Ελλάδα τοιαύτην ἐπιστολὴν ἔγραψεν· „ἁ μάτηρ Κλεάρχῳ τῷ υἱῷ· κακά τευ κακκέχυται φάμα· ἢ ταύταν ἀπόθευ ἢ μὴ ἔσο.”

 

“Xanthippê, when asked what Socrates’ greatest attribute was, said “This, that he has the same face for noble and lowborn men.”

Ξανθίππη ἐρωτηθεῖσα τί μέγιστον ὑπῆρχεν τῷ Σωκράτει „τοῦτο”, ἔφη, „ὅτι καὶ ἐπὶ ἀγαθοῖς καὶ ἐπὶ φαύλοις ἡ αὐτὴ ὄψις ἦν αὐτῷ”·

 

“Theanô the Pythagorean said, “What is noble to speak about is shameful to be silent on; and what is shameful to mention, is noble to keep silent about.”

Θεανὼ ἡ Πυθαγορικὴ ἔφη· „περὶ ὧν λέγειν καλόν, περὶ τούτων σιωπᾶν αἰσχρόν, καὶ περὶ ὧν λέγειν αἰσχρόν, περὶ τούτων σιωπᾶν καλόν.”

 

“A Spartan woman said of her son who was thankful that he was the only one to survive a battle-line “why aren’t you ashamed that you’re the only one alive?”

Λάκαινα γυνὴ σεμνυνομένου τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτῆς ἐπὶ τῷ μόνον ἐκ τῆς παρατάξεως σεσῶσθαι ἔφη· „τί οὖν οὐκ αἰσχύνῃ μόνος ζῶν;”

 

“When Olympias, Alexander’s mother was asked by someone why she wasn’t adorned, she said “Alexander is sufficient decoration for me.”

᾿Ολυμπιὰς ᾿Αλεξάνδρου μήτηρ ἐρωτηθεῖσα ὑπό τινος [ὅτι] „διὰ τί οὐ κοσμῇ;” εἶπεν· „ὅτι ἀρκεῖ μοι ὁ ᾿Αλεξάνδρου κόσμος.”

 

The website “Sharing Ancient Wisdom” is a really interesting and useful collection of proverbial sayings. Check it out.

…Simon Knows Me: A Proverb for Our Times

From Michael Apostolios, Paroemiographer

“I know Simôn and Simôn knows me.” There were two leaders, Nikôn and Simôn. Simon overpowered him because he was a man of the worst ways and it is said that he erased all memory of Nikôn. This proverb is used for people who recognize the evil in one another.”

Οἶδα Σίμωνα καὶ Σίμων ἐμέ: δύο ἐγένοντο ἡγεμόνες, Νίκων καὶ Σίμων. ὑπερίσχυσε δὲ ὁ Σίμων κακοτροπώτατος ὢν, ὥστε καὶ τὴν ἐπὶ Νίκωνα φήμην ἀπαλεῖψαι. λεχθείη δ’ ἂν ἡ παροιμία ἐπὶ τῶν ἀλλήλους ἐπὶ κακίᾳ γινωσκόντων.

From the Suda,  tau 293

“Telkhines: evil gods. Or jealous and harmful humans. There were two Telkhines, Simôn and Nikôn. Nikôn overpowered and erase dthe memory of Simôn. So, there is the proverb, “I know Simon and Simon knows me. This is used for those who recognize evil in one another.”

Τελχῖνες: πονηροὶ δαίμονες. ἢ ἄνθρωποι φθονεροὶ καὶ βάσκανοι. δύο ἐγένοντο Τελχῖνες, Σίμων καὶ Νίκων. ὑπερίσχυσε δὲ ὁ Νίκων τὴν ἐπὶ Σίμωνι φήμην ἀπαλεῖψαι. καὶ παροιμία· οἶδα Σίμωνα καὶ Σίμων ἐμέ. ἐπὶ τῶν ἀλλήλους ἐπὶ κακίᾳ γινωσκόντων.

Zenobius explains it all

“I know Simôn and Simôn knows me”: There were two leaders who were evil Telkhinians by birth—for they were making the land infertile by spraying it with water from the Styx. They were Simôn and Nikôn. Simon overpowered because he was the most evil in his ways with the result that he erased any memory of Nikôn. For this reason in the proverb they only name Simôn. The proverb is applied to those who recognize the evil in one another.”

Οἶδα Σίμωνα καὶ Σίμων ἐμέ: Τελχίνων φύσει βασκάνων ὄντων, (καὶ γὰρ τῷ τῆς Στυγὸς ὕδατι τὴν  γῆν καταῤῥαίνοντες ἄγονον ἐποίουν,) δύο ἐγένοντο ἡγεμόνες, Σίμων καὶ Νίκων. ῾Υπερίσχυε δὲ ὁ Σίμων κακοτροπώτατος ὢν, ὥστε τὴν ἐπὶ Νίκωνι φήμην ἀπαλεῖψαι. Διόπερ οἱ παροιμιαζόμενοι μόνον τὸν Σίμωνα ὀνομάζουσι. Λεχθείη δ’ ἂν ἡ παροιμία ἐπὶ τῶν ἀλλήλους ἐπὶ κακίᾳ γινωσκόντων.

Sigma 447 [A completely different Simon]

“Simôn, Simonos: a proper name and also a proverb: “No one is more thieving than Simôn.” And Aristophanes adds that whenever [people] see Simôn, they immediately turn into wolves. He was a Sophist who took public property for his own. Simôn and Theoros and Kleonymos are perjurers. Aristophanes has, “if a thunderbolt hits perjurers, how did it not burn Simôn, or Kleônumos or Theôros?”

Σίμων, Σίμωνος: ὄνομα κύριον. καὶ παροιμία· Σίμωνος ἁρπακτικώτερος. ᾿Αριστοφάνης· ὅταν ἴδωσι Σίμωνα, λύκοι ἐξαίφνης γίνονται. σοφιστὴς δὲ ἦν, ὃς τῶν δημοσίων ἐνοσφίζετο. Σίμων καὶ Θέωρος καὶ Κλεώνυμος, οὗτοι ἐπίορκοι. ᾿Αριστοφάνης· εἴπερ βάλλει τοὺς ἐπιόρκους ὁ κεραυνός, πῶς δῆτ’ οὐχὶ Σίμων’ ἐνέπρησεν οὐδὲ Κλεώνυμον οὐδὲ Θέωρον; καί τοι σφόδρα γ’ εἰσὶν ἐπίορκοι.

Flee, Don’t Go to Trial!

Two Proverbs from Michael Apostolos

7.53

“One should flee, not seek a trial.” Alkibiades, when he was called into judgment by the Athenians from Sicily, hid himself after saying this. When someone else was saying “You will not trust your country about your trial?” he Said “Not even my mother, since she wouldn’t ignorantly throw the black stone instead of the white one.”

᾿Εξὸν φυγεῖν μὴ ζήτει δίκην: ᾿Αλκιβιάδης καλούμενος ἐπὶ κρίσιν ὑπὸ ᾿Αθηναίων ἀπὸ Σικελίας, ἔκρυψεν ἑαυτὸν, εἰπὼν τοῦτο. εἰπόντος δέ τινος, οὐ πιστεύεις τῇ πατρίδι τὴν περὶ σεαυτοῦ κρίσιν; ᾿Εγὼ μὲν, ἔφη, οὐδὲ τῇ μητρί, μή πως ἀγνοήσασα τὴν μέλαιναν βάλῃ ψῆφον ἀντὶ τῆς λευκῆς.

13.3

“The turn of an ostracon. [this proverb is applied] to those who rush to flight easily. Also, Plato has “when the shell falls upside down, he changes and rushes to flight” (Phaedrus 241b). But others claim that he proverb is applied to those who fall from strong positions to the opposite. It is a metaphor from dicing. For the ancients once used shells to throw, and often they lost or won based on their fall.”

᾿Οστράκου μεταστροφή: ἐπὶ τῶν ῥᾳδίως εἰς φυγὴν ὡρμημένων· καὶ Πλάτων· ᾿Οστράκου μεταπεσόντος ἴεται φυγῇ μεταβαλών. ῎Αλλοι δὲ ἐπὶ τῶν ἐκ κρειττόνων εἰς τουναντίον μεταπεσόντων· ἐκ μεταφορᾶς τῶν κυβευόντων· ὀστρακίνοις γὰρ τὸ πάλαι χρώμενοι βώλοις, τῇ μεταβολῇ τούτων πολλάκις ἡττῶντο ἢ ἐνίκων.

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