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 how 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

“Men 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.

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”.

 

Image result for ancient greek speech

Invisible Walls, Short Spears, and Shorter Speech: Some Sayings on Sparta

These sayings come from the Gnomologium Vaticanum

 

69 “When Agesilaos was asked by someone why Sparta was unwalled he said “don’t lie. It is walled not by stones but by its occupants’ excellence.”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἐρωτηθεὶς ὑπό τινος, διὰ τί ἀτείχιστός ἐστιν ἡ Σπάρτη, „μὴ ψεύδου”, ἔφη, „τετείχισται γάρ, οὐ λίθοις, ἀλλὰ ταῖς τῶν <ἐνοικούντων ἀρεταῖς>”.

 

394 “When a Spartan man was asked why the Spartans have small spears he said “because they fight close to the enemy”

Λάκων ἀνὴρ ἐρωτώμενος διὰ τί οἱ Λακεδαιμόνιοι μικρὰ ἔχουσι τὰ ἐγχειρίδια εἶπεν· „ὅτι ἐγγύθεν τοῖς πολεμίοις μάχονται”.

 

396 “To someone asking why Spartans foster brevity of speech, a Spartan man said “because it is closest to silence”

Λάκων ἀνὴρ πρὸς τὸν εἰπόντα αὐτῷ· „διὰ τί οἱ Λακεδαιμόνιοι τὴν βραχυλογίαν ἀσκοῦσιν;” εἶπεν· „ὅτι ἔγγιστά ἐστι τοῦ σιωπᾶν”.

 

Image result for ancient greek sparta

The Benefits of Philosophy

These sayings come from the Gnomologium Vaticanum

 

36 “When [Aristippos] was asked what benefit had come to him from philosophy he said “being able to engage pleasantly with the people I meet.”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἐρωτηθείς, τί αὐτῷ περιγέγονεν ἐκ φιλοσοφίας, ἔφη· „τὸ ἀδεῶς τοῖς ἐντυγχάνουσιν ὁμιλεῖν”.

 

162 “Biôn used to say that thought was the procurer of all good things but prudence is the master.”

῾Ο αὐτὸς τὴν μὲν φρόνησιν ἔφη παντοπώλιον εἶναι τῶν ἀγαθῶν, τὴν δὲ σωφροσύνην στρατουργίαν.

 

182 “When Diogenes was asked by Aristippos what benefit he gained from philosophy he said “Being wealthy without having a cent”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἐρωτηθεὶς ὑπὸ ᾿Αριστίππου τί αὐτῷ περιεγένετο ἐκ φιλοσοφίας εἶπε· „τὸ πλουτεῖν μηδὲ ὀβολὸν ἔχοντα.”

 

Image result for ancient greek philosopher vase

Bad Witnesses: Some Apocryphal Sayings of Heraclitus

These sayings come from the Gnomologium Vaticanum

 

310 “Heraclitus the natural philosopher said that he was wisest of all when he was young because he didn’t think that he knew anything.”

῾Ηράκλειτος ὁ φυσικὸς ἔφησε σοφώτατος γεγονέναι πάντων νέος ὤν, ὅτι ᾔδει ἑαυτὸν μηδὲν εἰδότα.

 

311 “Heraclitus used to say “The ears and eyes of foolish people are terrible witnesses.”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἔφη· „κακοὶ μάρτυρες ὦτα καὶ ὀφθαλμοὶ ἀφρόνων ἀνθρώπων”.

 

312 “Heraclitus used to say “Honors enslave gods and men”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἔφη· „τιμαὶ θεοὺς καὶ ἀνθρώπους καταδουλοῦνται”.

 

313 “Heraclitus said “people are terrible judges of the truth”

<῾Ο> αὐτὸς εἶπεν· „ἄνθρωποι κακοὶ ἀληθινῶν ἀντίδικοι”

 

Image result for ancient greek Heraclitus

The Laws and the Soul of the State

These sayings come from the Gnomologium Vaticanum

 

112 “When Antagoras was about to cast a capital vote against someone he cried. Someone asked him “Why do you vote to condemn and cry?” He responded “It is necessary by nature to give our sympathy; the law demands my vote.”

῾Ο αὐτὸς καταδικάζειν τινὸς θανατικὴν ψῆφον μέλλων ἐδάκρυσεν· εἰπόντος δέ τινος· „τί παθὼν αὑτὸς καταδικάζεις καὶ κλαίεις”; εἶπεν· „ὅτι ἀναγκαῖόν ἐστι τῇ μὲν φύσει τὸ συμπαθὲς ἀποδοῦναι, τῷ δὲ νόμῳ τὴν ψῆφον.”

 

211 “Demosthenes used to say that the laws are the sinews of democracy”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἔφησε τοὺς νόμους δημοκρατίας νεῦρα.

 

229 “Demosthenes used to say that the laws are the soul of the state. “just as the body dies when bereft of the soul, so too the city perishes when there are no laws”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἔφη πόλεως εἶναι ψυχὴν τοὺς νόμους· „ὥσπερ δὲ σῷμα στερηθὲν ψυχῆς πίπτει, οὕτω καὶ πόλις μὴ ὄντων νόμων καταλύεται”.

 

443 “When asked how cities might be best inhabited, Plato said, “If philosophers are kings and kings practice philosophy.”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἐρωτηθεὶς πῶς ἂν ἄριστα αἱ πόλεις οἰκοῖντο ἔφη· „εἰ φιλόσοφοι βασιλεύοιεν ἢ οἱ βασιλεῖς φιλοσοφοῖεν.”

 

Image result for ancient greek laws

Money, Wealth and Greed

These sayings come from the Gnomologium Vaticanum

 

29 “He [Aristippos] said it was right to learn to live with a little so that we might do nothing shameful for money”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἔφη δεῖν ἐθίζειν ἀπὸ ὀλίγων ζῆν, ἵνα μηδὲν αἰσχρὸν χρημάτων ἕνεκεν πράττωμεν.

 

120 “Aristôn the philosopher used to say that wealthy people who are cheap are like mules who carry gold and silver but eat straw.”

᾿Αρίστων ὁ φιλόσοφος τοὺς πλουσίους καὶ φειδωλοὺς ὁμοίους ἔφησεν εἶναι τοῖς ἡμιόνοις, οἵτινες χρυσὸν καὶ ἄργυρον φέροντες χόρτον ἐσθίουσιν.

 

265 “Democritus used to say that greed is the mother-city of every wickedness”

Δημόκριτος τὴν φιλαργυρίαν ἔλεγε μητρόπολιν πάσης κακίας.

Image result for ancient greek money