Knowing Helps, but Hurts a Lot Too: Some Words Go 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.

Image result for medieval manuscript school room
Laurentius de Voltolina

Chance and Virtue: Epictetus Says some Things

᾿Επικτήτου (fr. 1 III p. 65 ed. Schweigh.).

Fr. 2

“A life interwoven with chance is like a stormy river: it is troubled, mixed up with filth, hard to cross, tyrannical, noisy, and brief.”

῾Ο τύχῃ βίος συμπεπλεγμένος ἔοικε χειμάρρῳ ποταμῷ· καὶ γὰρ ταραχώδης καὶ ἰλύος ἀνάμεστος καὶ δυσέμβατος καὶ τυραννικὸς καὶ πολύηχος καὶ ὀλιγοχρόνιος.

Fr. 3

“A life commingled with virtue is like an eternal spring: it is clean, untroubled, drinkable and sweet, communal and wealthy, without harm and indestructible”

Ψυχὴ ὁμιλοῦσα ἀρετῇ ἔοικεν ἀενάῳ πηγῇ· καὶ γὰρ καθαρὸν καὶ ἀτάραχον καὶ πότιμον καὶ νόστιμον καὶ κοινωνικὸν καὶ πλούσιον καὶ ἀβλαβὲς καὶ ἀνώλεθρον.

Fr. 4

“If you want to be good, first believe that you are evil.”

Εἰ βούλει ἀγαθὸς εἶναι, πρῶτον πίστευσον ὅτι κακὸς εἶ.

Fr. 20

“Examine in yourself whether you desire to be wealthy or lucky. If you want wealth, know that it is neither good nor wholly yours. If you desire to be happy understand that it is good and under your power. One is the timely gift of chance, the other is a choice.”

᾿Εξέταζε σαυτὸν πότερον πλουτεῖν θέλεις ἢ εὐδαιμονεῖν. καὶ εἰ μὲν πλουτεῖν, ἴσθι ὅτι οὔτε ἀγαθὸν οὔτε ἐπὶ σοὶ πάντῃ, εἰ δὲ εὐδαιμονεῖν, ὅτι καὶ ἀγαθὸν καὶ ἐπὶ
σοί. ἐπεὶ τὸ μὲν τύχης ἐπίκαιρον δάνειον, τὸ δὲ [τῆς εὐδαιμονίας] προαιρέσεως.

File:Discourses - Epictetus (illustration 1) (9021700938).jpg
‘Frontispiece depicting Epictetus from A selection from the Discourses of Epictetus with the Encheiridion

 

 

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!”

 

“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;”

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

Our Own Worst Enemy

Sayings from the Gnomologium Vaticanum

7 “When Antisthenes was asked by someone what he should teach his child, he said “If you want him to live with the gods, philosophy; but if you wish him to live among men, then rhetoric.”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἐρωτηθεὶς ὑπό τινος, τί· τὸν υἱὸν διδάξει, εἶπεν· „εἰ μὲν θεοῖς αὐτὸν συμβιοῦν ἐθέλοις, φιλόσοφον· εἰ δὲ ἀνθρώποις, ῥήτορα”.

12“Antisthenes used to say that virtue had a short justification while the argument for wickedness was endless.”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἔφη τὴν ἀρετὴν βραχύλογον εἶναι, τὴν δὲ κακίαν ἀπέραντον.

13 “When Plato was chattering on at length about something, Antisthenes said “the one who speaks is not the measure of his audience—it is the audience who makes a limit for the speaker!”

῾Ο αὐτὸς Πλάτωνός ποτε ἐν τῇ σχολῇ μακρολογήσαντος εἶπεν·„οὐχ ὁ λέγων μέτρον ἐστὶ τοῦ ἀκούοντος, ἀλλ’ ὁ ἀκούων τοῦ λέγοντος.”

14 “Anacharsis used to say that the Greeks really messed things up because their craftsmen compete and the ignorant judge them.”

᾿Ανάχαρσις ἔφη τοὺς ῞Ελληνας ἁμαρτάνειν, ὅτι παρ’ αὐτοῖς οἱ μὲν τεχνῖται ἀγωνίζονται, οἱ δ’ ἀμαθεῖς κρίνουσιν.

18 “When Anacharsis was asked by someone what was humanity’s enemy, he said “themselves”.

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἐρωτηθεὶς ὑπό τινος, τί ἐστι πολέμιον ἀνθρώποις, εἶπεν· „αὐτοὶ ἑαυτοῖς”.

19 “When Anacharsis was asked by someone why jealous people are always aggrieved he said “because their own troubles are not the only thing biting them: other people’s good fortune bothers them too.”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἐρωτηθεὶς ὑπό τινος, διὰ τί οἱ φθονεροὶ ἄνθρωποι ἀεὶ λυποῦνται, ἔφη· „ὅτι οὐ μόνον τὰ ἑαυτῶν αὐτοὺς κακὰ δάκνει, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὰ τῶν πέλας ἀγαθὰ λυπεῖ”.

Harmodius and Aristogeiton: Relief

Sweettalking From Trees and Stone

Before facing Achilles, Hektor stops and talks to himself. He imagines taking off his armor, offering Achilles all their wealth and Helen back too. Then he reconsiders….

Il. 22 22.126-129

“There’s no way from oak nor stone
To sweet-talk him, the way that a young woman and a young man
or a young man and a young woman sweet talk one another.”

οὐ μέν πως νῦν ἔστιν ἀπὸ δρυὸς οὐδ’ ἀπὸ πέτρης
τῷ ὀαριζέμεναι, ἅ τε παρθένος ἠΐθεός τε
παρθένος ἠΐθεός τ’ ὀαρίζετον ἀλλήλοιιν.

Schol. Ad Il. 22.126 bT

”There’s no way from oak or stone to sweet-talk him” to describe  ridiculous ancient sayings: it is either from the generation of humans who were in the mountains, or it is because early people said they were ash-born or from the stones of Deukalion. Or it is about providing oracles, since Dodona is an oak and Pytho was a stone. Or it means to speak uselessly, coming from the leaves around trees and the waves around stones. Or it is not possible for him to describe the beginning of the human race.”

<οὐ μέν πως νῦν ἔστιν> ἀπὸ δρυὸς οὐδ’ ἀπὸ πέτρης / τῷ ὀαριζέμεναι: ληρώδεις ἀρχαιολογίας διηγεῖσθαι, ἢ ἀπὸ τοῦ τὸ παλαιὸν ὀρεινόμων ὄντων τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἐκεῖσε τίκτεσθαι ἢ ἐπεὶ μελιηγενεῖς λέγονται οἱ πρώην ἄνδρες καὶ <λαοὶ> ἀπὸ τῶν λίθων Δευκαλίωνος.  ἢ χρησμοὺς διηγεῖσθαι (Δωδώνη γὰρ δρῦς, πέτρα δὲ Πυθών). ἢ περιττολογεῖν, ἀπὸ τῶν περὶ τὰς δρῦς φύλλων καὶ περὶ τὰς πέτρας κυμάτων. ἢ οὐκ ἔστιν αὐτῷ τὴν ἀρχὴν τοῦ γένους διηγεῖσθαι τῶν ἀνθρώπων.

From M. L. West’s Commentary on Hesiod’s Theogony, many other suggestions:


Quipping with Diogenes

These sayings come from the Gnomologium Vaticanum

 

168 “Diogenes, after he saw a small city with big gates, said “Lock the gates so that the city can’t escape!”

Διογένης θεασάμενος μικρὰν πόλιν μεγάλας πύλας ἔχουσαν ἔφη· „κλείσατε τὰς πύλας, μὴ ἡ πόλις ἐξέλθῃ”.

 

189 “When [Diogenes] was asked what is evil in life, he said “A pretty woman.”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἐρωτηθεὶς τί κακὸν ἐν βίῳ ἔφη· „γυνὴ καλὴ τῷ εἴδει”.

 

201 “[Diogenes] to say that he had everything that happened in the tragedies: for he was a beggar, a wanderer, and he had an ephemeral life.”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἔφη πάντα ἔχειν τὰ ἐν ταῖς τραγῳδίαις· εἶναί τε γὰρ πτωχός, πλανήτης, βίον ἔχων ἐφήμερον·

Image result for ancient greek sleep Diogenes the Cynic

Chance and Virtue: Epictetus Says some Things

᾿Επικτήτου (fr. 1 III p. 65 ed. Schweigh.).

Fr. 2

“A life interwoven with chance is like a stormy river: it is troubled, mixed up with filth, hard to cross, tyrannical, noisy, and brief.”

῾Ο τύχῃ βίος συμπεπλεγμένος ἔοικε χειμάρρῳ ποταμῷ· καὶ γὰρ ταραχώδης καὶ ἰλύος ἀνάμεστος καὶ δυσέμβατος καὶ τυραννικὸς καὶ πολύηχος καὶ ὀλιγοχρόνιος.

Fr. 3

“A life commingled with virtue is like an eternal spring: it is clean, untroubled, drinkable and sweet, communal and wealthy, without harm and indestructible”

Ψυχὴ ὁμιλοῦσα ἀρετῇ ἔοικεν ἀενάῳ πηγῇ· καὶ γὰρ καθαρὸν καὶ ἀτάραχον καὶ πότιμον καὶ νόστιμον καὶ κοινωνικὸν καὶ πλούσιον καὶ ἀβλαβὲς καὶ ἀνώλεθρον.

Fr. 4

“If you want to be good, first believe that you are evil.”

Εἰ βούλει ἀγαθὸς εἶναι, πρῶτον πίστευσον ὅτι κακὸς εἶ.

Fr. 20

“Examine in yourself whether you desire to be wealthy or lucky. If you want wealth, know that it is neither good nor wholly yours. If you desire to be happy understand that it is good and under your power. One is the timely gift of chance, the other is a choice.”

᾿Εξέταζε σαυτὸν πότερον πλουτεῖν θέλεις ἢ εὐδαιμονεῖν. καὶ εἰ μὲν πλουτεῖν, ἴσθι ὅτι οὔτε ἀγαθὸν οὔτε ἐπὶ σοὶ πάντῃ, εἰ δὲ εὐδαιμονεῖν, ὅτι καὶ ἀγαθὸν καὶ ἐπὶ
σοί. ἐπεὶ τὸ μὲν τύχης ἐπίκαιρον δάνειον, τὸ δὲ [τῆς εὐδαιμονίας] προαιρέσεως.

File:Discourses - Epictetus (illustration 1) (9021700938).jpg
‘Frontispiece depicting Epictetus from A selection from the Discourses of Epictetus with the Encheiridion

 

 

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!”

 

“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;”

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

Hiding Your Neck in the Bushes

A few months ago I saw a discussion about the origin of the ostrich burying its head in the sand trope. There are misdirections here and there, but some see it reflected in Pliny

Pliny the Elder, Natural History 10                                                  

“The nature of birds comes next. The largest—and also nearly of the class of wild beasts—is the ostrich of Ethiopia or Africa. They exceed a seated horseman in height and surpass them in speed. They have wings only for help in running. But are not for flight and do not rise from the earth. The ostrich’s talons, used as weapons, are similar to a deer’s hooves: they are split in two and are useful for picking up the rocks they throw with their feet at anyone who pursues them. They have a marvelous capacity for digesting whatever they swallow, but an equal amount of stupidity for believing that they they have completely hidden themselves when they put their neck in bushes, regardless of the great height of their bodies.

Ostrich eggs are amazing because of their size: some use them as bowls and use their feathers too for decorating the crests and helmets of armor.”

Sequitur natura avium, quarum grandissimi et paene bestiarum generis struthocameli Africi vel Aethiopici altitudinem equitis insidentis equo excedunt, celeritatem vincunt, ad hoc demum datis pinnis ut currentem adiuvent: cetero non sunt volucres nec a terra attolluntur.1 ungulae iis cervinis similes quibus dimicant, bisulcae et conprehendendis lapidibus utiles quos in fuga contra 2sequentes ingerunt pedibus. concoquendi sine dilectu devorata mira natura, sed non minus stoliditas in tanta reliqui corporis altitudine cum colla frutice occultaverint latere sese existimantium. praemira ex iis ova propter amplitudinem quibusdam habita pro vasis, conosque bellicos et galeas adornantes pinnae.

 

An “ostrich” from the Medieval Bestiary (Grootseminarie Brugge, MS. 89/54, Folio)

Don’t Mix a Fire With a Knife: Some Pythagorean Sayings

Diogenes Laertius, Pythagoras 17–18

“These are the sayings attributed to Pythagoras: don’t mix a fire with a knife; don’t step over a balance beam; don’t sit on a bushel; don’t eat your heart; don’t help with a burden but put it on; always make your bed; don’t put a god’s image on a ring; don’t leave the outline of a pan in ashes; don’t wipe up a mess with a torch; don’t piss towards the sun; don’t walk on the highway; don’t offer your right hand too easily; don’t share your roof with swallows; don’t keep clawed birds; don’t piss or stand on your cut nails and hair; turn sharp blades away from you; when abroad, don’t turn back at the border

This is what these sayings mean: “don’t mix a fire with a knife” means not inciting the rage or swollen anger of people in power. “Don’t step over a balance beam” means don’t transgress equality and justice. “Don’t sit on a bushel” means keep both today and the future in mind since a bushel is a daily ration. “Don’t eat your heart” clearly means not wearing away your mind with troubles and grief. By saying “Don’t turn around when going abroad” Pythagoras advises people when they are leaving life not to cling to it desperately nor to be overcome by its pleasures. The logic of the rest of the sayings are similar to this and would take a while to go through.”

Ἦν δ᾿ αὐτῷ τὰ σύμβολα τάδε· πῦρ μαχαίρᾳ μὴ σκαλεύειν, ζυγὸν μὴ ὑπερβαίνειν, ἐπὶ χοίνικος μὴ καθίζειν, καρδίην μὴ ἐσθίειν, φορτίον μὴ συγκαθαιρεῖν, ουνεπιτιθέναι δέ, τὰ στρώματα ἀεὶ συνδεδεμένα ἔχειν, ἐν δακτυλίῳ εἰκόνα θεοῦ μὴ περιφέρειν, χύτρας ἴχνος συγχεῖν ἐν τῇ τέφρᾳ, δᾳδίῳ θᾶκον μὴ ὀμόργνυσθαι, πρὸς ἥλιον τετραμμένον μὴ ὀμίχειν, τὰς λεωφόρους μὴ βαδίζειν, μὴ ῥᾳδίως δεξιὰν ἐμβάλλειν, ὁμωροφίους χελιδόνας μὴ ἔχειν, γαμψώνυχα μὴ τρέφειν, ἀπονυχίσμασι καὶ κουραῖς μὴ ἐπουρεῖν μηδὲ ἐφίστασθαι, ὀξεῖαν μάχαιραν ἀποστρέφειν, ἀποδημοῦντα ἐπὶ τοῖς ὅροις ἀνεπιστρεπτεῖν.

Ἤθελε δ᾿ αὐτῷ τὸ μὲν πῦρ μαχαίρᾳ μὴ σκαλεύειν δυναστῶν ὀργὴν καὶ οἰδοῦντα θυμὸν μὴ κινεῖν. τὸ δὲ ζυγὸν μὴ ὑπερβαίνειν, τουτέστι τὸ ἴσον καὶ δίκαιον μὴ ὑπερβαίνειν. ἐπί τε χοίνικος μὴ καθίζειν ἐν ἴσῳ τοῦ ἐνεστῶτος φροντίδα ποιεῖσθαι καὶ τοῦ μέλλοντος· ἡ γὰρ χοῖνιξ ἡμερησία τροφή. διὰ δὲ τοῦ καρδίαν μὴ ἐσθίειν ἐδήλου μὴ τὴν ψυχὴν ἀνίαις καὶ λύπαις κατατήκειν. διὰ δὲ τοῦ εἰς ἀποδημίαν βαδίζοντα μὴ ἐπιστρέφεσθαι παρῄνει τοῖς ἀπαλλαττομένοις τοῦ βίου μὴ ἐπιθυμητικῶς ἔχειν τοῦ ζῆν μηδ᾿ ὑπὸ τῶν ἐνταῦθα ἡδονῶν ἐπάγεσθαι. καὶ τὰ ἄλλα πρὸς ταῦτα λοιπόν ἐστιν ἐκλαμβάνειν, ἵνα μὴ παρέλκωμεν.

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From Raphael’s School of Athens