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

Nobility and the Property of the Rich

Euripides, Fragment 462

“I both know and have experienced the hard way
that all people are the friends of men who have.
No one slinks about where there is no food,
But they go where there is wealth and a gathering.
To be ‘well-born’ is also the property of the rich;
But the poor man does well if he dies.”

᾿Επίσταμαι δὲ καὶ πεπείραμαι λίαν,
ὡς τῶν ἐχόντων πάντες ἄνθρωποι φίλοι.
οὐδεὶς γὰρ ἕρπει πρὸς τὸ μὴ τροφὴν ἔχον,
ἀλλ᾿ εἰς τὸ πλοῦτον καὶ συνουσίαν ἔχον.
καὶ τῶν ἐχόντων ηὑγένεια κρίνεται.
ἀνὴρ δ᾿ ἀχρήμων εἰ θάνοι πράσσει καλῶς.

Euripides, obviously, might disagree with Tibullus (1.1-6):

“Let someone else pile up gleaming gold
And hold as many lots of well-plowed land,
Let constant labor frighten him when an enemy’s near
As war’s clarion blasts send his sleep to flight.
But may my poverty guide me through a settled life
as long as my hearth shines with a tireless light.”

Divitias alius fulvo sibi congerat auro
Et teneat culti iugera multa soli,
Quem labor adsiduus vicino terreat hoste,
Martia cui somnos classica pulsa fugent:
Me mea paupertas vita traducat inerti, 5
Dum meus adsiduo luceat igne focus.

Although, in a different fragment, Euripides notes the corrupting force of wealth:

Euripides, fr. 54 (Alexander): On the Educational Merits of Poverty?

“Wealth and too much luxury
Are the wrong lessons for manly men.
Poverty is wretched but at least it raises up
Children better at working and getting things done.”

κακόν τι παίδευμ’ ἦν ἄρ’ εἰς εὐανδρίαν
ὁ πλοῦτος ἀνθρώποισιν αἵ τ’ ἄγαν τρυφαί·
πενία δὲ δύστηνον μέν, ἀλλ’ ὅμως τρέφει
μοχθεῖν τ’ ἀμείνω τέκνα καὶ δραστήρια.

The fabulously wealthy Seneca might agree:

Seneca, Epistulae ad Lucilium 17.3

“For many, riches have stood in the way of philosophizing; poverty is unimpeded, free from care.”

multis ad philosophandum obstitere divitiae; paupertas expedita est, secura est.

Image result for Ancient Greek riches

Education: Insurance for the Shipwrecked

Phaedrus 4.23

A man of learning always has wealth on his own.
Simonides, who wrote exceptional lyric poems,
Thanks to this lived more easily with poverty
He began to go around the Asia’s noble cities
Singing the praise of victors for a set price.
Once he had done this to make a wealthier life
He planned to make a seaward journey home.
For it was on Ceos people claim he was born.
He climbed aboard a ship which an awful storm
And its advanced age caused to break apart in the sea.

Some grabbed their money-belts, others their valuable things,
Safeguards for their life. A rather curious man asked
“Simonides, you are saving none of your riches?”
He responded, “Everything that is mine is with me”
Few swam free, because most died weighed be a drowning burden.
Then thieves arrived and seized whatever each man carried.
They left them naked. By chance, Clazomenae, that ancient city,
Was nearby. The shipwrecked men went that way.
There lived a man obsessed with the pursuit of poetry
Who had often read the poems of Simonides,
He was his greatest distant admirer.
Once he knew Simonides from his speech alone
He greedily brought him home, and decorated him
With clothes, money, servants. The rest were carrying
Signs asking for food. When Simonides by chance
Would see these men he reported “I said that all my things
Were with me: and you lost everything you grabbed.”

Image result for Ancient Greek Shipwreck vase

Homo doctus in se semper divitias habet.
Simonides, qui scripsit egregium melos,
quo paupertatem sustineret facilius,
circum ire coepit urbes Asiae nobiles,
mercede accepta laudem victorum canens.
Hoc genere quaestus postquam locuples factus est,
redire in patriam voluit cursu pelagio;
erat autem, ut aiunt, natus in Cia insula.
ascendit navem; quam tempestas horrida
simul et vetustas medio dissolvit mari.
Hi zonas, illi res pretiosas colligunt,
subsidium vitae. Quidam curiosior:
“Simonide, tu ex opibus nil sumis tuis?”
“Mecum” inquit “mea sunt cuncta.”Tunc pauci enatant,
quia plures onere degravati perierant.
Praedones adsunt, rapiunt quod quisque extulit,
nudos relinquunt. Forte Clazomenae prope
antiqua fuit urbs, quam petierunt naufragi.
Hic litterarum quidam studio deditus,
Simonidis qui saepe versus legerat,
eratque absentis admirator maximus,
sermone ab ipso cognitum cupidissime
ad se recepit; veste, nummis, familia
hominem exornavit. Ceteri tabulam suam
portant, rogantes victum. Quos casu obvios
Simonides ut vidit: “Dixi” inquit “mea
mecum esse cuncta; vos quod rapuistis perit.”

Euripides on How Wealth Affects Virtue

Fragment 462

“I both know and have experienced the hard way
that all people are the friends of men who have.
No one slinks about where there is no food,
But they go where there is wealth and a gathering.
To be ‘well-born’ is also the property of the rich;
But the poor man does well if he dies.”

᾿Επίσταμαι δὲ καὶ πεπείραμαι λίαν,
ὡς τῶν ἐχόντων πάντες ἄνθρωποι φίλοι.
οὐδεὶς γὰρ ἕρπει πρὸς τὸ μὴ τροφὴν ἔχον,
ἀλλ᾿ εἰς τὸ πλοῦτον καὶ συνουσίαν ἔχον.
καὶ τῶν ἐχόντων ηὑγένεια κρίνεται.
ἀνὴρ δ᾿ ἀχρήμων εἰ θάνοι πράσσει καλῶς.

Euripides, obviously, might disagree with Tibullus (1.1-6):

“Let someone else pile up gleaming gold
And hold as many lots of well-plowed land,
Let constant labor frighten him when an enemy’s near
As war’s clarion blasts send his sleep to flight.
But may my poverty guide me through a settled life
as long as my hearth shines with a tireless light.”

Divitias alius fulvo sibi congerat auro
Et teneat culti iugera multa soli,
Quem labor adsiduus vicino terreat hoste,
Martia cui somnos classica pulsa fugent:
Me mea paupertas vita traducat inerti, 5
Dum meus adsiduo luceat igne focus.

Although, in a different fragment, Euripides notes the corrupting force of wealth:

Euripides, fr. 54 (Alexander): On the Educational Merits of Poverty?

“Wealth and too much luxury
Are the wrong lessons for manly men.
Poverty is wretched but at least it raises up
Children better at working and getting things done.”

κακόν τι παίδευμ’ ἦν ἄρ’ εἰς εὐανδρίαν
ὁ πλοῦτος ἀνθρώποισιν αἵ τ’ ἄγαν τρυφαί·
πενία δὲ δύστηνον μέν, ἀλλ’ ὅμως τρέφει
μοχθεῖν τ’ ἀμείνω τέκνα καὶ δραστήρια.

The fabulously wealthy Seneca might agree:

Seneca, Epistulae ad Lucilium 17.3

“For many, riches have stood in the way of philosophizing; poverty is unimpeded, free from care.”

multis ad philosophandum obstitere divitiae; paupertas expedita est, secura est.

Image result for Ancient Greek riches

Herodotus on Being Greek and Resisting Tyranny

7.102.1-7

“After he heard these things, Dêmarêtos was saying the following: “King, since you order me to tell the truth completely and to say things that someone might not be caught in a lie by you later, poverty has always been Greece’s companion, but virtue is acquired, nurtured by wisdom and strong custom. By cultivating this excellence, Greece has warded off both poverty and tyranny.”

῾Ως δὲ ταῦτα ἤκουσε Δημάρητος, ἔλεγε τάδε· «Βασιλεῦ, ἐπειδὴ ἀληθείῃ διαχρήσασθαι πάντως κελεύεις ταῦτα λέγοντα τὰ μὴ ψευδόμενός τις ὕστερον ὑπὸ σέο ἁλώσεται, τῇ ῾Ελλάδι πενίη μὲν αἰεί κοτε σύντροφός ἐστι, ἀρετὴ δὲ ἔπακτός ἐστι, ἀπό τε σοφίης κατεργασμένη καὶ νόμου ἰσχυροῦ· τῇ διαχρεωμένη ἡ ῾Ελλὰς τήν τε πενίην ἀπαμύνεται καὶ τὴν δεσποσύνην.

 

8.144.1-3

“To the Spartan representatives, the Athenians answered as follows: “It was a very human response that the Spartans feared we might make an agreement with the Barbarian. But because we believe it shameful that the Athenian spirit should shudder so, know that there is no amount of gold anywhere or land so exceeding in beauty and location which we would ever wish to take to align with the Persians and enslave Greece.

“There are many, serious reasons which would prevent us from doing these things, even if we were willing: first and greatest are the temples and dedications to the gods which were burned and destroyed. This compels us to seek extreme vengeance rather than making agreements with the man who contrived it. Second, is our common Hellenic blood, our shared language, the shrines of the gods and the sacrifices, customs and ways of living we keep in common—never would it be right for the Athenians to betray these things.

Know this too if you did not happen to know it before, as long as a single Athenian survives there will never be a treaty with Xerxes. Still, we give you thanks for your concern about us, that you have worried for out destroyed home enough that you are willing to supply and feed our people.”cropped-hoplites.jpg

πρὸς δὲ τοὺς ἀπὸ Σπάρτης ἀγγέλους τάδε. ‘τὸ μὲν δεῖσαι Λακεδαιμονίους μὴ ὁμολογήσωμεν τῷ βαρβάρῳ, κάρτα ἀνθρωπήιον ἦν: ἀτὰρ αἰσχρῶς γε οἴκατε ἐξεπιστάμενοι τὸ Ἀθηναίων φρόνημα ἀρρωδῆσαι, ὅτι οὔτε χρυσός ἐστι γῆς οὐδαμόθι τοσοῦτος οὔτε χώρη κάλλεϊ καὶ ἀρετῇ μέγα ὑπερφέρουσα, τὰ ἡμεῖς δεξάμενοι ἐθέλοιμεν ἂν μηδίσαντες καταδουλῶσαι τὴν Ἑλλάδα. ’

‘ [2] πολλά τε γὰρ καὶ μεγάλα ἐστι τὰ διακωλύοντα ταῦτα μὴ ποιέειν μηδ᾽ ἢν ἐθέλωμεν, πρῶτα μὲν καὶ μέγιστα τῶν θεῶν τὰ ἀγάλματα καὶ τὰ οἰκήματα ἐμπεπρησμένα τε καὶ συγκεχωσμένα, τοῖσι ἡμέας ἀναγκαίως ἔχει τιμωρέειν ἐς τὰ μέγιστα μᾶλλον ἤ περ ὁμολογέειν τῷ ταῦτα ἐργασαμένῳ, αὖτις δὲ τὸ Ἑλληνικὸν ἐὸν ὅμαιμόν τε καὶ ὁμόγλωσσον καὶ θεῶν ἱδρύματά τε κοινὰ καὶ θυσίαι ἤθεά τε ὁμότροπα, τῶν προδότας γενέσθαι Ἀθηναίους οὐκ ἂν εὖ ἔχοι. ’

‘ [3] ἐπίστασθέ τε οὕτω, εἰ μὴ πρότερον ἐτυγχάνετε ἐπιστάμενοι, ἔστ᾽ ἂν καὶ εἷς περιῇ Ἀθηναίων, μηδαμὰ ὁμολογήσοντας ἡμέας Ξέρξῃ. ὑμέων μέντοι ἀγάμεθα τὴν προνοίην τὴν πρὸς ἡμέας ἐοῦσαν, ὅτι προείδετε ἡμέων οἰκοφθορημένων οὕτω ὥστε ἐπιθρέψαι ἐθέλειν ἡμέων τοὺς οἰκέτας. ’

Making the Rich Do Right and Helping the Poor

In this beautiful periodic sentence from Demosthenes,  he articulates the importance of leveling off income inequality.

De Corona, 103

“Right now, I want to take you back through the things I did when in power in order. And you, examine them again, anew, for what was best for the state. When I saw, Athenian men, that your navy was in disarray, and that some of the wealthy citizens were essentially untaxed because of the limited expenditures while other citizens of moderate or little wealth were losing what they had, and that the city was falling behind its opportunities because of these circumstances, I made a law through which I forced the wealthy to do what was right and I prevented the poor from suffering injustice—and this was most useful to the city: I ensured that her preparations happened at the necessary time.”

 

Βούλομαι τοίνυν ἐπανελθεῖν ἐφ’ ἃ τούτων ἑξῆς ἐπολιτευόμην· καὶ σκοπεῖτ’ ἐν τούτοις πάλιν αὖ, τί τὸ τῇ πόλει βέλτιστον ἦν. ὁρῶν γάρ, ὦ ἄνδρες ᾿Αθηναῖοι, τὸ ναυτικὸν ὑμῶν καταλυόμενον καὶ τοὺς μὲν πλουσίους ἀτελεῖς ἀπὸ μικρῶν ἀναλωμάτων γιγνομένους, τοὺς δὲ μέτρι’ ἢ μικρὰ κεκτημένους τῶν πολιτῶν τὰ ὄντ’ ἀπολλύοντας, ἔτι δ’ ὑστερίζουσαν ἐκ τούτων τὴν πόλιν τῶν καιρῶν, ἔθηκα νόμον καθ’ ὃν τοὺς μὲν τὰ δίκαια ποιεῖν ἠνάγκασα, τοὺς πλουσίους, τοὺς δὲ πένητας ἔπαυσ’ ἀδικουμένους, τῇ πόλει δ’ ὅπερ ἦν χρησιμώτατον, ἐν καιρῷ γίγνεσθαι τὰς παρασκευὰς ἐποίησα.

 

demosthenes

The Dog and His Treasure: A Fable about Priorities

Phaedrus, 1.27

“This tale has something to say to the greedy
And  those who want to be called rich, though born needy.
A dog was digging up human bones when he found
A treasure and, because he offended the gods in the ground,
He was struck by a love of riches he couldn’t forget
To pay sacred religion back this debt.
And so, the dog thought not of food as he guarded his gold
And he died from hunger, and a vulture took hold
And reportedly said, “Dog, you deserve it—
To lie there when you wanted royal wealth
After you were born in a gutter and raised on shit!”

dog

 

I.27. Canis et Thesaurus

Haec res avaris esse conveniens potest,
et qui, humiles nati, dici locupletes student.
Humana effodiens ossa thesaurum canis
invenit, et, violarat quia Manes deos,
iniecta est illi divitiarum cupiditas,
poenas ut sanctae religioni penderet.
Itaque, aurum dum custodit oblitus cibi,
fame est consumptus. Quem stans vulturius super
fertur locutus “O canis, merito iaces,
qui concupisti subito regales opes,
trivio conceptus, educatus stercore”.