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Ancient Greek philosopher's quotes

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Socrates was a classical Greek (Athenian) philosopher credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy. Socrates was a classical Greek (Athenian) philosopher credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy.

The Ancient Greek philosophers were unbelievably smart and wise. They used few words, 'quotes', to express pearls of wisdom that stand up today as guidelines for living wisely and compassionately.

They all used philosophy to help them achieve "eudaimonia", by which the Greeks meant "flourishing" or "the good life".

Anaxagoras - 500 BC - 428 BC

  • “Everything has a natural explanation. The moon is not a god but a great rock and the sun a hot rock”
  • “The Greeks do not think correctly about coming-to-be and passing-away; for no thing comes to be or passes away, but is mixed together and dissociated from the things that are. And thus they would be correct to call coming-to-be mixing-together and passing-away dissociating”
  • “Men would live exceedingly quiet if these two words, mine and thine, were taken away”
  • “Mind is infinite and self-ruled, and is mixed with nothing, but is alone itself by itself”
  • “Appearances are a glimpse of the unseen”
  • “All things were together, infinite both in number and in smallness; for the small too was infinite.”
  • “And since these things are so, we must suppose that there are contained many things and of all sorts in the things that are uniting, seeds of all things, with all sorts of shapes and colours and savours”

Antisthenes - 444 BC - 371 BC

  • "There are only two people who can tell you the truth about yourself - an enemy who has lost his temper and a friend who loves you dearly"
  • "Pay attention to your enemies, for they are the first to discover your mistakes"
  • "As iron is eaten away by rust, so the envious are consumed by their own passion"
  • "When brothers agree, no fortress is so strong as their common life"

Aristotle - 384 BC - 322 BC

  • “Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies”
  • “The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet”
  • “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom”
  • “What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies”
  • “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it”
  • “Hope is a waking dream”
  • “Happiness depends upon ourselves”
  • “No great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness”
  • “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all”
  • “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence”
  • “Anybody can become angry — that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody's power and is not easy”
  • “Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives - choice, not chance, determines your destiny”
  • “To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing”
  • “A friend to all is a friend to none”
  • “Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet”
  • “To perceive is to suffer.”
  • “Those who educate children well are more to be honored than they who produce them; for these only gave them life, those the art of living well”
  • “The educated differ from the uneducated as much as the living differ from the dead”
  • “He who has overcome his fears will truly be free”
  • “Those who know, do. Those that understand, teach”
  • “I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies, for the hardest victory is over self”
  • “Whosoever is delighted in solitude, is either a wild beast or a god”
  • “The antidote for fifty enemies is one friend”
  • “The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance”
  • “The high-minded man must care more for the truth than for what people think”
  • “It is not enough to win a war; it is more important to organize the peace”
  • “Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work”
  • “I have gained this by philosophy … I do without being ordered what some are constrained to do by their fear of the law”
  • “One swallow does not make a summer,
    neither does one fine day;
    similarly one day or brief time of happiness does not make a person entirely happy.”

Democritus - 460 BC - 370 BC

  • “Nothing exists except atoms and empty space; everything else is opinion”
  • “Everywhere man blames nature and fate yet his fate is mostly but the echo of his character and passion, his mistakes and his weaknesses”
  • “Everything existing in the universe is the fruit of chance and necessity”
  • “Many much-learned men have no intelligence”
  • “Do not trust all men, but trust men of worth; the former course is silly, the latter a mark of prudence.”
  • “Good means not merely not to do wrong, but rather not to desire to do wrong”
  • “One man means as much to me as a multitude, and a multitude only as much as one man”
  • “Men achieve cheerfulness by moderation in pleasure and by proportion in their life excess and deficiency are apt to fluctuate and cause great changes in the soul. And souls which change over great intervals are neither stable nor cheerful. So one should set one's mind on what is possible and be content with what one has taking little account of those who are admired and envied and not dwelling on them in thought but one should consider the lives of those who are in distress thinking of their grievous sufferings so that what one has and possesses will seem great and enviable and one will cease to suffer in one's soul through the desire for more”

Empedocles - 490 BC - 430 BC

  • “There are forces in nature called Love and Hate. The force of Love causes elements to be attracted to each other and to be built up into some particular form or person, and the force of Hate causes the decomposition of things”
  • “At one time through love all things come together into one, at another time through strife’s hatred they are borne each of them apart”
  • “The blood around men’s heart is their thinking”
  • “The nature of God is a circle of which the center is everywhere and the circumference is nowhere”

Epictetus - 55 - 135

  • “Reason is not measured by size or height, but by principle”
  • “No great thing is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen”
  • “Practise yourself, for heaven's sake, in little things; and thence proceed to greater”
  • “There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will”
  • “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak”
  • “When you are offended at any man's fault, turn to yourself and study your own failings. Then you will forget your anger”
  • “It takes more than just a good looking body. You've got to have the heart and soul to go with it”
  • “Be careful to leave your sons well instructed rather than rich, for the hopes of the instructed are better than the wealth of the ignorant”
  • “First learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak”
  • “All religions must be tolerated... for every man must get to heaven in his own way”
  • “Keep silence for the most part, and speak only when you must, and then briefly”
  • “Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens”
  • “If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid”
  • “It is the nature of the wise to resist pleasures, but the foolish to be a slave to them”
  • “Silence is safer than speech”
  • “First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do”
  • “It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters”
  • “Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants”

Epicurus - 341 BC - 271 BC

  • “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for”
  • “Death does not concern us, because as long as we exist, death is not here. And when it does come, we no longer exist”
  • “It is better for you to be free of fear lying upon a pallet, than to have a golden couch and a rich table and be full of trouble”
  • “Not what we have But what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance”
  • “If God listened to the prayers of men, all men would quickly have perished: for they are forever praying for evil against one another”
  • “Of all the things which wisdom provides to make us entirely happy, much the greatest is the possession of friendship”
  • “It is folly for a man to pray to the gods for that which he has the power to obtain by himself”
  • “You don't develop courage by being happy in your relationships everyday. You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity”
  • “It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and well and justly. And it is impossible to live wisely and well and justly without living a pleasant life”
  • “It is not so much our friends' help that helps us, as the confidence of their help”
  • “Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempest”
  • “Justice... is a kind of compact not to harm or be harmed”
  • “The time when most of you should withdraw into yourself is when you are forced to be in a crowd”
  • “You don't develop courage by being happy in your relationships everyday. You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity”
  • “The art of living well and the art of dying well are one”

Heraclitus - 544 BC - 483 BC

  • “There is nothing permanent except change”
  • “Good character is not formed in a week or a month. It is created little by little, day by day. Protracted and patient effort is needed to develop good character”
  • “Big results require big ambitions”
  • “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man”
  • “If you do not expect the unexpected you will not find it, for it is not to be reached by search or trail”
  • “The chain of wedlock is so heavy that it takes two to carry it - and sometimes three”
  • “You cannot step into the same river twice”
  • “Eyes and ears are poor witnesses to people if they have uncultured souls”
  • “Much learning does not teach understanding”
  • “Our envy always lasts longer than the happiness of those we envy”
  • “Justice will overtake fabricators of lies and false witnesses”
  • “Nothing endures but change”
  • “Hide our ignorance as we will, an evening of wine soon reveals it”
  • “It is hard to contend against one's heart's desire; for whatever it wishes to have it buys at the cost of soul”

Plato - 427 BC - 347 BC

  • “Love is a serious mental disease”
  • “At the touch of love everyone becomes a poet”
  • “Love is the joy of the good, the wonder of the wise, the amazement of the Gods”
  • “Every heart sings a song, incomplete, until another heart whispers back. Those who wish to sing always find a song. At the touch of a lover, everyone becomes a poet”
  • “Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something”
  • “Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything”
  • “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light”
  • “The beginning is the most important part of the work”
  • “Human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and knowledge”
  • “The direction in which education starts a man will determine his future in life”
  • “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation”
  • “Good actions give strength to ourselves and inspire good actions in others”
  • “Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws”
  • “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors”
  • “A hero is born among a hundred, a wise man is found among a thousand, but an accomplished one might not be found even among a hundred thousand men”
  • “Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance”
  • “A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers”
  • “There will be no end to the troubles of states, or of humanity itself, till philosophers become kings in this world, or till those we now call kings and rulers really and truly become philosophers, and political power and philosophy thus come into the same hands”
  • “Dictatorship naturally arises out of democracy, and the most aggravated form of tyranny and slavery out of the most extreme liberty”
  • “All the gold which is under or upon the earth is not enough to give in exchange for virtue”
  • “Necessity... the mother of invention”
  • “There are two things a person should never be angry at, what they can help, and what they cannot”
  • “Thinking: the talking of the soul with itself”
  • “Ignorance, the root and stem of all evil”
  • “For a man to conquer himself is the first and noblest of all victories”
  • “No man should bring children into the world who is unwilling to persevere to the end in their nature and education”
  • “The community which has neither poverty nor riches will always have the noblest principles”
  • “Only the dead have seen the end of war”
  • “Then not only an old man, but also a drunkard, becomes a second time a child”
  • “Any man may easily do harm, but not every man can do good to another”
  • “No one is a friend to his friend who does not love in return”
  • “Poets utter great and wise things which they do not themselves understand”
  • “He who steals a little steals with the same wish as he who steals much, but with less power”

Plutarch - 46 - 120

  • “I don't need a friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod; my shadow does that much better”
  • “The very spring and root of honesty and virtue lie in good education”
  • “What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality”
  • “The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled”
  • “It is part of a good man to do great and noble deeds, though he risk everything”
  • “Silence at the proper season is wisdom, and better than any speech”
  • “Neither blame or praise yourself”
  • “Perseverance is more prevailing than violence; and many things which cannot be overcome when they are together, yield themselves up when taken little by little”
  • “Character is simply habit long continued”
  • “Fate leads him who follows it, and drags him who resist”
  • “The real destroyer of the liberties of the people is he who spreads among them bounties, donations and benefits”

Protagoras - 481 BC - 411 BC

  • “Man is the measure of all things”
  • “There are two sides to every question”
  • “No intelligent man believes that anybody ever willingly errs or willingly does base and evil deeds; they are well aware that all who do base and evil things do them unwillingly.”

Socrates - 469 BC - 399 BC

  • “Know thyself”
  • “One thing only I know, and that is that I know nothing”
  • “I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think”
  • “True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us”
  • “False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil”
  • “To find yourself, think for yourself”
  • “By all means marry: if you get a good wife, you’ll become happy; if you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher”
  • “Call no man unhappy until he is married”
  • “Worthless people live only to eat and drink; people of worth eat and drink only to live”
  • “Once made equal to man, woman becomes his superior”
  • “Whom do I call educated? First, those who manage well the circumstances they encounter day by day. Next, those who are decent and honorable in their intercourse with all men, bearing easily and good naturedly what is offensive in others and being as agreeable and reasonable to their associates as is humanly possible to be... those who hold their pleasures always under control and are not ultimately overcome by their misfortunes... those who are not spoiled by their successes, who do not desert their true selves but hold their ground steadfastly as wise and sober -- minded men”
  • “Life contains but two tragedies. One is not to get your heart's desire; the other is to get it”
  • “From the deepest desires often come the deadliest hate”
  • “Nature has given us two ears, two eyes, and but one tongue-to the end that we should hear and see more than we speak”
  • “Be slow to fall into friendship; but when thou art in, continue firm and constant”
  • “Beauty is a short-lived tyranny”
  • “Not life, but good life, is to be chiefly valued”
  • “The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers”
  • “No man undertakes a trade he has not learned, even the meanest; yet everyone thinks himself sufficiently qualified for the hardest of all trades, that of government”
  • “I was really too honest a man to be a politician and live”

Thales - 624 BC - 546 BC

  • “The most difficult thing in life is to know yourself”
  • “Nothing is more active than thought, for it travels over the universe, and nothing is stronger than necessity for all must submit to it”
  • “There are three attributes for which I am grateful to Fortune: that I was born, first, human and not animal; second, man and not woman; and third, Greek and not barbarian”
  • “Hope is the only good that is common to all men; those who have nothing else possess hope still”

Theophrastus - 370 BC - 285 BC

  • “Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend”
  • “One may define flattery as a base companionship which is most advantageous to the flatterer”
  • “The man of petty ambition if invited to dinner will be eager to be set next his host”
  • “Ah, yes, superstition: it would appear to be cowardice in face of the supernatural”
  • “We must consider the distinctive characters and the general nature of plants from the point of view of their morphology , their behavior under external conditions, their mode of generation, and the whole course of their life”

Xenophanes - 570 BC - 480 BC

  • “No human being will ever know the Truth, for even if they happen to say it by chance, they would not even known they had done so”
  • “One may define flattery as a base companionship which is most advantageous to the flatterer”
  • “It takes a wise man to recognize a wise man”
  • “God is one, greatest of gods and men, not like mortals in body or thought”
  • “Men create the gods in their own image”
  • “If cattle and horses, or lions, had hands, or were able to draw with their feet and produce the works which men do, horses would draw the forms of gods like horses, and cattle like cattle, and they would make the gods' bodies the same shape as their own”
  • “Better than the strength of men and horses is our wisdom”

Citium Zeno - 335 BC - 264 BC

  • “Fate is the endless chain of causation, whereby things are; the reason or formula by which the world goes on”
  • “Wellbeing is attained by little and little, and nevertheless is no little thing itself”
  • “No evil is honorable: but death is honorable; therefore death is not evil”
Last modified onThursday, 15 November 2018 12:27
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