Sentences of the Seven Sages

Besides the four inscriptions on the Temple of Apollo, a stele at Delphi apparently contained a collection of Wisdom aphorisms, known today as the Sayings of the Seven Sages. Various literary and archeological sources enable us to reconstruct the collection. [1] As with the oracular utterances of the Delphic priestesses, they are to be searched for hidden meanings.

Cleobulus
Bias
Pittacus
Solon
Thales
Epimenides
Chilon
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Επου θεω

Φονου απεχου

100

Πραττε αμετανοητως

Follow God

Shun murder

100

Act without repenting

Νομω πειθου

Ευχου δυνατα

Αμαρτανων μετανοει

Heed the law

Pray for things possible

Repent of sins

Θεους σεβου

Σοφοις χρω

Οφθαλμοθ κρατει

Honor the Gods

Consult the wise

Control the eye

Γονεις αιδου

Ηθος δοκιμαζε

Βουλευου χρονω

Care for your parents

Test the character

Give a timely counsel

5

Ηττω υπο δικαιου

55

Λαβων αποδος

Πραττε συντομως

5

Yield to Justice

55

Give back what you have received

Act quickly

Γνωθι μαθων

Υφορω μηδενα

105

Φιλιαν φυλαττε

Know what you have learned

Down-look no one

105

Guard friendship

Ακουσας νοει

Τεχνη χρω

Ευγνωμων γινου

Perceive what you have heard

Use your skill

Be grateful

Σαυτον ισθι

Ο μελλεις, δος

Ομονοιαν διωκε

Be Yourself

Do what you mean to do

Pursue harmony

Γαμειν μελλε

Ευεργεσιας τιμα

Αρρητον κρυπτε

Intend to get married

Honor a benefaction

Keep deeply the top secret

10

Καιρον γνωθι

60

Φθονει μηδενι

Το κρατουν φοβου

10

Know your opportunity

60

Be jealous of no one

Fear ruling

Φρονει θνητα

Φυλακη προσεχε

110

Το συμφερον θηρω

Think as a mortal

Be on your guard

110

Pursue what is profitable

Ξενος ων ισθι

Ελπιδα αινει

Καιρον προσδεχου

If you are a stranger act like one

Praise hope

Accept due measure

Εστιαν τιμα

Διαβολην μισει

Εχθρας διαλυε

Honor the hearth [or Hestia]

Despise a slanderer

Do away with enmities

Αρχε σεαυτου

Δικαιως κτω

Γηρας προσδεχου

Rule yourself

Gain possessions justly

Accept old age

15

Φιλοις βοηθει

65

Αγαθους τιμα

Επι ρωμη μη καυχω

15

Help your friends

65

Honor good men

Do not boast in might

Θυμου κρατει

Κριτην γνωθι

115

Ευφημιαν ασκει

Be superior to anger

Know the judge

115

Exercise religious silence

Φρονησιν ασκει

Γαμους κρατει

Απεχθειαν φευγε

Exercise prudence

Master wedding-feasts

Flee enmity

Προνοιαν τιμα

Τυχην νομιζε

Πλουτει δικαιως

Honor providence

Recognize fortune

Acquire wealth justly

Ορκω μη χρω

Εγγυην φευγε

Δοξαν μη λειπε

Do not use an oath

Flee a pledge

Do not abandon honor

20

Φιλιαν αγαπα

70

Απλως διαλεγου

Κακιαν μισει

20

Love friendship

70

Speak plainly

Despise evil

Παιδειας αντεχου

Ομοιοις χρω

120

Κινδυνευε φρονιμως

Cling to discipline

Associate with your peers

120

Venture into danger prudently

Δοξαν διωκε

Δαπανων αρχου

Μανθανων μη καμνε

Pursue honor

Govern your expenses

Do not tire of learning

Σοφιαν ζηλου

Κτωμενος ηδου

Φειδομενος μη λειπε

Long for wisdom

Be happy with what you have

Do not stop to be thrifty

Καλον ευ λεγε

Αισχυνην σεβου

Χρησμους θαυμαζε

Praise the good

Revere a sense of shame

Admire oracles

25

Ψεγε μηδενα

75

Χαριν εκτελει

Ους τρεφεις αγαπα

25

Find fault with no one

75

Fulfill a favor

Love whom you rear

Επαινει αρετην

Ευτυχιαν ευχου

125

Αποντι μη μαχου

Praise virtue

Pray for happiness

125

Do not oppose someone absent

Πραττε δικαια

Τυχην στεργε

Πρεσβυτερον αιδου

Practice what is just

Be fond of fortune

Respect the elder

Θιλοις ευνοει

Ακουων ορα

Νεωτερον διδασκε

Be kind to friends

Observe what you have heard

Teach a youngster

Εχθρους αμυνου

Εργαζου κτητα

Πλουτω απιστει

Watch out for your enemies

Work for what you can own

Do not trust wealth

30

Ευγενειαν ασκει

80

Εριν μισει

Σεαυτον αιδου

30

Exercise nobility of character

80

Despise strife

Respect yourself

Κακιας απεχου

Ονειδος εχθαιρε

130

Μη αρχε υβριζειν

Shun evil

Detest disgrace

130

Do not begin to be insolent

Κοινος γινου

Γλωτταν ισχε

Προγονους στεφανου

Be impartial

Restrain the tongue

Crown your ancestors

Ιδια φυλαττε

Υβριν αμυνου

Θνησκε υπερ πατριδος

Guard what is yours

Keep yourself from insolence

Die for your country

Αλλοτριων απεχου

Κρινε δικαια

Τω βιω μη αχθου

Shun what belongs to others

Make just judgements

Do not be discontented by life

35

Ακουε παντα

85

Χρω χρημασιν

Επι νεκρω μη γελα

35

Listen to everyone

85

Use what you have

Do not make fun of the dead

Ευφημος ισθι

Αδωροδοκητος δικαζε

135

Ατυχουντι συναχθου

Be religiously silent

Judge incorruptibly

135

Share the load of the unfortunate

Φιλω χαριζου

Αιτιω παροντα

Χαριζου αβλαβως

Do a favor for a friend

Accuse one who is present

Gratify without harming

Μηδεν αγαν

Λεγε ειδως

Μη επι παντι λυπου

Nothing to excess

Tell when you know

Grieve for no one

Χρονου φειδου

Βιας μη εχου

Εξ ευγενων γεννα

Use time sparingly

Do not depend on strength

Beget from noble roots

40

Ορα το μελλον

90

Αλυπως βιου

Επαγγελου μηδενι

40

Foresee the future

90

Live without sorrow

Make promises to no one

Υβριν μισει

Ομιλει πραως

140

Φθιμενους μη αδικει

Despise insolence

Live together meekly

140

Do not wrong the dead

Ικετας αιδου

Περας επιτελει μη

Ευ πασχε ως θνητος

Have respect for suppliants

Finish the race without

Be well off as a mortal

Πασιν αρμοζου

αποδειλιων

Τυχη μη πιστευε

Be accommodating in everything

shrinking back

Do not trust fortune

Υιους παιδευε

Φιλοφρονει πασιν

Παις ων κοσμιος ισθι

Educate your sons

Deal kindly with everyone

As a child be well-behaved

45

Εχων χαριζου

Υιοις μη καταρω

ηβων εγκρατης

45

Give what you have

Do not curse your sons

as a youth - self-disciplined

Δολον φοβου

95

Γυναικος αρχε

145

μεσος δικαιος

Fear deceit

Rule your wife

145

as of middle-age just

Ευλογει παντας

Σεαυτον ευ ποιει

πρεσβυτης ευλογος

Speak well of everyone

95

Benefit yourself

as an old man sensible

Φιλοσοφος γινου

Ευπροσηγορος γινου

τελευτων αλυπος

Be a seeker of wisdom

Be courteous

on reaching the end - without sorrow

Οσια κρινε

Αποκρινου εν καιρω

Choose what is divine

Give a timely response

50

Γνους πραττε

Πονει μετ ευκλειας

50

Act when you know

Struggle with glory

Notes

Stobaeus (Anth. 3.1.173) included the Commandments of the Seven Wise Men, listing the little-known Sosiades as the source. For centuries these 147 gnomic sentences were little appreciated, due, likely in part, to doubts about their authenticity and antiquity.

That view changed in 1968, when Louis Robert described a set of inscriptions found in the Greco-Bactrian city of Ai-Khanum, Afghanistan. These (1) appeared closely related or identical to Sosiades' sentences, and (2) were 'signed' by one Clearchos, who claimed he faithfully copied them from where they stood dedicated in "the most holy Pythian shrine" (Delphi). Robert argued that this Clearchos was the far-traveling philosopher, Clearchos of Soli, student and friend of Aristotle, and he dated the inscriptions to 3rd Century BC.

Later, Oikonomides (1987) compared these inscriptions with others found at Miletopolis on the Hellespont and a papyrus fragment and concluded that Sosiades' sentences, or something like them, were in wide circulation at least in Hellenistic times, and could easily have derived from the 5th century BC or earlier.

The possibility that these sayings were actually inscribed at Delphi (along with the three famous commands, and the enigmatic 'E') gives cause to examine them more closely. An official English translation of Sosiades' sentences does not exist. Oikonomides supplied tentative translations in his paper, but with the proviso that people should study and revise them.

References

Oikonomides, A.N. Records of "The Commandments of the Seven Wise Men" in the 3rd century B.C. The Classical Bulletin, Vol. 63(3), Summer 1987, pp 67-76.

Robert, Louis. De Delphes a l'Oxus: Inscriptions grecques nouvelles de la Bactriane. CRAI 1968, 442-454.

Sosiades. Commandments of the Seven Wise Men (Stobaeus, Anthologium 3.1.173). In: Curt Wachsmuth and Otto Hense (eds.), Stobei Anthologium, Vol. 3. Berlin, 1894. pp. 125ff.

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