Pre-Classical Greek Wisdom For A Better Life
Your Self-Help Guide To Improving Your Life With Maxims, Quotations And Guidance Of Noted Ancient Greek Thinkers Of The Pre-Classical Age
Copyright © 2017 by John Kyriazoglou
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. First Edition: February 2017
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This book is dedicated:
To the glory of Ancient Greece; to wonderful Canada; to all my family members and friends who love and enjoy me; and above all to my wonderful grand-daughter Melina with these words:
[[Mon amour pour toi est éternel.
Mon amour pour toi est aussi grand que le monde.
Ton amour est aussi précieux que l’or.
Tu es pour moi la plus belle.
Tu es dans toutes mes pensées.
Usted es la fuente de mi ser.
Come un raggio di sole hai illuminato la mia vita.]]
[My love for you is eternal.
My love for you is as grand as the world.
Your love is as precious as gold.
You are, for me, the most beautiful.
You are in all my thoughts.
You are the fountain of my being.
Like a ray of light you have brightened my life.]
This book is titled ‘Pre-Classical Greek Wisdom for a Better Life’.
It is designed to be Your Self-Help Guide to Improving your life with Maxims, Quotations and Guidance of noted ancient Greek thinkers of the Pre-Classical Age.
It contains a set of over 330 wisdom pieces (maxims, quotations, sayings and short stories) of pre-classical ancient Greece (c. 800 – c. 500 BC) that inspire you to improve and enrich all aspects of your life. It includes:
1. Maxims: The maxims of the oracle of Delphi, inscribed in marble and travelling the world as the first written educational and moral text,
2. Quotations: The quotations of the Seven Sages of ancient Greece (Thales, Pittacos, Bias, Solon, Cleovoulos, Periandros, and Chilon), who set the background for the development of Western philosophy by Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Epicurus, and others,
3. Sayings: The sayings and short stories of Aesop (world’s most famous story-teller), Heraclitus (one of the greatest pre-classical philosophers), Hesiod (world’s first agrarian economist and a great poet), Homer (world’s greatest epic poet) and Pythagoras (philosopher, mathematician and best-known for his Pythagorean Theorem),
4. Rules: 39 ‘Golden Rules’ for improving specific aspects of your life, like: connecting to the Supreme Being, governance, wealth management, friendship, etc., and
5. Action Plan: An action plan with ten ‘golden actions’ incorporating all ideas on improving the individual aspects of your life contained in the specific chapters into an integrated whole for supporting, enhancing and enriching your whole life, in terms of your spiritual, emotional, mental and social health and fitness.
The purpose of this book is to make all readers (general public, educated and not, young, old, men, women, high school, college and university students, managers, workers, professionals, etc.) aware of a set of pre-classical ancient Greek maxims and quotations that could be used to help them in all walks and stages in their personal and professional life, and hopefully enable them to understand, reflect upon, and improve their relationships, in the long term.
The translation of the maxims, quotations, sayings and short stories from ancient Greek into English were done by the author on the basis of the original texts in both ancient Greek and current Greek and other sources noted in the bibliography.
I am responsible for any errors and omissions in the translation, hoping that the reader will excuse me in this very difficult and demanding task.
John Kyriazoglou ([email protected])
The approach I use in this book to help you improve all aspects of your life is called Seven Milestones to a Better Life.
This is outlined as follows:
Step 1: In chapter one, I introduce you to the role of Maxims and Quotations of the pre-classical Greek era while offering some details about the Seven Sages and other pre-classical Greeks.
Step 2: In chapters 2 to 10, I present pre-classical pieces of Greek wisdom (maxims, quotations, sayings and short stories) and Golden Rules on reaching each milestone of your personal discovery journey to a better life:
First milestone: ‘Connecting to the Supreme Being’.
Second milestone: ‘Learning how to govern better’.
Third milestone: ‘Managing your wealth better’.
Fourth milestone (first component): ‘Adding friendship and love to your life’.
Fourth milestone (second component): ‘Becoming more harmonious and peaceful’.
Fourth milestone (third component): ‘Adding goodness and kindness to your life’’.
Fifth milestone: ‘Managing yourself better’.
Sixth milestone: ‘Improving yourself with knowledge’.
Seventh milestone: ‘Carrying out your daily activities better’.
Step 3: In chapter eleven, I summarize the influence of Pre-classical Ancient Greek Thinkers to the World, like the Seven Sages as well as Aesop, Heraclitus, Hesiod, Homer and Pythagoras.
Step 4: Finally, in chapter 12 (Epilogue), I present my concluding remarks, in terms of my favourite quotations on ‘Friendship’ and ‘How to live’, and my proposed Action Plan for a More Balanced Life, which, in effect, summarizes and integrates the individual sets of rules outlined in chapters 2 to 10.
This chapter introduces you to the role of Maxims and Quotations of the pre-classical Greek era, offers details about the Seven Sages and other pre-classical Greeks and provides an example of the Maxims of the Oracle of Delphi and the Quotations of the Seven Sages.
The great British philosopher-mathematician Alfred North Whitehead once commented that all philosophy is but a footnote to Plato. A similar point can possibly be made regarding Greek literature as a whole.
Over a period of more than twenty centuries, the ancient Greeks created a body of literature masterpieces in poetry, maxims and quotations, stories and fables, tragedy, comedy, and history that cannot be surpassed by any other culture in the world. These pieces have inspired, influenced, and challenged writers and readers to the present day.
The only body of literature of comparable influence is the Bible.
These ancient literature masterpieces were created during five major periods of Greek literature: pre-classical, classical, Hellenistic-Roman, Byzantine and Modern. Of these the most significant works were produced during the pre-classical and classical eras.
This book deals only with one aspect of this literature, namely, the maxims and quotations of the pre-classical period and how they may support, improve and enrich your life.
Role of Maxims and Quotations
Ethical maxims and quotations play a significant role in shaping our every-day life and social interactions with others, as they embody simple rules to memorize and follow and thus make our life easier as they provide a level of assurance that we are doing the right and accepted thing.
According to various sources the first maxims and quotations, at least in the Greek world, if not in all countries and cultures of the Western civilized world, were written by the seven sages of ancient Greece who lived in pre-classical Greece.
The Seven Sages (of ancient Greece) or Seven Wise Men was the title given by ancient Greek cultural tradition to seven early 6th century B.C. philosophers, poets, rulers, statesmen and law-makers who were renowned in the following centuries for their wisdom, and which is still valid today.
The seven sages were Bias, Chilon, Cleovoulos, Periandros, Pittacos, Thales, and Solon. They lived in ancient Greece over 600 years B.C. and before the advent of the classical Greek philosophers, like Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, etc. Their maxims and quotations set the background for the development of the classical Greek philosophy.
Some data about the Seven Sages
Some data about their life and an example of their maxims and quotations are presented next.
1. Bias: Bias was born in Priene, an Ancient Greek City in Ionia, north of Militos, in Asia Minor (present-day Turkey). He lived in Priene in the sixth century B.C. (ca. 625-540 B.C.). He was considered as one of the seven sages (wise men) of Ancient Greece.
Aristotle esteemed the wisdom of Bias. So did Plato who praises Bias, and Pittacos. Heracleitos had a very high respect for Bias and Pittacos. Also Plutarch, in his famous ‘Dinner of the seven sages’, refers to all seven sages with the highest remarks.
2. Chilon: Chilon was born in Sparta. He lived in Sparta in the sixth century B.C. (born ca. 560 B.C.), and he was a law-maker, political leader and a poet. He was considered as one of the seven sages (wise men) of Ancient Greece.
Plutarch, in his famous ‘Dinner of the seven sages’, refers to Chilon and the other sages with the highest remarks.
3. Cleovoulos: Cleovoulos was born in Lindos, on the island of Rodos. He lived in the sixth century B.C., and he was the ruler of Lindos. He was considered as one of the seven sages (wise men) of Ancient Greece.
He studied philosophy in Egypt, and had a daughter named Cleovulina, who used to compose enigmas in hexameter verse, that were said to be of no less significance than his own.
Plutarch, in his famous ‘Dinner of the seven sages’, refers to Cleovoulos and all the other sages with the highest remarks.
4. Periandros: Periandros was born in Corinth. He lived in Corinth in the sixth century B.C. (ca. 627-587 B.C.), and he was its ruler. He was considered as one of the seven sages (wise men) of Ancient Greece.
Plutarch, in his famous ‘Dinner of the seven sages’, refers to Periandros and the other sages with the highest remarks.
5. Pittacos: Pittacos was born in Mytilini on the Greek island of Lesvos. He lived in Mytilini in the sixth century B.C. (ca. 650-570 B.C.), and he was a political and military leader. He was considered as one of the seven sages (wise men) of Ancient Greece.
Plato praises Pittacos. Heracleitos also had a very high respect for Pittacos, and Plutarch, in his famous ‘Dinner of the seven sages’, refers to Pittacos and the other sages with the highest remarks.
6. Solon: Solon was born in Salamis, an island near Athens. He lived in Athens in the sixth century B.C. (ca. 640-560 B.C.), and he was a law-maker, political reformer and a poet. He was considered as one of the seven sages (wise men) of Ancient Greece.
In 594 BC he was made governor (archon) of Attica. In order to subdue the civil disorder that was rampant there. He introduced a set of ordinances (called seisachtheia), that did much to improve conditions.
The ‘seisachtheia’ laws immediately cancelled all outstanding debts, retroactively emancipated all previously enslaved debtors, reinstated all confiscated serf property to the ‘hektemorioi’, and forbade the use of personal freedom as collateral in all future debts. A ceiling to maximum property size was also instituted regardless of the legality of its acquisition (i.e. by marriage), meant to prevent excessive accumulation of land by powerful families.
His ordinances were such a success that he was given the task of rewriting the constitution, creating what was later called the Solonian Constitution. Plutarch, in his famous ‘Dinner of the seven sages’, refers to Solon and the other sages with the highest remarks.
7. Thales: Thales was born in the Ancient Greek City of Militos, in Ionia, in Asia Minor. He lived in Militos in the sixth century B.C. (ca. 624-546 B.C.), and he was a scientist, a philosopher, and the founder of the Ionian school of natural philosophy. He was considered as one of the seven sages (wise men) of Ancient Greece.
Aristotle, the major source for Thales’s philosophy and science, identified Thales as the first person to investigate the basic principles, the question of the originating substances of matter and, therefore, as the founder of the school of natural philosophy. Thales was interested in almost everything, investigating almost all areas of knowledge, philosophy, history, science, mathematics, engineering, geography, and politics. He proposed theories to explain many of the events of nature, the primary substance, the support of the earth, and the cause of change.
Thales was much involved in the problems of astronomy and provided a number of explanations of cosmological events which traditionally involved supernatural entities. His questioning approach to the understanding of heavenly phenomena was the beginning of Greek astronomy. Thales’s hypotheses were new and bold, and in freeing phenomena from godly intervention, he paved the way towards scientific endeavour.
Plutarch, in his famous ‘Dinner of the seven sages’, refers to Thales and the other sages with the highest remarks.
Maxims of the Oracle of Delphi and Quotations of the Seven Sages
The maxims of the Oracle of Delphi are attributed to the Seven Sages. These were made up of very brief quotations (two to five words) full of wisdom and moral values. These maxims, 147 in total, were inscribed in the frontal columns at the temple of the god Apollo, at the Oracle of Delphi. They were copied on single marble tablets and were transported to all parts of the Ancient Greek World, as the writing on paper or on parchment was not known at the time.
The quotations and sayings of the Seven Sages were made up of more than five words and were full of wisdom and moral values.
These Oracle of Delphi maxims and the quotations and sayings of the Seven Sages cover all areas of living, such as:
1. Religiosity (faith, worship, religious behavior, God, praying, etc.), detailed in Chapter 2,
2. Governance (protect home country, society, laws, ruling), presented in Chapter 3,
3. Managing Property (wealth, protection of self and property, profit, finance, etc.), outlined in Chapter 4,
4. Principles, Virtues and Values for Association with Others (friendship and love, peace and hate, anger, justice, honor, goodness, murder and vice, wisdom, mercy and forgiveness, and happiness), described in Chapters 5, 6 and 7,
5. Personal Skills (self-control, efficiency, effectiveness, hope, fortune, etc.), analyzed in Chapter 8,
6. Knowledge, Education and Training, presented in Chapter 9, and
7. Family, Values and Conduct in Life (marriage, family, wife, children and parents, conduct and virtues during life, and death), outlined in Chapter 10.
An example of the maxims of the Oracle of Delphi and the quotations and sayings of the Seven Sages are: 1. Follow God; 2. Worship God; 3. Obey the law; 4. Respect your parents; 5. Be overcome by justice; 6. Base your knowledge on learning; and 7. Know yourself.
Quotations and Sayings of other pre-classical Greeks
Quotations and sayings of other pre-classical Greek noted thinkers like Aesop (world’s most famous story-teller), Heraclitus (one of the greatest pre-classical philosophers), Hesiod (world’s first economist), Homer (world’s greatest poet) and Pythagoras (philosopher, mathematician and best-known for his Pythagorean Theorem) are included in chapters 2 to 10, as described above.
In closing, how the maxims, quotations and sayings of the Seven Sages and other pre-classical Greeks may improve and enrich your life in terms of aspects of religion, wealth management, friendship, kindness, etc., are included in chapters 2 to 10.
How these noted thinkers have influenced western thought and civilization is presented in chapter 11 (‘Pre-Classical Ancient Greek Influence’).
Finally, an action plan that incorporates all the ideas presented in chapters 2 to 10 on individual aspects of your life into an integrated whole is outlined in the final chapter (Chapter 12: Epilogue) of this book.
This book offers you more practical help that may transform, sustain better, manage and enrich your life. It is not a magic formula or happiness pill.
It can support you when you wish consistently to build your inner strength, self-love and the deeply motivating feeling that you and your family truly deserve more friendship, love, goodness, kindness and great things in your own personal and family life.
‘Connecting to the Supreme Being’ is the first milestone of your personal discovery journey to a better life. The pre-classical pieces of Greek wisdom (maxims, quotations, sayings and short story) and the proposed Golden Rules on Religion presented in this chapter have the power to strengthen your spiritual aspects to enable you to reach this milestone more effectively and fully.
Connecting to the Supreme Being associates you and companies with the ultimate source of power. It is the first milestone (connect to the Supreme Being) of your personal discovery journey to a better life. Believing in the Supreme Being, Religion and their manifestations (faith, beliefs) and tools (prayers and meditation), links and connects your internal psyche (soul) to the eternal power source of the Supreme Being. It does the same, I believe, to corporations and business organizations, as they are living organisms, and as such, their corporate soul, being the collective soul of all people making it up, needs nourishment and re-orientation to reach their business goals.
The Seven Sages guide us: ‘Follow God’; and ‘Worship God’.
Ancient Greeks and Religion
The gods and goddesses of ancient Greeks were based on the Logos (reason) rather than revelation, as are current world religions. These gods and goddesses were, in most cases:
Universal, Friendly, Good, Kind, Benevolent, Just, Truthful,
Merciful and Compassionate, to all forms of life in the Universe.
Pythagoras proposes: ‘God embraces all and actuates all, and is but One. All life is one, and God is one’.
The ancient Greeks guide us to remember that all our goods and qualities are provided to us by The Supreme Being (God, Jehovah, or any other of the 65 or so names given by human religions) and should therefore be used to improve the life of others beside our own.
The Seven Sages remind us: ‘Thank Gods for whatever good comes your way, not yourself’; and ‘Honour divine providence’.
In today’s terms, religion and its manifestations (faith, believing, praying, meditation, ethics, etc.) are quite important for both your personal life and your business activities. Unfortunately, people and businesses in many western societies are not so religious and their morality is deteriorating as evidenced by increased incidents of corporate frauds, crimes and social unrests and personal unhappiness.
The ancient Greeks were quite religious and devoted to their gods and goddesses as expressed very clearly in their daily life, community activities and the sayings and works of their ancient wise men.
Aesop advises: ‘As God helps the just people, so he (God) is set against the unjust people’.
Heraclitus adds: ‘Human laws are the creation of Divine Law, as it (the Divine Law) is superior to all other laws and it is applicable to all people the same way’, and ‘The wisest man, when compared to God, will be proved to be a monkey in all things, such as wisdom, beauty, etc.’.
They also prayed to their gods and goddesses, as the Seven Sages instruct: ‘Pray for happiness’; and ‘Pray to fortune’.
Quotations and stories on Religion and its manifestations
More guidance in terms of sayings, maxims and quotations (quotations for short) as well as one fable, of noted ancient Greek thinkers of the pre-classical period over 26 centuries ago, on God and other related manifestations, are offered for your consideration next.
1. Guidance Quotations related to God
Hesiod says: ‘For the gods keep hidden from men the means of life. Else you would easily do work enough in a day to supply you for a full year even without working; soon would you put away your rudder over the smoke, and the fields worked by ox and sturdy mule would run to waste’.
Homer adds: ‘Gods know everything very well’.
Pythagoras instructs: ‘Golden Verse 1. First worship the Immortal Gods, as they are established and ordained by the Law.’; ‘Golden Verse 48. But never begin to set your hand to any work, until you have first prayed to the gods to accomplish what you are going to begin’; and ‘Enigma 28: Adore the gods, but sacrifice barefoot’, meaning that you should dismiss all thoughts of the affairs of your world when you worship God.
Seven Sages recommend: ‘Do have relationships with Gods’; and ‘You should state that Gods exist’.
2. Guidance Quotations related to Divine Temples
Seven Sages advise: ‘Do not use an oath’; ‘Respect those who have taken refuge in holy temples’; and ‘Admire the oracular responses (i.e. the responses of the holy men or women to questions put to them by anyone visiting their temples)’.
3. Guidance Quotations related to Divine Punishment
Seven Sages instruct: ‘Don’t blame someone who is being unfortunate, as these are things that provoke the anger and punishment by Gods’.
4. Aesop’s Fable on God
I also find the following Fable by Aesop on God quite relevant.
Aesop’s story of ‘The Travellers and the Plane-Tree’:
‘Two Travelers, worn out by the heat of the summer’s sun, laid themselves down at noon under the wide spreading branches of a Plane-Tree. As they rested under its shade, one of the Travelers said to the other, “What a singularly useless tree is the Plane! It bears no fruit, and is not of the least service to man.” The Plane-Tree, interrupting him, said, “You ungrateful fellows! Do you, while receiving benefits from me and resting under my shade, dare to describe me as useless, and unprofitable?’
The meaning of this story to me, at least, is that some men underrate their best blessings and do not feel grateful for anything given to them by God.
In closing, my two favourite quotations in this regard are[*:*]
First: ‘Follow God’, by the Seven Sages inscribed in marble at the Oracle of Delphi, and
Second: ‘God embraces all and actuates all, and is but One. All life is one, and God is one’, by Pythagoras.
They are simple catch-phrases, easy to remember and easy to communicate to others and full of meaning without being dogmatic in any formal religious sense. When recalled, silently or not, they can permeate your thoughts and soothe your inner psyche (soul).
They do not need an altar or other religious building to be exercised or uttered. They can be recalled anywhere: in your work, when you travel, when you listen to music, when you read a book, when you drink a cup of coffee or tea, when you walk up a mountain, when you look at a beautiful forest or the blue sea.
Believing in the Supreme Being, Religion and Faith impact your questioning, reasoning, ethics, behaviour and the way you think and carry out your activities in your everyday life.
All these provide you with the moral ground and inner strength for doing and thinking the way you do.
The power of faith and the practice of praying and meditation have proven tremendous to most people, according to several studies and practical findings of professionals who have had the chance to see their wonderful results to their own life and the life of others.
Examining the ancient Greek ways of believing in The Supreme Being, faith and religion: helps you, at the personal level, monitor and get back to the right way to travel the difficult road of your life’s journey to reach peace and tranquility; and enables the company you manage, own or work for, to operate in a more moral and just way so that it benefits society more.
Golden Rules on Religion
Studying and pondering what is contained (thoughts, story, maxims, quotations and sayings of pre-classical ancient Greeks) in this chapter, you can improve, inspire and sustain your life in a more spiritual and social way. To help you along this way I have distilled, compiled, used and proposing to you to consider the relevance and potential use of the following ‘Golden Rules on Religion’.
Rule 1: Believe in The Supreme Being and the goodness of God.
Rule 2: Build and use your religious values to sustain your moral character and improve yourself and your business activities.
Rule 3: Pray to God and meditate regularly to find peace and harmony.
Rule 4: Infuse your religious and moral values into your personal life and business activities.
Practice has shown that these rules are bound to strengthen your spiritual, mental, emotional and social fitness and health. Incorporating them into your daily ritual, among other benefits, can inspire and motivate you to reach your potential. They have the power to change, improve and enrich your life.
As Pythagoras reflects: ‘True religion consists in the knowledge of Self, the knowledge of God, and the following of God.’
‘Learning how to govern better’ is the second milestone of your personal discovery journey to a better life. The pre-classical pieces of Greek wisdom (maxims, quotations, sayings and short story) and the proposed Golden Rules on Governance presented in this chapter have the power to strengthen your aspects of governance to enable you to reach this milestone more effectively and fully.
Governance and Laws link you and corporations with your community. It is the second milestone (learn how to govern better) of your personal discovery journey to a better life. These are required for humans to survive and for corporations to operate in a just and moral way. They are considered crucial and fundamental for organized living and for establishing, maintaining and sustaining individual persons, families, business organizations, nations, economies, and human society.
The Seven Sages guide us:
‘Obey the law’; and
‘Your laws should be old, your dinners fresh’.
Heraclitus adds: ‘We should fight for our laws in the same way that we fight for our country’.
Ancient Greeks and Governance
The ancient Greeks had a lot of different kinds of governments, because there were many different city-states (poleis) in ancient Greece, and they each had their own type of government.
For the most part, ancient Greece began by having monarchies, then oligarchies, then tyrannies and then democracies, but at each period there were plenty of city-states using a different system, and there were many which never did become democracies or tyrannies at all.
Pythagoras advises: ‘Good government can be firmly effected if the rulers are equal in all things to the citizens, and surpass them in nothing else than justice’.
The most notable example of a democratic system was that of Athens, first established and strengthened by Solon, one of the Seven Sages of Ancient Greece. The governance system of Athens, as a Greek City-state, or Polis, is arguably the greatest political system ever created – remarkable given its appearance some 2600 years ago.
Aesop instructs: ‘Even the worst government is better than anarchy’; and the Seven Sages complement: ‘Democracy is better than the power of tyrant’.
The ancient Greek world had no single system of law; individual states like Athens, Sparta, etc., instead formed their own political and legal systems, although these were arguably based largely on the same general principles.
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This book is titled â€˜Pre-Classical Greek Wisdom for a Better Lifeâ€™. It is designed to be Your Self-Help Guide to Improving your life with Maxims, Quotations and Guidance of noted ancient Greek thinkers of the Pre-Classical Age. It contains a set of over 330 wisdom pieces (maxims, quotations, sayings and short stories) of pre-classical ancient Greece (c. 800 â€“ c. 500 BC) that inspire you to improve and enrich all aspects of your life. It includes: 1. Maxims: The maxims of the oracle of Delphi, inscribed in marble and travelling the world as the first written educational and moral text, 2. Quotations: The quotations of the Seven Sages of ancient Greece (Thales, Pittacos, Bias, Solon, Cleovoulos, Periandros, and Chilon), who set the background for the development of Western philosophy by Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Epicurus, and others, 3. Sayings: The sayings and short stories of Aesop (worldâ€™s most famous story-teller), Heraclitus (one of the greatest pre-classical philosophers), Hesiod (worldâ€™s first agrarian economist and a great poet), Homer (worldâ€™s greatest epic poet) and Pythagoras (philosopher, mathematician and best-known for his Pythagorean Theorem), 4. Rules: 39 â€˜Golden Rulesâ€™ for improving specific aspects of your life, like: connecting to the Supreme Being, governance, wealth management, friendship, etc., and 5. Action Plan: An action plan with ten â€˜golden actionsâ€™ incorporating all ideas on improving the individual aspects of your life contained in the specific chapters into an integrated whole for supporting, enhancing and enriching your whole life, in terms of your spiritual, emotional, mental and social health and fitness.