1.γνθι σεαυτόν. Know thyself.


2.μηδν γαν. Nothing in excess.

Both of these are sayings said to have been inscribed in the forecourt to the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. Later, they were attributed to one or another of the seven sages of Greece.

The first, γνῶθι σεαυτόν, “know yourself,” traditionally refers not to new age psychology or the search for individual identity but to the need for humans to keep in mind at all times their limitations, “know that you are a human with mortal limits, and not a god.”

The second, μηδὲν ἄγαν, “nothing too much,” is the early Greek equivalent for “be moderate in all things,” often quoted from the Horatian tag in Latin (but several hundred years later), modus in rebus.

3.μέγα βιβλίον, μέγα κακόν, A big book is a big evil.

Literally, “Big book, big evil.” Callimachus used this as his mantra when, in Hellenistic times (3rd century BCE), he was trying to promote the slender, meticulously crafted books of poetry written by himself and his followers in contrast to the old tradition of writing large epics.

4.καὶ σύ, τέκνον;  You too, my child?

Suetonius, Julius Caesar 82 reports these —pace Shakespeare— as Caesar’s dying words to Brutus, spoken, as any high-class Roman gentleman would, in Greek.

  1. Why Christians have fish on their cars…

    fish = ΙΧΘΥΣ (ἰχθύς)

        ᾽Ιησοῦς, Χριστός, θεοῦ υἱός, Σωτήρ (Jesus, Christ, Son of God, Savior)

(for σωτήρ, compare σῴζω, where the verbal suffix -ίζω has been added to the stem σω- (*σα-ο-) = save, safe)

    6. Hesiod advises his wayward brother Perses. If Perses want to be successful he must:

        … ἔργον ἐπ’ ἔργῳ ἐργάζεσθαι, … work work upon work!

 Hesiod Works and Days line 382. (Here, the infinitive is used in place of the usual imperative.)

    7. When the chorus in Aeschylus’s Agamemnon reflects on how man comes to know, the song sums up the human condition in this tragic formulation::

        πάθει μάθος. Man learns through suffering/experience (lit., “Learning by suffering”)

    8. Socrates, in Plato’s Apology:

    ὁ δὲ ἀνεξέταστος βίος οὐ βιωτὸς ἀνθρώπῳ, The unexamined life is not worth living.

    Plato Apology 38.