Thales, ca. 582 B.C.
He said, “There’s no difference between Death and Life.” “So,” someone said, “Why don’t you just die?” “Because,” he said, “there’s no difference!”
To the question, “What came first, night or day?” “Night,” he said, “by one day.”
Someone asked him if it would be possible to hide evil from the gods. He said, “Not even in your thoughts.”
To the adulterer who wanted to know if he should swear he didn’t commit adultery, he said, “Adultery’s not worse than perjury.”
Being asked, “What’s difficult?” He said, “To know oneself.”
“What’s easy?” He said, “To tell someone else what to do.”
“What’s pleasant?” “To get the goal.”
“What’s divine?” “That which has neither beginning nor end.”
“What would surprise you?” “An old tyrant.”
“How might one bear really bad luck?” “To see your enemy doing even worse.”
“What is the best, most righteous way to live?” “Don’t do that which we condemn in others.”
“What’s happiness?” “A sound body, together with a rich soul and a well-taught life.”
He always remembered to tell his friend, whether present or absent, that beauty did not come from one’s appearance but by doing that which is beautiful.
“Don’t do evil to get money,” he said, “and don’t let a single word throw away those with whom you have shared your trust.”
“Whatever you have done for your parents is what you should expect from your children.”
Greek Text and Notes:
οὐδὲν ἔφη τὸν θάνατον διαφέρειν τοῦ ζῆν. “σὺ οὖν,” ἔφη τις, “διὰ τί οὐκ ἀποθνήσκεις;” “ὅτι,” ἔφη, “οὐδὲν διαφέρει.” πρὸς τὸν πυθόμενον τί πρότερον γεγόνοι, νὺξ ἢ ἡμέρα, “ἡ νύξ,” ἔφη, “μιᾷ ἡμέρᾳ πρότερον.” ἠρώτησέ τις αὐτὸν ειʼ λήθοι θεοὺς ἄνθρωπος ἀδικῶν· “ἀλλʼ οὐδὲ διανοούμενος,” ἔφη. πρὸς τὸν μοιχὸν ἐρόμενον ειʼ ὀμόσειε μὴ μεμοιχευκέναι, “ουʼ χεῖρον,” ἔφη, “μοιχείας ἐπιορκία.” ἐρωτηθεὶς τί δύσκολον, ἔφη, “τὸ ἑαυτὸν γνῶναι·” τί δὲ εὔκολον, “τὸ ἄλλῳ ὑποθέσθαι·” τί ἥδιστον, “τὸ ἐπιτυγχάνειν·” τί τὸ θεῖον, “τὸ μήτε ἀρχὴν ἔχον μήτε τελευτήν.” τί δὲ καινὸν εἴη τεθεαμένος
ἔφη· “γέροντα τύραννον.” πῶς ἄν τις ἀτυχίαν ῥᾷστα φέροι, “ειʼ τοὺς ἐχθροὺς χεῖρον πράσσοντας βλέποι·” πῶς ἂν ἄριστα καὶ δικαιότατα βιώσαιμεν, “ἐὰν ἃ τοῖς ἄλλοις ἐπιτιμῶμεν, αὐτοὶ μὴ δρῶμεν·” τίς εὐδαίμων, “ὁ τὸ μὲν σῶμα ὑγιής, τὴν δὲ ψυχὴν εὔπορος, τὴν δὲ φύσιν εὐπαίδευτος.” φίλων παρόντων καὶ ἀπόντων μεμνῆσθαί φησι· μὴ τὴν ὄψιν καλλωπίζεσθαι, ἀλλὰ τοῖς ἐπιτηδεύμασιν εἶναι καλόν. “μὴ πλούτει,” φησί, “κακῶς, μηδὲ διαβαλλέτω σε λόγος πρὸς τοὺς πίστεως κεκοινωνηκότας.” “οὓς ἂν ἐράνους εἰσενέγκῃς,” φησί, “τοῖς γονεῦσιν, τοὺς αὐτοὺς προσδέχου καὶ παρὰ τῶν τέκνων.”
Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, ed. R. D. Hicks (Kansas City Missouri: Harvard University Press, November 1, 2005), 36–38.
οὐδὲν ἔφη τὸν θάνατον διαφέρειν τοῦ ζῆν.
In nothing, he said, did death differ from life.
Ablative genitive: comparison
“σὺ οὖν,” ἔφη τις, “διὰ τί οὐκ ἀποθνήσκεις;” “ὅτι,” ἔφη, “οὐδὲν διαφέρει.”
Therefore, you, someone said, why don’t you die? Because, he said, there’s no difference.
πρὸς τὸν πυθόμενον
To the question
Concerning the question
τί πρότερον γεγόνοι, νὺξ ἢ ἡμέρα,
Which came first, night or day
“ἡ νύξ,” ἔφη, “μιᾷ ἡμέρᾳ πρότερον.”
Night, he said, by one day.
Dative of measure
ἠρώτησέ τις αὐτὸν
Somone asked him
ειʼ λήθοι θεοὺς ἄνθρωπος ἀδικῶν·
If possibly one could hide evil from the gods
The optative, could possibly hide
The genitive is the thing hidden
The gods: accusative of respect. One could hide an evil deed; but, can one hide it with reference to the gods
“ἀλλʼ οὐδὲ διανοούμενος,” ἔφη.
Not even a [n evil] thought he said
πρὸς τὸν μοιχὸν
With respect to the adulterer
Not the specific adulterer, but rather one simply specified by adultery
ἐρόμενον ειʼ ὀμόσειε μὴ μεμοιχευκέναι,
asking if he should swear that he had not committed adultery
“ουʼ χεῖρον,” ἔφη, “μοιχείας ἐπιορκία.”
It’s not worse, he said, to commit adultery than it is to swear falsely
ἐρωτηθεὶς τί δύσκολον, ἔφη, “τὸ ἑαυτὸν γνῶναι·”
Being asked what is difficult, he said, to know oneself
τί δὲ εὔκολον, “τὸ ἄλλῳ ὑποθέσθαι·”
When asked, what is easy, “To instruct someone else”
τί ἥδιστον, “τὸ ἐπιτυγχάνειν·”
What was pleasant, “To obtain one’s goal.”
τί τὸ θεῖον, “τὸ μήτε ἀρχὴν ἔχον μήτε τελευτήν.”
What was divine, “That without beginning or end.”
τί δὲ καινὸν εἴη τεθεαμένος ἔφη· “γέροντα τύραννον.”
What new things might he gaze upon, he said, “An old tyrant”.
What would surprise him.
πῶς ἄν τις ἀτυχίαν ῥᾷστα φέροι,
How could one bear reckless misfortune
Note the particle and optative.
“ειʼ τοὺς ἐχθροὺς χεῖρον πράσσοντας βλέποι·”
If you one should see his enemies suffering worse.
πῶς ἂν ἄριστα καὶ δικαιότατα βιώσαιμεν,
How best and most righteous might we live
“ἐὰν ἃ τοῖς ἄλλοις ἐπιτιμῶμεν,
If that which in others we condemn
αὐτοὶ μὴ δρῶμεν·”
These not we should do/accomplish
Who is happy?
“ὁ τὸ μὲν σῶμα ὑγιής,
The one who is part is health
τὴν δὲ ψυχὴν εὔπορος,
and the soul is rich/easily traveled/easy going?
τὴν δὲ φύσιν εὐπαίδευτος.”
and the nature is well taught
The men-de construction does not here specify contrasts but rather parts.
φίλων παρόντων καὶ ἀπόντων μεμνῆσθαί φησι·
Of friends present and absent to be remembered he said
The perfect indicates a constant he state: he always remembered.
μὴ τὴν ὄψιν καλλωπίζεσθαι,
not the sight/appearnace that results in adornment beauty
ἀλλὰ τοῖς ἐπιτηδεύμασιν εἶναι καλόν.
but those pursuits/habits to be good/beautiful
“μὴ πλούτει,” φησί, “κακῶς,
Do not (seek) wealth, he said, evilly
μηδὲ διαβαλλέτω σε λόγος
do not let your word(s) be thrown
Don’t let word(s) a word throw you
πρὸς τοὺς πίστεως κεκοινωνηκότας.”
with those have habitually shared faithfully.
“οὓς ἂν ἐράνους εἰσενέγκῃς,” φησί,
to those if a share you may bring in/share he said
ἔρᾰνος, ὁ, a meal to which each contributed his share, Lat. coena collaticia, a pic-nic, Od., Eur.
2. any contribution, Lat. symbola, such as Athenians paid to pay for the support of the poor or state necessities, Ar.; ἐράνους λέλοιπε he has left his subscriptions unpaid, Dem.; ἔρανον φέρειν, simply, to contribute freely, Id.
3. a kindness, service, favour, Eur., Thuc., etc.
II. a society of subscribers to a common fund, a club, Dem. (Perh. from ἐράω.)
H.G. Liddell, A Lexicon: Abridged from Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon
to the parents
τοὺς αὐτοὺς προσδέχου
this same you will receive
καὶ παρὰ τῶν τέκνων.”
from the (your, article is possessive) children