Pittacus was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher who lived about 600 B.C. Diogenes Laertius gives this introduction to his life:
Pittacus was the son of Hyrrhadius and a native of Mitylene. Duris calls his father a Thracian. Aided by the brothers of Alcaeus he overthrew Melanchrus, tyrant of Lesbos; and in the war between Mitylene and Athens for the territory of Achileis he himself had the chief command on the one side, and Phrynon, who had won an Olympic victory in the pancratium, commanded the Athenians. Pittacus agreed to meet him in single combat; with a net which he concealed beneath his shield he entangled Phrynon, killed him, and recovered the territory. Subsequently, as Apollodorus states in his Chronology, Athens and Mitylene referred their claims to arbitration. Periander heard the appeal and gave judgement in favour of Athens.
Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, ed. R. D. Hicks (Kansas City Missouri: Harvard University Press, November 1, 2005), 75–77. Below is a translation of Pittacus’ sayings.
Now, the laws which he instituted:
If someone committed a crime while drunk, the punishment would be double. This was to discourage their drunkenness, because there was a great deal of wine on the island.
He once said, “It is difficult to be noble.” Simonides remembers the saying like this: “Pittacus said, ‘To be a truly good is difficult.'”
Plato quotes him in Protagoras, “The gods don’t battle Necessity.”
“Rule proves a man.”
When asked, “What is best?” He said, “Do whatever is before you well.”
And when asked by Croesus, “What rule is best”, he said, “the intricate cudgel” — by which he meant, “the law.”
He said, “Win victories without blood.”
When the Phocaean said it was necessary to find a diligent man; he said, “If you look too hard, you won’t find him.”
To those who asked him, “For what are you thankful?” He said, “Time.”
“What is unknown?” “Whatever is coming.”
“Unfaithful?” “The sea.”
He said, that thoughtful men should think ahead — before trouble comes — how to avoid it. And that brave men — when trouble does arise — should deal with it.
Don’t say what you’re planning to do: if it doesn’t happen, you’ll be laughed at.
Don’t mock misfortune: revere Nemesis.
Return that entrusted.
Hold truth, trust, ability, cleverness, friendliness, carefulness.
His is the apophthegm, “Know the time”.
Greek Text and Translation Notes:
Νόμους δὲ ἔθηκε·
Now the laws which he instituted
In the time of drunkenness: the adverbial participle indicates time of action
If he should error. The word harmartia is typically translated “sin” in the NT.
This is a “fifth class conditional”: ean + subjunctive + a present tense verb in the apodosis:
The fifth class offers a condition the fulfillment of which is realized in the present time. This condition is known as the present general condition. For the most part this condition is a simple condition;31 that is, the speaker gives no indication about the likelihood of its fulfillment. His presentation is neutral: “If A, then B.”
Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 697.
διπλῆν εἶναι τὴν ζημίαν·
Twice to be the penalty
ἵνα μὴ μεθύωσι, πολλοῦ κατὰ τὴν νῆσον οἴνου γινομένου.
The hina clause provides the national for this rule. There is a rationale and an explanation of the rationale.
They should not be drunk,
πολλοῦ κατὰ τὴν νῆσον οἴνου γινομένου
The kata indicates location: on the island.
The genitive: there was a lot of wine on the island
εἶπέ τε “χαλεπὸν ἐσθλὸν ἔμμεναι·”
And he said, “It is difficult, hard good to be.” This is a less common word for good than “agathos”.
̓ΕΣΘΛΟΣ́, ή, όν, Dor. ἐσλός, ά, όν, much like ἀγαθός, good of his kind, good, brave, Hom., esp. in Il.;—also, rich, wealthy, Hes.: noble, opp. to κακός (v. ἀγαθός 1), εἴτʼ εὐγενὴς πέφυκας εἴτʼ ἐσθλῶν κακή Soph.
2. of things, Hom., etc.
3. good, fortunate, lucky, Od., Trag.
4. as Subst., ἐσθλά, τά, goods, Od.:—but ἐσθλόν, τό, good luck, Hom.
5. ἐσθλόν [ἐστι], c. inf. it is good, expedient to do, Il.
H.G. Liddell, A Lexicon: Abridged from Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996), 318.
οὗ καὶ Σιμωνίδης μέμνηται λέγων·
Simonides remembers the saying (like this), Pittacus said, “To be a truly good made is difficult.”
“ἄνδρʼ ἀγαθὸν ἀλαθέως γενέσθαι χαλεπόν, τὸ Πιττάκειον.”
Pittacus said, “To be a truly good made is difficult.”
This differs from the previous saying by using the word agathos and the adverb truly.
μέμνηται αὐτοῦ καὶ Πλάτων ἐν Πρωταγόρᾳ·
Plato remembers his him in Protagoras
“ἀνάγκᾳ δʼ οὐδὲ θεοὶ μάχονται.”
But against Necessity, the gods do not fight.”
καὶ “ἀρχὴ ἄνδρα δείκνυσιν.”
Arche is in the nominative
Deiknusin: makes plain, shows
Rule proves a man. Rule makes plain what a man is.
ἐρωτηθεὶς δέ ποτε τί ἄριστον, “τὸ παρὸν εὖ ποιεῖν.”
Being asked what was the best, he answered, “That which is present to do well.’”
II. of things, to be by, i.e. ready or at hand, “τά τε δμώεσσι πάρεστι” Od.14.80, etc.; “πάρα ἔργα βόεσσιν” Hes. Op.454; “οὐ γάρ οἱ πάρα νῆες” Od.4.559 ; εἴ μοι δύναμίς γε παρείη if power were at my command, 2.62 ; “ὅση δύναμίς γε πάρεστι” 23.128 ; “ὅ τι πάρεστι” Men. 62; τὰ παρεόντα what is ready, “χαριζομένη παρεόντων” Od.1.140; “ἡ τοῦ πλέονος ἐπιθυμίη τὸ παρεὸν ἀπόλλυσι” Democr.224, cf. 191; ἐκ τῶν παρεουσέων αὐγέων the best light available, Hp.Off.3; “ἐκ τῶν παρεόντων τὸ εὔπορον εὑρίσκειν” Id.Art.78; εἰ τὰ δεσμὰ μὴ παρείη ibid.; of feelings, conditions, etc., “φόβος βαρβάροις παρῆν” A.Pers.391 ; “θαῦμα παρῆν ” S.Ant.254 ; “ἐν τοῖς τότε παρεοῦσι . . κακοῖσι” Hdt.8.20, cf. A.Pr.26; “ὡς παρεσομένου σφι πολέμου” Hdt.8.20 : in Philos., of qualities or predicates, παρείη γ᾽ ἂν αὐταῖς (sc. θριξίν）“ λευκότης” Pl.Ly.217d, cf. Plot. 5.6.4; of Time, “ὁ παρὼν νῦν χρόνος” S.El. 1293, cf. Aeschin.1.93, Arist.Po. 1457a18; “ἡ νῦν π. ἡμέρα” Pl.Lg.683c; ἡ ἱερὰ συμβουλὴ π. X.An.5.6.4; τὰ παρόντα (Ion. παρεόντα) the present state of affairs, Hdt.1.113, etc.; “τὰ π. πρήγματα” Id.6.100; opp. τὰ γεγονότα, τὰ μέλλοντα, Pl.Tht. 186b : sg., τὸ παρόν (Ion. παρεόν）, πρὸς τὸ π. βουλεύειν, τὸ π. θεραπεύειν, Hdt.1.20, S.Ph.149 (lyr.); “πρὸς παρεόν” Emp.106 : Adverbial phrases, τὸ παρόν just now, “τὸ π. εἴπομεν” Pl.Lg.693b; “τὰ παρόντα” S.El.215 (lyr.) : in Prose, ἐκ τῶν π. according to present circumstances, Th.5.40, etc.; ἐν τῷ π., opp. τὸ ἔπειτα, ib.63, etc.; “ἐν τῷ νῦν π. καὶ ἐν τῷ ἔπειτα” Pl.Phd.67c; ἐν τῷ τότε π. Th.1.95; “πρὸς τὸ παρόν” Isoc. 15.94; ὡς πρὸς τὸ π. S.E.P.1.201; “πρὸς τὸ π. αὐτίκα” Th.3.40; “πρὸς τὴν π. ὄψιν” Id.2.88; ἐπὶ τοῦ π. for the present, IG9(2).517.6 (Epist. Philipp.), Epict.Ench. 2.2; ἐς and πρὸς τὰ π., Arr.An.1.13.5, 5.22.5.
καὶ ὑπὸ Κροίσου τίς ἀρχὴ μεγίστη, “ἡ τοῦ ποικίλου,” ἔφη, “ξύλου,” σημαίνων τὸν νόμον.
poikilou: this usually means “many colored” but can it can mean ornate or intricate. Rather than mere “wood” it seems best to take it as something made by wood. BDAG gives “cudgel” as a possible translation. Hicks has “shifting wood” which is possible, but I can’t figure out what that could be.
ἔλεγε δὲ καὶ τὰς νίκας ἄνευ αἵματος ποιεῖσθαι.
ἔφη δὲ καὶ πρὸς τὸν Φωκαϊκὸν φάσκοντα δεῖν ζητεῖν ἄνθρωπον σπουδαῖον, “ἂν λίαν,” ἔφη, “ζητῇς, οὐχ εὑρήσεις.”
When Phocaean said that it was necessary to seek a diligent man. [He responded] If exceedingly hard you search, you will seek you will not find him. It’s a bit of a pun: If you are looking for a man who is diligent, you won’t find him if you are diligently looking.
The verb “to seek” in the answer is in the subjunctive: should you seek for him like that.
ἂν λίαν: a condition statement. The verb to seek is subjunctive, but the “an” gives it a optative feel.
καὶ πρὸς τοὺς πυνθανομένους τί εὐχάριστον, “χρόνος,” ἔφη· ἀφανές, “τὸ μέλλον”·
And to those who were asking him was the best, he said time.
to what was hidden, he said that which is coming
πιστόν, “γῆ”· ἄπιστον, “θάλασσα.”
That which was unfaithful, the sea
ἔλεγέ τε συνετῶν ἀνδρῶν, πρὶν γενέσθαι τὰ δυσχερῆ, προνοῆσαι ὅπως μὴ γένηται· ἀνδρείων δέ, γενόμενα εὖ θέσθαι.
συνετῶν ἀνδρῶν: of understanding men, about understanding
πρὶν γενέσθαι τὰ δυσχερῆ before the difficulties exist
προνοῆσαι ὅπως μὴ γένητα
to consider: the infinitive stands after an implied verb: to do, to be necessary: Men of understanding have the duty to consider ahead of time
For the purpose that such things (the difficulties) may be (idiomatic English, arise)
ἀνδρείων δέ, γενόμενα εὖ θέσθαι.
But for men of courage, when they have come about, to well deal with it.
Cf. Thucydides, Pen. War, Book 1.25, [they] were a loss how to settle their present difficulty.
ὃ μέλλεις πράττειν, μὴ πρόλεγε· ἀποτυχὼν γὰρ γελασθήσῃ.
What you are about to do, don’t say it ahead of time. For it does not happen, you’ll be laughed at.
ἀποτυγχάνω , fut.
A.“-τεύξομαι” Pl.Lg.898e:—Med., aor.ἀποτεύξασθαι: ἀποτυχεῖν, Hsch.: pf. Pass. in med. sense, Phld.Rh.1.220S.:—fail in hitting or gaining, “τινός” Hp.VM2, Pl.Lg.744a, X.Mem.4.2.27, etc.; “τοῦ ὠφελιμωτάτου” Pl.Tht.179a; “τούτων τριῶν ἑνός γ᾽ ἀ.” Alex. 211; “μήτ᾽ ἀξίως τυχεῖν τῆς ἀληθείας μήτε πάντως ἀ.” Arist.Metaph.993b1; lose, “ὧν εἶχον ἀπέτυχον” X.Cyr.1.6.45; “κακοῦ ἀποτυχεῖν” escape from, Philem.93.9.
2. Pass., “ἀποτυγχάνεται” a failure ensues, Arist.Ph.199b3; of things, to be missed, “τὸ μὴ ἐπιτευχθὲν ἀ.” D.H. Pomp.2.14; τὰ προτεθεσπισμένα καὶ ἀποτετευγμένα prophesied and not come to pass, Luc.Alex.28; “ἀποτετευγμένος” rejected, not finding a purchaser, Dsc.5.79.
II. abs., miss one’s object, fail, X.HG7.5.14; “ὅλως ἀ.” D.11.12; λέγοντες οὐκ ἀποτευξόμεθα shall not miss the truth in saying, Pl.Lg.898e; “ἀ. περί τινος” X.Eq.1.16; “τυγχάνειν καὶ ἀ. κατά τι” Arist.Po.1450a3; “τῷ γάμῳ” D.S. 12.12; “ἐν ταῖς ἐπιβολαῖς” Plb.5.98.6:—Med., “ἀποτυγχανομένῳ πρὸς τὸν γάμον” Ant.Lib.39.3. LSJ
These next clipped sentences have as an implicit verb, “He said” this comes before the infinitive conceptually, even though not present in the text.
ἀτυχίαν μὴ ὀνειδίζειν, νέμεσιν αἰδούμενον.
Don’t mock misfortune; reverence Nemesis.
παρακαταθήκην λαβόντα ἀποδοῦναι.
Return what was entrusted.
παρακαταθήκην: a bailment, something given and entrusted
φίλον μὴ λέγειν κακῶς, ἀλλὰ μηδὲ ἐχθρόν.
A friend not to speak evilly (of), but not even an enemy.
Don’t speak evil of a friend — not even of an enemy.
The accusative (friend, enemy) is the accusative of respect.
To practice piety
ἀλήθειαν ἔχειν, πίστιν, ἐμπειρίαν, ἐπιδεξιότητα, ἑταιρίαν, ἐπιμέλειαν.
ἐπιδεξιότης, ητος, ἡ, dexterity, cleverness,
Νόμους δὲ ἔθηκε· τῷ μεθύοντι, ἐὰν ἁμάρτῃ, διπλῆν εἶναι τὴν ζημίαν· ἵνα μὴ μεθύωσι, πολλοῦ κατὰ τὴν νῆσον οἴνου γινομένου. εἶπέ τε “χαλεπὸν ἐσθλὸν ἔμμεναι·” οὗ καὶ Σιμωνίδης μέμνηται λέγων· “ἄνδρʼ ἀγαθὸν ἀλαθέως γενέσθαι χαλεπόν, τὸ Πιττάκειον.” 83  μέμνηται αὐτοῦ καὶ Πλάτων ἐν Πρωταγόρᾳ· “ἀνάγκᾳ δʼ οὐδὲ θεοὶ μάχονται.” καὶ “ἀρχὴ ἄνδρα δείκνυσιν.” ἐρωτηθεὶς δέ ποτε τί ἄριστον, “τὸ παρὸν εὖ ποιεῖν.” καὶ ὑπὸ Κροίσου τίς ἀρχὴ μεγίστη, “ἡ τοῦ ποικίλου,” ἔφη, “ξύλου,” σημαίνων τὸν νόμον. ἔλεγε δὲ καὶ τὰς νίκας ἄνευ αἵματος ποιεῖσθαι. ἔφη δὲ καὶ πρὸς τὸν Φωκαϊκὸν φάσκοντα δεῖν ζητεῖν ἄνθρωπον σπουδαῖον, “ἂν λίαν,” ἔφη, “ζητῇς, οὐχ εὑρήσεις.” καὶ πρὸς τοὺς πυνθανομένους τί εὐχάριστον, “χρόνος,” ἔφη· ἀφανές, “τὸ μέλλον”· πιστόν, “γῆ”· ἄπιστον, “θάλασσα.” ἔλεγέ τε συνετῶν ἀνδρῶν, πρὶν γενέ- 84  σθαι τὰ δυσχερῆ, προνοῆσαι ὅπως μὴ γένηται· ἀνδρείων δέ, γενόμενα εὖ θέσθαι. ὃ μέλλεις πράττειν, μὴ πρόλεγε· ἀποτυχὼν γὰρ γελασθήσῃ. ἀτυχίαν μὴ ὀνειδίζειν, νέμεσιν αἰδούμενον. παρακαταθήκην λαβόντα ἀποδοῦναι. φίλον μὴ λέγειν κακῶς, ἀλλὰ μηδὲ ἐχθρόν. εὐσέβειαν ἀσκεῖν. σωφροσύνην φιλεῖν. ἀλήθειαν ἔχειν, πίστιν, ἐμπειρίαν, ἐπιδεξιότητα, ἑταιρίαν, ἐπιμέλειαν.
ἀπόφθεγμα αὐτοῦ· καιρὸν γνῶθι.
Vincent S Artale Jr said:
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