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: