Delphic Maxims, Pearls of Wisdom from the Seven Sages

Delphic Maxims, Pearls of Wisdom from the Seven Sages

In Personal developmentby Chris A. ParkerLeave a Comment

Reading Time: 6 minutes

 

The Delphic maxims are a collection of 147 axioms inscribed at Delphi. Originally said to have been given by Greek God Apollon to his Oracle at Delphi.

Stobaeus, a scholar of the 5th century, attributes them to the Seven Sages of Greece who are usually identified ( by Plato and others) as:

  • Solon of Athens (c. 638 – 558 BCE) a famous legislator and reformer from Athens, framing the laws that shaped the Athenian democracy.
  • Chilon of Sparta (fl. 6th century BCE) a Spartan politician to whom the militarization of Spartan society was attributed.
  • Thales of Miletus (c. 624 – c. 546 BCE) is the first well-known philosopher, mathematician, and astronomer. His maxim, “Know thyself,” was engraved on the front facade of the Oracle of Apollo in Delphi.
  • Bias of Priene (fl. 6th century BCE) was a politician and legislator known for being an advocate.
  • Cleobulus of Lindos (fl. 6th century BCE) governed as tyrant of Lindos, in the Greek island of Rhodes.
  • Pittacus of Mitylene (c. 640 – 568 BCE) governed Mytilene on the island of Lesbos. He tried to reduce the power of the nobility and was able to govern with the support of the popular classes, whom he favored.
  • Periander of Corinth (fl. 627 BCE) was the tyrant of Corinth in the 7th and 6th centuries BCE. Corinth saw a golden age of unprecedented stability during his rule.

All of these men were 6th Century BC contemporaries and as the written papyrus states, they were summoned by the Oracles to Delphi to convene over these axioms.

While some modern scholars argue that their original authorship is uncertain and that “most likely they were popular proverbs that were later ascribed to particular sages”, there is no evidence of that. There has been nothing written to suggest that these maxims were somehow a collection of ancient proverbs and sayings passed down through some oral tradition over thousands or even hundreds of years.

We have to notice that the Greek word that translated as “Maxims” is “Παραγγέλματα”(paragelmata) which literally means “messages”. So, the Maxims are not to be taken as commandments. We have to consider them more as guidelines and advice which leads to the ideal goal of all Greek philosophy, the achievement of Eudemonia.

Despite the disagreement about the origin, everyone agrees the Delphic Maxims are real pearls of wisdom.

Delphic Maxims, Pearls of Wisdom from the Seven Sages

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1. Follow God Ἕπου θεῷ
2. Obey the law Νόμῳ πείθου
3. Honor the GodsΘεους σέβου
4. Respect your parentsΓονεῖς αἰδοῦ
5. Be overcome by justice Ἡττῶ ὑπό δικαίου
6. Know what you have learned Γνῶθι μαθών
7. Perceive what you have heard Ἀκούσας νόει
8. Be/Know yourselfΣαυτόν ἴσθι
9. Intend to get marriedΓαμεῖν μέλλε
10. Know your opportunityΚαιρόν γνῶθι
11. Think as a mortalΦρόνει θνητά
12. If you are a stranger act like oneΞένος ὢν ἴσθι
13. Honor the hearth [or Hestia] Ἑστίαν τίμα
14. Control yourself Ἄρχε σεαυτοῦ
15. Help your friendsΦίλοις βοήθει
16. Control angerΘυμοῦ κράτει
17. Exercise prudenceΦρόνησιν ἄσκει
18. Honor providenceΠρόνοιαν τίμα
19. Do not use an oath Ὅρκῳ μή χρῶ
20. Love friendshipΦιλίαν ἀγάπα
21. Cling to discipline –  educationΠαιδείας ἀντέχου
22. Pursue honor – good reputationΔόξαν δίωκε
23. Long for wisdomΣοφίαν ζήλου
24. Praise the goodΚαλόν εὖ λέγε
25. Find fault with no oneΨέγε μηδένα
26. Praise virtue Ἐπαίνει ἀρετήν
27. Act justly – righteouslyΠρᾶττε δίκαια
28. Be kind to friendsΦίλοις εὐνόει
29. Watch out for your enemies – hateful people Ἐχθρούς ἀμύνου
30. Exercise nobility of characterΕὐγένειαν ἄσκει
31. Keep yourself away from moral badnessΚακίας ἀπέχου
32. Be impartialΚοινός γίνου
33. Guard what is yours Ἴδια φύλαττε
34. Hold yourself from what belongs to others Αλλοτρίων ἀπέχου
35. Listen to everyone Ἄκουε πάντα
36. Be (religiously) silentΕὔφημος ἴοθι
37. Do a favor for a friend Φίλῳ χαρίζου
38. Nothing to excessΜηδέν ἄγαν
39. Use time sparinglyΧρόνου φείδου
40. Foresee the future Ὅρα τό μέλλον
41. Despise insolence Ὕβριν μίσει
42. Have respect for suppliants Ἱκέτας αἰδοῦ
43. Adapt yourself to all thingsΠᾶσιν ἁρμόζου
44. Educate your sonsΥἱούς παίδευε
45. When you have, give freely Ἔχων χαρίζου
46. Fear deceitΔόλον φοβοῦ
47. Speak well of everyoneΕὐλόγει πάντας
48. Be a seeker of wisdomΦιλόσοφος γίνου
49. Choose what is divine Ὅσια κρῖνε
50. Act when you knowΓνούς πρᾶττε
51. Shun murderΦόνου ἀπέχου
52. To wish with all the strength of your soulΕὔχου δυνατά
53. Consult the wise Σοφοῖς χρῶ
54. Test the character Ἦθος δοκίμαζε
55. Give back what you have receivedΛαβών ἀπόδος
56. View no one with jealousy or with suspicion Ὑφορῶ μηδένα
57. Use your skillΤέχνῃ χρῶ
58. Do what you mean to do Ὃ μέλλεις, δός
59. Honor a benefactionΕὐεργεσίας τίμα
60. Bear a grudge against no oneΦθόνει μηδενί
61. Be on your guardΦυλακῇ πρόσεχε
62. Praise hope Ἐλπίδα αἴνει
63. Hate slanderΔιαβολήν μίσει
64. Gain possessions justlyΔικαίως κτῶ
65. Honor good menἈγαθούς τίμα
66. Know who is judgingΚριτήν γνῶθι
67. Safeguard the marriageΓάμους κράτει
68. Acknowledge fateΤύχην νόμιζε
69. Avoid pledges Ἐγγύην φεῦγε
70. Speak plainlyἉπλῶς διαλέγου
71. Associate with your peers Ὁμοίοις χρῶ
72. Govern your expensesΔαπανῶν ἄρχου
73. Be happy with what you haveΚτώμενος ἥδου
74. Rever a sense of shameΑἰσχύνην σέβου
75. Fulfill a favorΧάριν ἐκτέλει
76. Pray for happinessΕὐτυχίαν εὔχου
77. Accept destinyΤύχην στέργε
78. Observe what you have heardἈκούων ὅρα
79. Work for what you can own Ἐργάζου κτητά
80. Despise strife Ἔριν μίσει
81. Detest disgrace Ὄνειδος ἔχθαιρε
82. Restrain the tongueΓλῶτταν ἴσχε
83. Keep yourself from insolenceὝβριν ἀμύνου
84. Make just judgmentsΚρῖνε δίκαια
85. Use what you haveΧρῶ χρήμασιν
86. Judge incorruptiblyἈδωροδόκητος δίκαζε
87. Accuse one who is presentΑἰτιῶ παρόντα
88. Tell when you knowΛέγε εἰδώς
89. Do not depend on strengthΒίας μή ἔχου
90. Live without sorrowἈλύπως βίου
91. Live together meekly Ὁμίλει πρᾴως
92. Don’t hesitate to finish fully what you have startedΠέρας ἐπιτέλει μή ἀποδειλιῶν
93. Deal kindly with everyoneΦιλοφρόνει πᾶσιν
94. Do not curse your sonsΥἱοῖς μή καταρῶ
95. Lead your wife –  Show her the wayΓυναικός ἄρχε
96. Benefit yourselfΣεαυτόν εὖ ποίει
97. Be courteous  and approachableΕὐπροσήγορος γίνου
98. Give a timely response Ἀποκρίνου ἐν καιρῷ
99. Struggle with good reputeΠόνει μετ’ εὐκλείας
100. Act without repenting, with confidenceΠρᾶττε ἀμετανοήτως
101. Repent of sinsἉμαρτάνων μετανόει
102. Control the eye Ὀφθαλμοῦ κράτει
103. Give a timely counselΒουλεύου χρόνῳ
104. Act quicklyΠρᾶττε συντόμως
105. Guard friendshipΦιλίαν φύλαττε
106. Be gratefulΕὐγνώμων γίνου
107. Pursue harmony Ὁμόνοιαν δίωκε
108. Don’t disclose secrets. Ἄρρητον κρύπτε
109. Fear ruling Τό κρατοῦν φοβοῦ
110. Pursue what is profitableΤό συμφέρον θηρῶ
111. Accept due measureΚαιρόν προσδέχου
112. Do away with enmitiesἜχθρας διάλυε
113. Accept old ageΓῆρας προσδέχου
114. Do not boast in might Ἐπί ῥώμῃ μή καυχῶ
115. Practice auspicious speechΕὐφημίαν ἄσκει
116. Flee enmity Ἀπέχθειαν φεῦγε
117. Acquire wealth justlyΠλούτει δικαίως
118. Do not abandon good reputationΔόξαν μή λεῖπε
119. Despise evilΚακίαν μίσει
120. Venture into danger prudentlyΚινδύνευε φρονίμως
121. Do not tire of learningΜανθάνων μή κάμνε
122. Do not stop to be thriftyΦειδόμενος μή λεῖπε
123. Admire oraclesΧρησμούς θαύμαζε
124. Love whom you rearΟὓς τρέφεις, ἀγάπα
125. Do not oppose someone absent Ἀπόντι μή μάχου
126. Respect the elderΠρεσβύτερον αἰδοῦ
127. Teach a youngsterΝεώτερον δίδασκε
128. Do not trust wealthΠλούτῳ ἀπίστει
129. Respect yourselfΣεαυτόν αἰδοῦ
130. Do not begin to be insolentΜή ἄρχε ὑβρίζειν
131. Honor your ancestorsΠρογόνους στεφάνου
132. Die for your countryΘνῆσκε ὑπέρ πατρίδος
133. Do not be discontented by lifeΤῷ βίῳ μή ἄχθου
134. Do not make fun of the deadἘπί νεκρῷ μή γέλα
135. Share the load of the unfortunateἈτυχοῦντι συνάχθου
136. Gratify without harmingΧαρίζου ἀβλαβῶς
137. Don’t worry about everythingΜή ἐπί παντί λυποῦ
138. Beget from noble routes Ἐξ εὐγενῶν γέννα
139. Make promises to no one Ἐπαγγέλλου μηδενί
140. Do not wrong the deadΦθιμένους μή ἀδίκει
141. Be well off as a mortal Εὖ πάσχε ὡς θνητός
142. Do not trust fortuneΤύχῃ μή πίστευε
143. As a child be well-behavedΠαῖς ὢν κόσμιος ἴσθι
144. As a youth – self-disciplined Ἡβῶν ἐγκρατής
145. As of middle-age – justΜέσος δίκαιος
146. As an old man – sensibleΠρεσβύτης εὔλογος
147. On reaching the end – without sorrowΤελευτῶν ἄλυπος

 

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Source: The Commandments of the Seven (the copy of Sosiades preserved by Stobaeus).
Featured Image by Pixabay.com

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