Wisdom Through the Ages

by Diane, M.P.H, M.S.

In Greek mythology and religion, Athena (also called Athene, Pallas Athena) was known as the goddess of wisdom, divine intelligence, courage, inspiration, civilization, law and justice, fair warfare, mathematics, strength, strategy, the arts, crafts, and skill. Her Roman incarnation, Minerva, embodied the same traits. Although Athena was also considered a goddess of war strategy, she disliked fighting without purpose and preferred to use wisdom to settle predicaments. Her parents were Zeus and Metis, and she lived on Mount Olympus.

Aeschylus 525-456 B.C. (Earliest writer of Greek tragedy who wrote 80 plays for theatre):

“A peoples’ voice is a mighty power.”

Archimedes 287?-212 B.C. (Greek mathematician and inventor):

“Eureka! I have found it.”

Aristotle 384 B.C.-322 B.C. (Greek philosopher and polymath, student of Plato, teacher of Alexander the Great, who wrote about physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology. Focused on morality and aesthetics, logic and science, politics and metaphysics):

  • “Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.”
  • “The whole is more than the sum of its parts.”
  • “The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal.”
  • “Those who educate children well are more to be honored than they who produce them; for these only gave them life, those the art of living well.”
  • “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

Cleovoulos (Cleobulus) of Rhodes 6th century B.C. (Greek poet, a native of Lindos, and one of the Seven Sages of Greece):

  • “Pan metrion ariston”: “Everything in moderation,” “All in good measure,” “Everything must have a limit,” “Moderation in all things.”
  • “Pan metron ariston”: “πάν μέτρον άριστον” from Phillipians 4:5 reads: “Let your moderation be known to all men.” The phrase best known in Greek culture for “everything in moderation.” The line “Moderation in all things” from Andria, written in the second century B.C. by the Roman playwright Terence, echoes the “Golden Mean” emphasized two centuries earlier by Aristotle. But the concept of moderation as a means to a virtuous life is believed to have been inspired by the Seven Sages (c650-c550 B.C.), including Thales, Solon, Periander, Cleobulus, Chilon, Bias and Pittacus, who as a group and individually are credited for many sayings throughout antiquity.

Diocenes (Democracy):

“The most beautiful thing in the world is freedom of speech.”

Epictetus A.D. 55-c. 135 (Greek philosopher associated with the Stoics):

  • “Be careful to leave your sons well instructed rather than rich, for the hopes of the instructed are better than the wealth of the ignorant.”
  • “First learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak.”
  • “He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.”
  • “Nothing great is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig. I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.”
  • “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”
  • “We should not moor a ship with one anchor, or our life with one hope.”
  • “When we are offended at any man’s fault, turn to yourself and study your own failings. Then you will forget your anger.”

Herophilos 335-280 BC (Greek physician born in Chalcedon who spent the majority of his life in Alexandria, was the first scientist to systematically perform scientific dissections of human cadavers, is considered to be the first anatomist and an early pioneer of the Scientific Method. Herophilos recorded his findings in over nine works which are all lost. Together with Erasistratus, he is regarded as a founder of the great medical school of Alexandria.):

“When health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, art cannot manifest, strength cannot fight, wealth becomes useless, and intelligence cannot be applied.”

Homer 800-700 B.C.? (Ancient Greek poet who wrote The Iliad and The Odyssey):

“Two heads are better than one.”

Menander 342?-291? B.C. (Greek playwright who wrote over 100 comedies, noted for plot construction, characterization, clear style, and sympathetic view of humanity.):

“He who labors diligently need never despair, for all things are accomplished by diligence and labor.”

The Oracle of Delphi:

“Miden agan.” (“Exaggerate nothing”)

Pindar 522?-443? B.C. (Greatest lyric poet of ancient Greece):

“Every gift, though it be small, is in reality great if given with affection.”

Pythagoras 570-495 B.C. (Ionian Greek philosopher, mathematician, and scientist, who is best known for the Pythagorean theorem which bears his name, a theorem in geometry that states that in a right-angled triangle the area of the square on the hypotenuse [the side opposite the right angle] is equal to the sum of the areas of the squares of the other two sides—that is, a2b2c2.):

“Do not say a little in many words, but a great deal in a few.”

Simonides 556-468 B.C. (Greek lyric poet and “one of the wisest of men” who had a tolerant, humanistic outlook that celebrated ordinary goodness and recognized the immense pressures that life places on human beings; inventor of a system of mnemonics, as well as, some letters of the Greek alphabet [ω, η, ξ, ψ ]). He is popularly associated with epitaphs commemorating fallen warriors):

“Painting is silent poetry and poetry is a speaking picture.”

Socrates 470-399 B.C. (Classical Greek Athenian philosopher credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy and renowned for his contribution to the field of ethics, epistemology, logic, Socratic irony, and Socratic method. The latter remains a commonly used tool in many discussions, and is a type of pedagogy in which questions are asked not only to draw individual answers, but also to encourage fundamental insight into the issue at hand):

  • “Virtue is when you avoid exaggerations.”
  • “By all means, marry. If you get a good wife, you’ll become happy; if you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.”
  • “Employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s writings, so that you shall gain easily what others have labored hard for.”
  • “False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil.”

Solon 638– 558 B.C. (Athenian statesman, lawmaker, poet, and one of the Seven Sages of Greece,remembered for his efforts to legislate against political, economic, and moral decline in ancient Athens, and credited with having laid the foundations for Athenian democracy.):

“Reprove thy friend privately, commend him publicly.”

Charles-Louis de Secondat Montesquieu 1721:

“Men are like plants–they never grow happily unless they are well cultivated.”

François-Marie Arouet Voltaire 1694-1778 (French author, humanist, rationalist, & satirist, who supported the toleration of other religions and ethnicities):

“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”

Benjamin Franklin 1706-1790 (Writer, philosopher, scientist, politician, patriot, Founding Father, inventor, publisher. Helped with the founding of the United States of America and changed the world with his discoveries about electricity. His writings such as Poor Richards’ Almanac have provided wisdom for 17 years to the colonies.)

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803-1882 (American essayist, lecturer, and poet):

“Happiness is a perfume you cannot pour on others without getting a few drops on yourself.”

Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi 1869-1948 (The father of India who helped free India from British control through nonviolent resistance):

  • “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.”
  • “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
  • “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.”
  • “I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.”
  • “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
  • “The future depends on what you do today.”
  • “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
  • “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”
  • “There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.”
  • “What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.”
  • “Where there is love there is life.”

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”

Dalai Lama (A high “lama” [teacher, guru] in the Gelug or “Yellow Hat” branch of Tibetan Buddhism. Traditionally, the Dalai Lama is thought of as the latest reincarnation of a series of spiritual leaders who have chosen to be reborn, in order to enlighten others.):

“Just because ‘everyone is doing it’ doesn’t make it right. Just because ‘no one is doing it’ doesn’t make it wrong.”


  • “The giant oak is an acorn that held it’s ground.”
  • “Without bridges we would all be islands.”

Marya Mannes 1904-1990 (Author, journalist and critic who wrote More in Anger: 1958):

  • “The earth we abuse and the living things we kill will, in the end, take their revenge; for in exploiting their presence we are diminishing our future.”
  • “The more people are reached by mass communication, the less they communicate with each other.”
  • “The sign of an intelligent people is their ability to control their emotions by the application of reason.”

Vincent J. Lombardi 1913 – 1970 (American football coach best known as the head coach of the Green Bay Packers during the 1960s):

  • “The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.”
  • “The greatest accomplishment is not in never falling, but in rising again after you fall.”
  • “The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.”
  • “Winners never quit and quitters never win.”

{ 1 comment }

geeta dhir April 4, 2012 at 8:24 pm

Hi Diane,
nice updates, i really enjoyed these wonderful pearls of wisdom.

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