Everybody Quotes the Greeks

by Christopher Xenopoulos Janus
Greeks: philosophers, poets, artists, politicians, businessmen and just ordinary guys are the most quoted people on earth. From Homer and Aesop to Onassis and Melina Mercouri, Greeks have a way of saying things that are simple, universal, and above all are remembered and repeated. And their influence on other people in this respect is also significant, numerous world wide.

In this column I am quoting some of the better known Greek proverbs, sayings and remembered writings in general. You will be surprised at the origin of some of the best known sayings.

"We do not say that a man who takes no interest in politics minds his own business. We say he has no business here at all."--Pericles

"No man undertakes a trade he has not learned, even the meanest; yet everyone thinks himself sufficiently qualified for the hardest of all trades that of government."--Socrates

"Scratch him who scratches you."--Anonymous

"To little men, gods send little things."--Callimachus

"It is difficult to argue with the belly, for it has no ears."--Pericles

"Never tell your wife all you know."--Homer

"One swallow does not make a spring."--Artistotle

"Any man who can blush has some honesty in him."--Menander

"Action achieves more than words."--Euripides

"Little strokes fell great oaks."--Sophocles

"Do not train boys to learn by force and harshness, but lead them by what amuses them, so that they may better discover their minds."--Plato

"In prosperity it is very easy to find a friend; in adversity, nothing is so difficult."--Epictetus

"Life is a theather in which the worst people often have the best seats."--Aristonymous

"I forsook the comfortable code of my predecessors, abandoned the unwritten rules and said something."--Spiro Agnew

If women did not exist, all the money in the world to me would have no meaning."--Aristotle Onassis

"In part, art completes what nature cannot elaborate; and in part it imitates nature."--Aristotle

"Poetry is finer and more philosophical than history; for poetry expresses the universal, and history only the particular."--Aristotle

"What is beautiful is good and who is good will soon be beautiful."--Sappho

"He is a fool who lets slip a bird in the hand for a bird in a bush."--Plutarch

"Even when laws have been written down, they ought not always remain unaltered."--Aristotle

"We cannot do evil without doing it to ourselves."--Desmakis

Pride goes before fall."--Greek Anonymous

A rolling stone gathers no moss."--Euripides

Time is a doctor who heals all grief."--Aeschylus

"Many hands make light work."--Homer

Gray hairs are proof of age but not wisdom."--Menander

"There's many a slip between the cup and the lip."--Aristotle

"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."--Socrates.

"Natural forces within us are the true healers of disease."--Hippocrates

"War is sweet to those who never tried it."--Pindar

"It is indeed a good thing to be well descended, but the glory belongs to the ancestors." --Plutarch

''Nature creates nothing without a purpose."--Aristotle

"It will not always be summer gather the harvest while you can."--Hesiod

"The secret of business is to know something that nobody else knows."--Aristotle Onassis

"No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted."--Aesop

"Even Homer sometimes nods."--Horace

"Better die standing than live kneeling."--Pericles

"I want to believe in a personal god who looks after me and my loved ones and knows every sparrow that falls. But the suffering of one single child, or more likely, millions is evidence against that belief. The one question I want to ask god: how do you explain or justify the suffering of a child?"--Melina Mercouri

"The first business of the philosopher is to part with conceit, for it is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows."--Epictetus

"At the touch of love, everyone becomes a poet."--Plato

"Democracy arose from men thinking that if they are equal in any respect they are equal in all respects."--Aristotle

"Enthusiasm is a wonderful thing. In South America they throw flowers to you. In Greece Greeks throw themselves."--Melina Mercouri

"The two most important qualities in life are kindness and loyalty, unlike love which is instinctive and you can't help - kindness and loyalty are matters of willful choice."--Niki Goulandris

"I hope God - or the devil - is a woman. I am at my best in the presence of women."--Aristotle Onassis

"I am a citizen, not of Athens or Greece, but of the world."--Socrates

"Money's the wise man's religion."--Euripides

"The Greeks are lovers of the beautiful, yet simple in our tastes, and we cultivate the mind without loss of manliness."--Thucydides

"Pay attention to your enemies, they are the first to discover your mistakes."--Anisthenes

"The man does better who runs from disaster than he who is caught by it."--Homer

"There is nothing permanent except change."--Heraclitus

"Who so neglects learning in his youth, loses the past and is dead for the future."--Euripides

"Man is the measure of all things."--Protagoras

"It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations."--Winston Churchill

Educated at Harvard and Oxford, Christopher Xenopoulos Janus started his writing career as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News. Later he became a special writer for The New York Times Sunday News Magazine section where the late Lester Markel was his editor. During World War II, Janus joined the Department of State serving in Washington, Cairo and Athens on Greek War Relief and Rehabilitation programs. This experience had a great influence on his writing.

After World War II, the author was involved in various entrepreneurial experiences. At one time he owned Adolph Hitler's Mercedes Benz and toured it through the United States. He was an Investment Banker, but always took the time to be involved in the world around him.

Since his retirement from business, the author has devoted his time to writing, publishing and traveling. He founded and published the widely acclaimed Greek Heritage, The American Quarterly of Greek Culture, and with William Brashler wrote Search for Peking Man (Macmillan 1975). Janus' novel Miss Fourth of July, Goodbye has been filmed by Disney Productions. Around the World in 90 Years reflects much of the author's own warm and caring philosophy of life embodying unconditional loyalties and boundless enthusiasm. They feature a strong sense of self-reliance and the courage and wisdom to be interested in everything. Yet, as his mentor, George Santayana once cautioned the author: "Don't be awed by anything."

Most recently, the prestigious American Hellenic Institute Foundation of Washington, D.C. awarded its Hellenic Heritage Lifetime Achievement Award to Christopher Xenopoulos Janus.

Mr. Janus is the author of numerous articles appearing on HCS. Readers are invited to view: "The Girl With Melancholy Eyes," "Our First and Only Christmas in Sistersville" and other fine articles in our archival section bearing his name: Janus Articles.

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