Classical Athenian playwright

Euripides (Greek: Εὐριπίδης; c. 480 BC406 BC) was a Greek playwright.

In case of dissension, never dare to judge till you've heard the other side.


Humility, a sense of reverence before the sons of heaven — of all the prizes that a mortal man might win, these, I say, are wisest; these are best.
  • The company of just and righteous men is better than wealth and a rich estate.
    • Ægeus, Frag. 7
  • A bad beginning makes a bad ending.
    • Æolus, Frag. 32
  • Time will explain it all. He is a talker, and needs no questioning before he speaks.
    • Æolus, Frag. 38
  • The nobly born must nobly meet his fate.
    • Alcmene, Frag. 100
  • Waste not fresh tears over old griefs.
    • Alexander Frag. 44
  • Sweet is the remembrance of troubles when you are in safety.
    • Andromeda
  • Woman is woman's natural ally.
    • Alope, Frag. 109
  • Man's best possession is a sympathetic wife.
    • Antigone, Frag 164
  • Ignorance of one's misfortunes is clear gain.
    • Antiope, Frag. 204
  • Helen: What happened in my heart, to make me leave my home
    And my own land, to follow where a stranger led?
    Rail at the goddess; be more resolute than Zeus,
    Who holds power over all other divinities
    But is himself the slave of love. Show Aphrodite
    Your indignation; me, pardon and sympathy.

    Hecabe: No; Paris was an extremely handsome man – one look,
    And your appetite became your Aphrodite. Why,
    Men's lawless lusts are all called love – it's a confusion
    Easily made.
    • Troades (c. 415 BC), lines 946–950 and 987–990 (tr. Philip Vellacott)
  • Cleverness is not wisdom. And not to think mortal thoughts is to see few days.
    • Bacchæ l. 395
  • Dionysus: He who believes needs no explanation.
    Pentheus: What's the worth in believing worthless things?
    Dionysus: Much worth, but not worth telling you, it seems.
  • Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish.
    • Bacchæ l. 479-480. Translated by William Arrowsmith. Grene, David; Lattimore, Richmond; Griffith, Mark et al., eds (2013). Greek Tragedies III (third ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226036090. 
    • Variant translation: To the fool, he who speaks wisdom will sound foolish.
    • Variant translation: He were a fool, methinks, who would utter wisdom to a fool. (translated by Edward Philip Coleridge)
    • Variant translation: Wise words being brought to blinded eyes will seem as things of nought. (translated by Gilbert Murray)
  • Slow but sure moves the might of the gods.
    • Bacchæ l. 882
    • Variant translation: Slowly but surely withal moveth the might of the gods.
  • χρηστοῖσι δούλοις συμφορὰ τὰ δεσποτῶν.
    • Good slaves [are affected by] the adversities of their masters
    • Bacchæ l. 1028
    • Note: the original sentence does not contain any verb
  • Humility, a sense of reverence before the sons of heaven — of all the prizes that a mortal man might win, these, I say, are wisest; these are best.
    • Bacchæ l. 1150.
Events will take their course, it is no good of being angry at them; he is happiest who wisely turns them to the best account.
  • Events will take their course, it is no good of being angry at them; he is happiest who wisely turns them to the best account.
    • Bellerophon, Fragment 298; quoted in Plutarch's Morals : Ethical Essays (1888) edited and translated by Arthur Richard Shilleto, p. 293
  • Doth some one say that there be gods above?
    There are not; no, there are not. Let no fool,
    Led by the old false fable, thus deceive you.

    Look at the facts themselves, yielding my words
    No undue credence: for I say that kings
    Kill, rob, break oaths, lay cities waste by fraud,
    And doing thus are happier than those
    Who live calm pious lives day after day. All divinity
    Is built-up from our good and evil luck.
    • Bellerophon
  • I sacrifice to no god save myself — And to my belly, greatest of deities.
    • The Cyclops (c.424-23 BC)
  • I care for riches, to make gifts
    To friends, or lead a sick man back to health
    With ease and plenty. Else small aid is wealth
    For daily gladness; once a man be done
    With hunger, rich and poor are all as one.
    • Electra (413 BC)
  • On behalf of all those dead
    who learned their hatred of women long ago,
    for those who hate them now, for those unborn
    who shall live to hate them yet, I now declare
    my firm conviction: neither earth nor ocean
    produces a creature as savage and monstrous
    as woman.
    • Hecuba (424 BC), lines 1177-1182. Euripides; William Arrowsmith (translated by). Grene, David; Lattimore, Richmond. eds. Euripides III: Four Tragedies (paperback ed.). Chicago, IL, USA: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226307824. 
    • Variant (tr. Jay Kardan and Laura-Gray Street (2010)):
      • Let me tell you, if anyone in the past has spoken
        ill of women, or speaks so now or will speak so
        in the future, I’ll sum it up for him: Neither sea
        nor land has ever produced a more monstrous
        creature than woman.
  • Nothing has more strength than dire necessity.
    • Helen (412 BC), as translated by Richmond Lattimore
  • Man's most valuable trait
    is a judicious sense of what not to believe.
    • Helen, lines 1617-1618, in The Complete Greek Tragedies: Euripides II: Helen. Hecuba. Andromache. The Trojan women. Ion. Rhesus. The suppliant women by David Grene, Richmond Alexander Lattimore (eds.), Modern Library, 1963, p. 73
    • Variant (tr. E. P. Coleridge): "Nothing is more useful to mankind than a prudent distrust."
  • Who can decide a plea or judge a speech until he has heard plainly from both sides?
    • Heraclidæ (c 428 BC), l. 179-180 (tr. David Kovacs)
    • Variant: In case of dissension, never dare to judge till you've heard the other side.
  • Leave no stone unturned.
    • Heraclidæ (c 428 BC)
  • Ares (The God of War) hates those who hesitate.
    • Heraclidæ (c 428 BC) line 722
    • Alternate translation : Ares hates the sluggard most of all. (translated by David Kovacs)
  • I hold that mortal foolish who strives against the stress of necessity.
    • Hercules Furens l. 281
  • O lady, nobility is thine, and thy form is the reflection of thy nature!
    • Ion (c. 421-408 BC) l. 238
  • Authority is never without hate.
    • Ion (c. 421-408 BC) as translated by Ronald F. Willetts
  • Thou didst bring me forth for all the Greeks in common, not for thyself alone.
    • Iphigenia in Aulis, 1386
  • A coward turns away, but a brave man's choice is danger.
    • Iphigenia in Tauris (c. 412 BC) l. 114
  • There is in the worst of fortune the best of chances for a happy change.
    • Iphigenia in Tauris (c. 412 BC) l. 721
  • Toil, says the proverb, is the sire of fame.
    • Licymnius, Frag. 477
  • A bad beginning makes a bad ending.
    • Variant: A bad ending follows a bad beginning.
    • Melanippe the Wise (fragment)
When good men die their goodness does not perish, but lives though they are gone. As for the bad, all that was theirs dies and is buried with them.
  • Cowards do not count in battle; they are there, but not in it.
    • Meleager Frag. 523
  • A woman should be good for everything at home, but abroad good for nothing.
    • Meleager, Frag. 525
  • Silver and gold are not the only coin; virtue too passes current all over the world.
    • Œdipus, Frag. 546
  • Every man is like the company he is wont to keep.
    • Phœnix Frag. 809
  • This is slavery, not to speak one's thought.
    • Variant: Who dares not speak his free thoughts is a slave.
    • The Phoenician Women (c.411-409 BC)
  • Who knows but life be that which men call death,
    And death what men call life?
    • Phrixus, Frag. 830
  • Whoso neglects learning in his youth, loses the past and is dead for the future.
    • Phrixus, Frag. 927
  • The gods visit the sins of the fathers upon the children.
    • Phrixus, Frag. 970
  • Silence is an answer in the eyes of the wise.
    • Unidentified Plays, Fragment 977
    • Variant translation: Silence is true wisdom's best reply. (See Discussion page for sourcing information)
  • Chance fights ever on the side of the prudent.
    • Variant: Fortune truly helps those who are of good judgement.
    • Pirithous
  • Where two discourse, if the one's anger rise,
    The man who lets the contest fall is wise.
    • Protesilaus Frag. 656
  • Slight not what's near through aiming at what's far.
    • Rhesus (c. 435 BC) line 482
  • I think,
    Some shrewd man first, a man in judgment wise,
    Found for mortals the fear of gods,
    Thereby to frighten the wicked should they
    Even act or speak or scheme in secret.
  • The sweetest teaching did he introduce,
    Concealing truth under untrue speech.
    The place he spoke of as the gods' abode
    Was that by which he might awe humans most, —
    The place from which, he knew, terrors came to mortals
    And things advantageous in their wearisome life —
    The revolving heaven above, in which dwell
    The lightnings, and awesome claps
    Of thunder, and the starry face of heaven,
    Beautiful and intricate by that wise craftsman Time, —
    From which, too, the meteor's glowing mass speeds
    And wet thunderstorm pours forth upon the earth.
    • Sisyphus as translated by R. G. Bury, and revised by J. Garrett
  • For nothing is there more sweet unto an aged father than a daughter
    • The Suppliants, E.P. Coleridge
  • Naught is more hostile to a city than a despot; where he is, there are in the first place no laws common to all, but one man is tyrant, in whose keeping and in his alone the law resides, and in that case equality is at an end.
    • Suppliants (tr. Edward P. Coleridge)
  • When good men die their goodness does not perish,
    But lives though they are gone.
    As for the bad,
    All that was theirs dies and is buried with them.
    • Temenidæ Frag. 734
  • Never say that marriage has more of joy than pain.
    • l. 238
  • A second wife is hateful to the children of the first; A viper is not more hateful.
    • l. 309
  • Oh, if I had Orpheus' voice and poetry
    with which to move the Dark Maid and her Lord,
    I'd call you back, dear love, from the world below.

    I'd go down there for you. Charon or the grim
    King's dog could not prevent me then
    from carrying you up into the fields of light.
    • l. 358
  • Light be the earth upon you, lightly rest.
    • l. 462
  • Old men's prayers for death are lying prayers, in which they abuse old age and long extent of life. But when death draws near, not one is willing to die, and age no longer is a burden to them.
    • l. 669
  • Dishonour will not trouble me, once I am dead.
    • l. 726
  • No one can confidently say that he will still be living tomorrow.
    • l. 783-4
  • Today's today. Tomorrow we may be
    ourselves gone down the drain of Eternity.
    • l. 788
  • I have found power in the mysteries of thought,
    exaltation in the changing of the Muses;
    I have been versed in the reasonings of men;
    but Fate is stronger than anything I have known.
    • l. 962
  • Time cancels young pain.
    • l. 1085

Medea (431 BC)

  • Of all things upon earth that bleed and grow,
    A herb most bruised is woman.
  • The fountains of sacred rivers flow upwards.
    • Line 409
  • The gifts of a bad man bring no good with them.
    • Line 618
  • Moderation, the noblest gift of Heaven.
    • Line 636
  • Of troubles none is greater than to be robbed of one’s native land.
    • Line 653 (translated by David Kovacs: Perseus Digital Library)
    • Variant translation (by Paul Roche): For nothing is like the sorrow or supersedes the sadness of losing your native land.
  • πείθειν δῶρα καὶ θεοὺς λόγος
    • It is said that gifts persuade even the gods.
    • Line 964
  • I know, indeed, the evil of that I purpose; but my inclination gets the better of my judgment.
    • Line 1078
  • χαλεπὰ γὰρ βροτοῖς ὁμογενῆ μιά-
    σματ᾽, ἕπεται δ᾽ ἅμ᾽ αὐτοφόνταις ξυνῳ-
    δὰ θεόθεν πίτνοντ᾽ ἐπὶ δόμοις ἄχη.
    • Grievous for mortals is the stain of kindred blood. For the murderers are dogged by woes harmonious with their deeds, sent by the gods upon their houses.
    • lines 1268-1270; David Kovacs' translation
There is one thing alone that stands the brunt of life throughout its course: a quiet conscience.
  • μόνον δὲ τοῦτό φασ᾽ ἁμιλλᾶσθαι βίῳ,
    γνώμην δικαίαν κἀγαθήν ὅτῳ παρῇ
    • Only one thing, they say, competes in value with life, the possession of a heart blameless and good.
      • lines 426-427; David Kovacs' translation
  • In this world second thoughts, it seems, are best.
    • l. 435, as translated by David Grene
    • Variant translations: Among mortals second thoughts are the wisest.
      Second thoughts are ever wiser.
      Among mortals second thoughts are wisest.
  • ἡ γλῶσσ᾽ ὀμώμοχ᾽, ἡ δὲ φρὴν ἀνώμοτος
    • 'Twas but my tongue, 'twas not my soul that swore.
      • l. 612, as translated by Gilbert Murray (1954)
        • Variant translation by David Grene:
          My tongue swore, but my mind was still unpledged.
  • The credit we get for wisdom is measured by our success.
    • l. 701, translated by Edward P. Coleridge

Orestes (408 BC)

The Remorse of Orestes by William-Adolphe Bouguereau
  • Love is all we have, the only way that each can help the other.
  • When one with honeyed words but evil mind
    Persuades the mob, great woes befall the state.
    • l. 907
  • ἓν μὲν μέγιστον, οὐκ ἔχει παρρησίαν.
  • [T]his is slavery, not to speak one’s thought.
    • Line 392 (Jocasta); translated by Elizabeth Wyckoff; as found in Euripides IV: Helen, The Phoenician Women, Orestes, ed. Griffith, Most, Grene & Lattimore, University of Chicago Press (2013), p. 114
  • ἁπλοῦς ὁ μῦθος τῆς ἀληθείας ἔφυ,
    κοὐ ποικίλων δεῖ τἄνδιχ᾽ ἑρμηνευμάτων
    • The words of truth are naturally simple, and justice needs no subtle interpretations, for it has a fitness in itself
    • Lines 469–470


  • I begin by taking. I shall find scholars later to demonstrate my perfect right.
    • Supposedly in The Suppliants.
    • Also attributed to Frederick the Great of Prussia.


  • Account no man happy till he dies.
  • Circumstances rule men and not men circumstances.
    • Herodotus, Book 7, Ch. 49; Misattributed to Euripedes in "The Imperial Four" by Professor Creasy in Bentley's Miscellany Vol. 33 (January 1853), p. 22
    • Variant translation: Circumstances rule men; men do not rule circumstances.
  • Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad.
    • Anonymous ancient proverb, wrongly attributed to Euripides. The version here is quoted as a "heathen proverb" in Daniel, a Model for Young Men (1854) by William Anderson Scott. The origin of the misattribution to Euripides is unknown. Several variants are quoted in ancient texts, as follows.
    • Variants and derived paraphrases:
      • For cunningly of old
        was the celebrated saying revealed:
        evil sometimes seems good
        to a man whose mind
        a god leads to destruction.
        • Sophocles, Antigone 620-3, a play pre-dating any of Euripides' surviving plays. An ancient commentary explains the passage as a paraphrase of the following, from another, earlier poet.
      • When a god plans harm against a man,
        he first damages the mind of the man he is plotting against.
        • Quoted in the scholia vetera to Sophocles' Antigone 620ff., without attribution. The meter (iambic trimeter) suggests that the source of the quotation is a tragic play.
      • For whenever the anger of divine spirits harms someone,
        it first does this: it steals away his mind
        and good sense, and turns his thought to foolishness,

        so that he should know nothing of his mistakes.
        • Attributed to "some of the old poets" by Lycurgus of Athens in his Oratio In Leocratem [Oration Against Leocrates], section 92. Again, the meter suggests that the source is a tragic play. These lines are misattributed to the much earlier semi-mythical statesman Lycurgus of Sparta in a footnote of recent editions of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations and other works.
      • The gods do nothing until they have blinded the minds of the wicked.
        • Variant in ''Dictionary of Quotations (Classical) (1906), compiled by Thomas Benfield Harbottle, p. 433.
      • Whom Fortune wishes to destroy she first makes mad.
      • The devil when he purports any evil against man, first perverts his mind.
      • quem Iuppiter vult perdere, dementat prius.
        • "Whom Jupiter wishes to destroy, he first sends mad"; neo-Latin version. Similar wording is found in James Duport's Homeri Gnomologia (1660), p. 234. "A maxim of obscure origin which may have been invented in Cambridge about 1640" -- Taylor, The Proverb (1931). Probably a variant of the line "He whom the gods love dies young", derived from Menander's play The Double Deceiver via Plautus (Bacchides 816-7).
      • quem (or quos) Deus perdere vult, dementat prius.
        • Whom God wishes to destroy, he first sends mad.
      • Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.
      • Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.
        • As quoted in George Fox Interpreted: The Religion, Revelations, Motives and Mission of George Fox (1881) by Thomas Ellwood Longshore, p. 154
      • Those whom God wishes to destroy, he first makes mad.
      • Nor do the gods appear in warrior's armour clad
        To strike them down with sword and spear
        Those whom they would destroy
        They first make mad.
        • Bhartṛhari, 7th c. AD; as quoted in John Brough,Poems from the Sanskrit, (1968), p, 67
      • vināśakāle viparītabuddhiḥ
        • Sanskrit Saying (also in Jatak katha): "When a man is to be destroyed, his intelligence becomes self-destructive."
    • Modern derivatives:
      The proverb's meaning is changed in many English versions from the 20th and 21st centuries that start with the proverb's first half (through "they") and then end with a phrase that replaces "first make mad" or "make mad." Such versions can be found at Internet search engines by using either of the two keyword phrases that are on Page 2 and Page 4 of the webpage "Pick any Wrong Card." The rest of that webpage is frameworks that induce a reader to compose new variations on this proverb.

Quotes about Euripides

  • Sophocles said that he drew men as they ought to be; Euripides, as they are.
    • Aristotle, Poetics, ch. 25 (trans. S. H. Butcher)
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