Greek philosopher and historian (c. AD 46 – after AD 119)

Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus (c. 46120) was a Greek historian, biographer, and essayist.

Our judgments, if they do not borrow from reason and philosophy a fixity and steadiness of purpose in their acts, are easily swayed and influenced by the praise or blame of others, which make us distrust our own opinions.


Valour, however unfortunate, commands great respect even from enemies: but the Romans despise cowardice, even though it be prosperous.
Perseverance is more prevailing than violence; and many things which cannot be overcome when they are together, yield themselves up when taken little by little.
Authority and place demonstrate and try the tempers of men, by moving every passion and discovering every frailty.
Be ruled by time, the wisest counsellor of all.
  • Pompey had fought brilliantly and in the end routed Caesar's whole force... but either he was unable to or else he feared to push on. Caesar [said] to his friends: 'Today the enemy would have won, if they had had a commander who was a winner.'
    • The Life of Pompey
  • Thus they let their anger and fury take from them the sense of humanity, and demonstrated that no beast is more savage than man when possessed with power answerable to his rage.
    • "The Life of Cicero"
  • As geographers, Sosius, crowd into the edges of their maps parts of the world which they do not know about, adding notes in the margin to the effect that beyond this lies nothing but sandy deserts full of wild beasts, and unapproachable bogs.
    • Life of Theseus, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)
  • From Themistocles began the saying, "He is a second Hercules."
    • Life of Theseus, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)

Life of Themistocles

Quotes reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)
  • Themistocles said that he certainly could not make use of any stringed instrument; could only, were a small and obscure city put into his hands, make it great and glorious.
  • Eurybiades lifting up his staff as if he were going to strike, Themistocles said, "Strike, if you will; but hear".
  • Themistocles said to Antiphales, "Time, young man, has taught us both a lesson".
  • Laughing at his own son, who got his mother, and by his mother's means his father also, to indulge him, he told him that he had the most power of any one in Greece: "For the Athenians command the rest of Greece, I command the Athenians, your mother commands me, and you command your mother".
  • "You speak truth," said Themistocles; "I should never have been famous if I had been of Seriphus; nor you, had you been of Athens".
  • Themistocles said that a man's discourse was like to a rich Persian carpet, the beautiful figures and patterns of which can be shown only by spreading and extending it out; when it is contracted and folded up, they are obscured and lost.
  • When he was in great prosperity, and courted by many, seeing himself splendidly served at his table, he turned to his children and said: "Children, we had been undone, if we had not been undone".
  • By the study of their biographies, we receive each man as a guest into our minds, and we seem to understand their character as the result of a personal acquaintance, because we have obtained from their acts the best and most important means of forming an opinion about them. "What greater pleasure could'st thou gain than this?" What more valuable for the elevation of our own character?
    • Timoleon
  • Thus our judgments, if they do not borrow from reason and philosophy a fixity and steadiness of purpose in their acts, are easily swayed and influenced by the praise or blame of others, which make us distrust our own opinions.
    • Timoleon, sec. 6
  • A remorseful change of mind renders even a noble action base, whereas the determination which is grounded on knowledge and reason cannot change even if its actions fail.
    • Timoleon, sec. 6
  • but those who are careless of accuracy in small things soon begin to neglect the most important.
    • Aemilius, sec. 3
  • These are the materials for reflection which history affords to those who choose to make use of them.
    • Aemilius, sec. 5
  • Empire may be gained by gold, not gold by empire. It used, indeed, to be a proverb that "It is not Philip, but Philip's gold that takes the cities of Greece."
    • Aemilius, sec. 12
  • It is not reasonable that he who does not shoot should hit the mark, nor that he who does not stand fast at his post should win the day, or that the helpless man should succeed or the coward prosper.
    • Aemilius, sec. 19
  • Valour, however unfortunate, commands great respect even from enemies: but the Romans despise cowardice, even though it be prosperous.
    • Aemilius, sec. 26
  • Ought a man to be confident that he deserves his good fortune, and think much of himself when he has overcome a nation, or city, or empire; or does fortune give this as an example to the victor also of the uncertainty of human affairs, which never continue in one stay? For what time can there be for us mortals to feel confident, when our victories over others especially compel us to dread fortune, and while we are exulting, the reflection that the fatal day comes now to one, now to another, in regular succession, dashes our joy.
    • Aemilius, sec. 27
  • You, young men, be sure that you lay aside your haughty looks and vainglory in your victory, and await with humility what the future may bring forth, ever considering what form of retribution Heaven may have in store for us to set off against our present good fortune.
    • Aemilius, sec. 27
  • A Roman divorced from his wife, being highly blamed by his friends, who demanded, "Was she not chaste? Was she not fair? Was she not fruitful?" holding out his shoe, asked them whether it was not new and well made. "Yet," added he, "none of you can tell where it pinches me."
  • He said, that he never had feared what man could do to him, but always had feared Fortune, the most fickle and variable of all deities; and in the late war she had been so constantly present with him, like a favouring gale, that he expected now to meet with some reverse by way of retribution.
    • Aemilius, sec. 36
  • Yet, as the strongest bodies are those which can equally well support the extremes of heat and cold, so the noblest minds are those which prosperity does not render insolent and overbearing, nor ill fortune depress: and here Aemilius appears more nearly to approach absolute perfection, as, when in great misfortune and grief for his children, he showed the same dignity and firmness as after the greatest success.
    • Paulus Aemilius and Timeleon, sec. 2
  • the nature which is over-cautious to avoid blame may be gentle and kindly, but cannot be great.
    • Paulus Aemilius and Timeleon, sec. 2
  • I myself had rather excel others in excellency of learning than in greatness of power.
    • Alexander, sec. 7
  • And it is said that when he took his seat for the first time under the golden canopy on the royal throne, Demaratus the Corinthian, a well-meaning man and a friend of Alexander's, as he had been of Alexander's father, burst into tears, as old men will, and declared that those Hellenes were deprived of great pleasure who had died before seeing Alexander seated on the throne of Dareius.
    • Alexander, 37, 7 (Loeb)
  • "impossible questions require impossible answers".
    • Alexander, sec. 54
  • The next was asked, which was the stronger, life or death. He answered, "Life, because it endures such terrible suffering."
    • Alexander, sec. 54
  • Moral habits, induced by public practices, are far quicker in making their way into men's private lives, than the failings and faults of individuals are in infecting the city at large.
    • Lysander, sec. 17
  • Perseverance is more prevailing than violence; and many things which cannot be overcome when they are together, yield themselves up when taken little by little.
    • Sertorius, sec. 16
  • Good fortune will elevate even petty minds, and give them the appearance of a certain greatness and stateliness, as from their high place they look down upon the world; but the truly noble and resolved spirit raises itself, and becomes more conspicuous in times of disaster and ill fortune.
    • Eumenes, sec. 9
  • But for my own part I believe that for the enjoyment of true happiness, which depends chiefly upon a man's character and disposition, it makes no difference whether he be born in an obscure state or of an ill-favoured mother, or not.
    • Demosthenes, sec. 1
  • Hence, when these men praised Philip as being more eloquent, more handsome, and to crown all, able to drink more than any one else, Demosthenes sneeringly replied that the first of these qualities was excellent in a sophist, the second in a woman, and the third in a sponge, but that they were none of them such as became a king.
    • Demosthenes, sec. 16
  • "Far from the battle, on that fatal day
    Beside Thermodon may I flee away,
    Or view it as an eagle from the sky;
    There shall the vanquished weep, the victor die."
    • Demosthenes, sec. 19
  • Authority and place demonstrate and try the tempers of men, by moving every passion and discovering every frailty.
    • Demosthenes and Cicero, sec. 3
  • Medicine, to produce health, has to examine disease; and music, to create harmony, must investigate discord.
    • Demetrius, sec. 1
  • How strongly does this bear out the truth of Plato's maxim, that he who wishes to be really rich ought to lessen his desires rather than increase his property, because if a man places no bounds to his covetousness, he never will be free from want and misery.
    • Demetrius, sec. 32
  • Certainly the people's insistence that their candidates should present themselves ungirt and without a tunic had nothing to do with any suspicion of bribery, for it was not until long afterwards that the abuse of buying and selling votes crept in and money began to play an important part in determining the elections. Later on, however, this process of corruption spread to the law courts and to the army, and finally, when even the sword became enslaved by the power of gold, the republic was subjected to the rule of the emperors. For it has rightly been said that the man who first offers banquets and bribes to the people is the first to destroy their liberties.
    • Gaius Marcius (Coriolanus) 14.2, translated by Ian Scott-Kilvert, Makers of Rome: Nine Lives by Plutarch (Harmondsworth : Penguin Books 1965) ISBN 0140441581, p. 27
  • A very bold political measure of Lycurgus is his redistribution of the land. For there was a dreadful inequality in this regard, the city was heavily burdened with indigent and helpless people, and wealth was wholly concentrated in the hands of a few. Determined, therefore, to banish insolence and envy and crime and luxury, and those yet more deep-seated and afflictive diseases of the state, poverty and wealth, he persuaded his fellow-citizens to make one parcel of all their territory and divide it up anew, and to live with one another on a basis of entire uniformity and equality in the means of subsistence, seeking preëminence through virtue alone, assured that there was no other difference or inequality between man and man than that which was established by blame for base actions and praise for good ones.
    • Lycurgus, sec. 8. The bolded phrase is often quoted in a paraphrase by Ugo Foscolo: "Wealth and poverty are the oldest and most deadly ailments of all republics" (Le ricchezze e la povertà sono le più antiche e mortali infermità delle repubbliche), Monitore Italiano, 5 February 1798.
  • We see that kindness or humanity has a larger field than bare justice to exercise itself in; law and justice we cannot, in the nature of things, employ on others than men; but we may extend our goodness and charity even to irrational creatures; and such acts flow from a gentle nature, as water from an abundant spring. It is doubtless the part of a kind-natured man to keep even worn-out horses and dogs, and not only take care of them when they are foals and whelps, but also when they are grown old.
  • Cleverness of speech was a quality which nearly all the young men of the time sought to attain, but Cato was singular in his keeping up the severe traditions of his ancestors in labouring with his own hands, eating a simple dinner, lighting no fire to cook his breakfast, wearing a plain dress, living in a mean house, and neither coveting superfluities nor courting their possessors.
    • Marcus Cato, sec. 4
  • With all this he showed himself so affable and simple to those under his rule, so severe and inexorable in the administration of justice, and so vigilant and careful in seeing that his orders were duly executed, that the government of Rome never was more feared or more loved in Sardinia than when he governed that island.
    • Marcus Cato, sec. 7
  • He also was wont to say that he had rather his good actions should go unrewarded than that his bad ones should be unpunished; and that he pardoned all who did wrong except himself.
    • Marcus Cato, sec. 8
  • He said that wise men gained more advantage from fools, than fools from wise men; for the wise men avoid the errors of fools, but fools cannot imitate the example of wise men.
    • Marcus Cato, sec. 9
  • To an old man who was acting wrongly he said, "My good sir, old age is ugly enough without your adding the deformity of wickedness to it."
    • Marcus Cato, sec. 9
  • "I do not," said he, "blame those who endeavour to enrich themselves by such means, but I had rather vie with the noblest in virtue than with the richest in wealth, or with the most covetous in covetousness."
    • Marcus Cato, sec. 10
  • When any one expressed surprise at his not having a statue, when so many obscure men had obtained that honour, he answered, "I had rather that men should ask why I have no statue, than that they should ask why I have one."
    • Marcus Cato, sec. 19
  • He has glorified himself by recording that when men were detected in any fault, they would excuse themselves by saying that they must be pardoned if they did anything amiss, for they were not Catos: and that those who endeavoured clumsily to imitate his proceedings were called left-handed Catos.
    • Marcus Cato, sec. 19
  • "Twas not that life or death itself was good,
    That these heroic spirits shed their blood:
    This was their aim, and this their latest cry,
    'Let us preserve our honour, live or die.'"
    • Pelopidas, sec. 1
  • When they were first descried coming out from the narrow gorges of the hills, some one ran to Pelopidas, and cried out, "We have fallen into the midst of the enemy!" "Why so," asked he, "more than they into the midst of us?"
    • Pelopidas, sec. 17
  • "Perish those who suspect those men of doing or enduring anything base."
    • Pelopidas, sec. 18
  • When some one said to Pelopidas that the tyrant was coming on with a great force, he answered. "So much the better, for we shall conquer more."
    • Pelopidas, sec. 32
  • This is the only general who, when victorious allows his foe no rest, and when defeated takes none himself. We shall always, it seems, have to be fighting this man, who is equally excited to attack by his confidence when victor, and his shame when vanquished.
    • Marcellus, sec. 26
  • One of the envoys, by name Mandrokleides, said in his broad Laconian speech, "If you are a god, we shall not be harmed by you, for we have done no wrong; but if you are a man, you may meet with a stronger man than yourself."
    • Pyrrhus, sec. 26
  • A dead man does not bite.
    • Pompeius, sec. 76
  • [I]f he could prove himself superior to those vanities by his temperance, simplicity of life, and true greatness of mind, and could succeed in restoring equality among his fellow-countrymen, he would be honoured and renowned as a truly great king.
    • Agis, sec. 7
  • Now, king of the Lacedæmonians, take care when we come out that no one sees us weeping or doing anything unworthy of Sparta. This lies in our own power; but good or evil fortune befalls us according to the will of Heaven.
    • Kleomenes, sec. 22
  • ... and that though fortune has often the advantage over virtue in its attempts to guard against evils, yet she cannot take away from virtue the power of enduring them with fortitude.
    • Caius Gracchus, sec. 19
  • True greatness of mind, he said, could be better shown by forgiving those by whom one has been wronged, than by doing good to one's friends and benefactors; and he desired not so much to excel Herakleides in power and generalship, as in clemency and justice, the only qualities which are truly good: for our successes in war, even if won by ourselves alone, yet can only be won by the aid of Fortune.
    • Dion, sec. 47
  • On this occasion also, Marcus the son of Cato, fighting among the noblest and bravest of the youth, though hard pressed, did not yield nor flee, but laying about him and calling out who he was, and his father's name, he fell on a heap of the enemy's slain. There fell, too, the bravest of the men, exposing themselves in defence of Brutus.
    • Brutus, sec. 49
  • Among the intimates of Brutus was one Lucilius, a good man. Observing that some barbarian horsemen in their pursuit paid no regard to the rest, but rode at full speed after Brutus, he resolved at his own risk to stop them. And being a little in the rear he said that he was Brutus, and he gained belief by praying them to take him to Antonius, because he feared Cæsar, but trusted in Antonius. The barbarians delighted at their success, and considering that they had surprising good luck, conducted the man, and as it was now growing dark, sent forward some of their number as messengers to Antonius. Antonius, much pleased, went to meet those who were conducting Lucilius; and those who heard that Brutus was being brought alive flocked together, some pitying him for his ill fortune, and others thinking it unworthy of his fame to let himself be taken by barbarians through love of life. When they were near, Antonius stopped, being doubtful how he should receive Brutus, but Lucilius, approaching with a cheerful countenance, said, "Antonius, no enemy has taken Marcus Brutus, nor will: may fortune never have such a victory over virtue. But he will be found, whether alive or dead, in a condition worthy of himself. But I who have deceived your soldiers am come to suffer, and I deprecate no punishment, however severe, for what I have done."
    • Brutus, sec. 50
  • When Eukleidas the Lacedæmonian had spoken his mind very freely to him, he bade his general say to him, "You may say what you please, but I may both say and do what I please."
    • Artaxerxes, sec. 5
  • Indeed, to imagine that one has already arrived at perfection, argues self-conceit rather than true greatness of character.
    • Aratus, sec. 1
  • "Dost thou, fair Sikyon, hesitate to raise
    A fitting tomb to thy lost hero's praise?
    Curst be the land, nay, curst the air or wave
    That grudges room for thy Aratus' grave."
    • Aratus, sec. 53


  • Fate, however, is to all appearance more unavoidable than unexpected.
  • When asked why he parted with his wife, Cæsar replied, "I wished my wife to be not so much as suspected."
  • For my part, I had rather be the first man among these fellows than the second man in Rome.
  • Using the proverb frequently in their mouths who enter upon dangerous and bold attempts, "The die is cast," he took the river.
  • "And this," said Cæsar, "you know, young man, is more disagreeable for me to say than to do."
  • Go on, my friend, and fear nothing; you carry Cæsar and his fortunes in your boat.
  • Cæsar said to the soothsayer, "The ides of March are come;" who answered him calmly, "Yes, they are come, but they are not past."
  • ...they perceived that no beginnings should be considered too small to be capable of quickly becoming great by uninterrupted endurance and having no obstacle to their growth by reason of being despised.
    • sec. 4


  • Moral good is a practical stimulus; it is no sooner seen than it inspires an impulse to practise.
  • For ease and speed in doing a thing do not give the work lasting solidity or exactness of beauty.
  • So very difficult a matter is it to trace and find out the truth of anything by history.
  • Be ruled by time, the wisest counsellor of all.
Moralia, 1531

Of the Training of Children

Περὶ παίδων ἀγωγῆς
  • It is a desirable thing to be well descended, but the glory belongs to our ancestors.
    • 8
  • It is a true proverb, that if you live with a lame man, you will learn a limp.
  • ἡ ἀνάπαυσις τῶν πόνων ἐστὶν ἄρτυμα.
    • Translation: Rest gives relish to labour.
    • 13
  • The very spring and root of honesty and virtue lie in good education.
  • It is wise to be silent when occasion requires, and better than to speak, though never so well.
  • For water continually dropping will wear hard rocks hollow.
  • The very spring and root of honesty and virtue lie in the felicity of lighting on good education.
  • According to the proverb, the best things are the most difficult.
  • To sing the same tune, as the saying is, is in everything cloying and offensive; but men are generally pleased with variety.
  • Children are to be won to follow liberal studies by exhortations and rational motives, and on no account to be forced thereto by whipping.
  • Nothing made the horse so fat as the king's eye.
  • Democritus said, words are but the shadows of actions.
  • 'T is a wise saying, Drive on your own track.
  • Eat not thy heart; which forbids to afflict our souls, and waste them with vexatious cares.
  • Abstain from beans; that is, keep out of public offices, for anciently the choice of the officers of state was made by beans.
  • When men are arrived at the goal, they should not turn back.
  • The whole life of man is but a point of time; let us enjoy it, therefore, while it lasts, and not spend it to no purpose.
  • An old doting fool, with one foot already in the grave.

How one may be aware of one's progress in virtue

  • Similarly they relate of Diogenes of Sinope, when he began to be a philosopher, that the Athenians were celebrating a festival, and there were public banquets and shows and mutual festivities, and drinking and revelling all night, and he, coiled up in a corner of the market-place intending to sleep, fell into a train of thought likely seriously to turn him from his purpose and shake his resolution, for he reflected that he had adopted without any necessity a toilsome and unusual kind of life, and by his own fault sat there debarred of all the good things. At that moment, however, they say a mouse stole up and began to munch some of the crumbs of his barley-cake, and he plucked up his courage and said to himself, in a railing and chiding fashion, "What say you, Diogenes? Do your leavings give this mouse a sumptuous meal, while you, the gentleman, wail and lament because you are not getting drunk yonder and reclining on soft and luxurious couches?" Whenever such depressions of mind are not frequent, and the mind when they take place quickly recovers from them, after having put them to flight as it were, and when such annoyance and distraction is easily got rid of, then one may consider one's progress in virtue as a certainty.
    • V
  • Still more will this be the case, if we admire the good not only in prosperity, but like lovers who admire even the lispings and paleness of those in their flower, as the tears and dejection of Panthea in her grief and affliction won the affections of Araspes, so we fear neither the exile of Aristides, nor the prison of Anaxagoras, nor the poverty of Socrates, nor the condemnation of Phocion, but think virtue worthy our love even under such trials, and join her, ever chanting that line of Euripides, "Unto the noble everything is good."
    • XV
  • Such men ever, whether they have some business to transact, or have taken upon them some office, or are in some critical conjuncture, put before their eyes the example of noble men, and consider what Plato would have done on the occasion, what Epaminondas would have said, how Lycurgus or Agesilaus would have dealt; that so, adjusting and re-modelling themselves, as it were, at their mirrors, they may correct any ignoble expression, and repress any ignoble passion.
    • XV

Whether vice is sufficient to cause unhappiness

  • Fortune, dost thou threaten poverty? Metrocles laughs at thee, who sleeps during winter among the sheep, in summer in the vestibules of temples, and challenges the king of the Persians, who winters at Babylon, and summers in Media, to vie with him in happiness. Dost thou bring slavery, and bondage, and sale? Diogenes despises thee, who cried out, as he was being sold by some robbers, "Who will buy a master?" Dost thou mix a cup of poison? Didst not thou offer such a one to Socrates? And cheerfully, and mildly, without fear, without changing colour or countenance, he calmly drank it up: and when he was dead, all who survived deemed him happy, as sure to have a divine lot in Hades. And as to thy fire, did not Decius, the general of the Romans, anticipate it for himself, having piled up a funeral pyre between the two armies, and sacrificed himself to Cronos, dedicating himself for the supremacy of his country?
    • III

Of Eating of Flesh

In Plutarch’s Morals, vol. 5, 1878. Translated by William W. Goodwin. Full text online.
  • You ask of me then for what reason it was that Pythagoras abstained from eating of flesh. I for my part do much admire in what humor, with what soul or reason, the first man with his mouth touched slaughter, and reached to his lips the flesh of a dead animal, and having set before people courses of ghastly corpses and ghosts, could give those parts the names of meat and victuals, that but a little before lowed, cried, moved, and saw; how his sight could endure the blood of slaughtered, flayed, and mangled bodies; how his smell could bear their scent; and how the very nastiness happened not to offend the taste, while it chewed the sores of others, and participated of the saps and juices of deadly wounds.
    • I, 1
  • Are you not ashamed to mix tame fruits with blood and slaughter? You are indeed wont to call serpents, leopards, and lions savage creatures; but yet yourselves are defiled with blood, and come nothing behind them in cruelty. What they kill is their ordinary nourishment, but what you kill is your better fare.
    • I, 2
  • For the sake of some little mouthful of flesh, we deprive a soul of the sun and light, and of that proportion of life and time it had been born into the world to enjoy. And then we fancy that the voices it utters and screams forth to us are nothing else but certain inarticulate sounds and noises, and not the several deprecations, entreaties, and pleadings of each of them.
    • I, 4
  • What meal is not expensive? That for which no animal is put to death. … one participating of feeling, of seeing, of hearing, of imagination, and of intellection; which each animal hath received from Nature for the acquiring of what is agreeable to it, and the avoiding what is disagreeable.
    • II, 3
  • In the beginning, some wild and mischievous beast was killed and eaten, and then some little bird or fish was entrapped. And the love of slaughter, being first experimented and exercised in these, at last passed even to the laboring ox, and the sheep that clothes us, and to the poor cock that keeps the house; until by little and little, unsatiableness being strengthened by use, men came to the slaughter of men, to bloodshed and wars.
    • II, 4


  • Socrates... said he was not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.
    • Of Banishment
  • He that first started that doctrine, that knavery is the best defense against a knave, was but an ill teacher, advising us to commit wickedness to secure ourselves.
    • Of Bashfulness; on Zeno
  • νήπιος, ὃς τὰ ἕτοιμα λιπὼν ἀνέτοιμα διώκει
    • He is a fool who leaves things close at hand to follow what is out of reach.
    • Of Garrulity.
    • Attributed to Hesiod, Frag. 219
  • τοῖς ἐγρηγορόσιν ἕνα καὶ κοινὸν κόσμον εἶναι, τῶν δὲ κοιμωμένων ἕκαστον εἰς ἴδιον ἀποστρέφεσθαι
    • All men whilst they are awake are in one common world; but each of them, when he is asleep, is in a world of his own.
    • Of Superstition.
    • Attributed to Heraclitus, Frag. 89
  • Antiphanes said merrily that in a certain city the cold was so intense that words were congealed as soon as spoken, but that after some time they thawed and became audible; so that the words spoken in winter articulated next summer.
    • Of Man's Progress in Virtue
  • When the candles are out all women are fair.
    • Conjugal Precepts
  • For to err in opinion, though it be not the part of wise men, is at least human.
    • Against Colotes
  • The correct analogy for the mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting — no more — and then it motivates one towards originality and instills the desire for truth. Suppose someone were to go and ask his neighbors for fire and find a substantial blaze there, and just stay there continually warming himself: that is no different from someone who goes to someone else to get to some of his rationality, and fails to realize that he ought to ignite his own flame, his own intellect, but is happy to sit entranced by the lecture, and the words trigger only associative thinking and bring, as it were, only a flush to his cheeks and a glow to his limbs; but he has not dispelled or dispersed, in the warm light of philosophy, the internal dank gloom of his mind.
    • οὐ γὰρ ὡς ἀγγεῖον ὁ νοῦς ἀποπληρώσεως ἀλλ' ὑπεκκαύματος μόνον ὥσπερ ὕλη δεῖται ὁρμὴν ἐμποιοῦντος εὑρετικὴν καὶ ὄρεξιν ἐπὶ τὴν ἀλήθειαν. ὥσπερ οὖν εἴ τις ἐκ γειτόνων πυρὸς δεόμενος, εἶτα πολὺ καὶ λαμπρὸν εὑρὼν αὐτοῦ καταμένοι διὰ τέλους θαλπόμενος, οὕτως εἴ τις ἥκων λόγου μεταλαβεῖν πρὸς ἄλλον οὐχ οἴεται δεῖν φῶς οἰκεῖον ἐξάπτειν καὶ νοῦν ἴδιον, ἀλλὰ χαίρων τῇ ἀκροάσει κάθηται θελγόμενος, οἷον ἔρευθος ἕλκει καὶ γάνωμα τὴν δόξαν ἀπὸ τῶν λόγων, τὸν δ᾽ ἐντὸς: εὐρῶτα τῆς ψυχῆς καὶ ζόφον οὐκ ἐκτεθέρμαγκεν οὐδ᾽ ἐξέωκε διὰ φιλοσοφίας.
    • On Listening to Lectures, Plutarch, Moralia 48C (variously called De auditione Philosophorum or De Auditu or De Recta Audiendi Ratione)
  • By these criteria let Alexander also be judged! For from his words, from his deeds, and from the instruction' which he imparted, it will be seen that he was indeed a philosopher.
    • On the Fortune Of Alexander, I, 4, 328B Loeb, F.C. Babbitt
  • Yet through Alexander (the Great) Bactria and the Caucasus learned to revere the gods of the Greeks … Alexander established more than seventy cities among savage tribes, and sowed all Asia with Greek magistracies … Egypt would not have its Alexandria, nor Mesopotamia its Seleucia, nor Sogdiana its Prophthasia, nor India its Bucephalia, nor the Caucasus a Greek city, for by the founding of cities in these places savagery was extinguished and the worse element, gaining familiarity with the better, changed under its influence.
    • On the Fortune of Alexander, I, 328D, 329A Loeb, F.C. Babbitt
  • If it were not my purpose to combine foreign things with things Greek, to traverse and civilize every continent, to search out the uttermost parts of land and sea, to push the bounds of Macedonia to the farthest Ocean, and to disseminate and shower the blessings of Greek justice and peace over every nation, I should not content to sit quietly in the luxury of idle power, but I should emulate the frugality of Diogenes. But as things are, forgive me Diogenes, that I imitate Herakles, and emulate Perseus, and follow in the footsteps of Dionysos, the divine author and progenitor of my family, and desire that victorious Greeks should dance again in India and revive the memory of the Bacchic revels among the savage mountain tribes beyond the Kaukasos…
    • On the Fortune of Alexander, I, 332A Loeb, F.C Babbitt
  • What spectator... would not exclaim... that through Fortune the foreign host was prevailing beyond its deserts, but through Virtue the Hellenes were holding out beyond their ability? And if the ones (i.e., the enemy) gains the upper hand, this will be the work of Fortune or of some jealous deity or of divine retribution; but if the others (i.e., the Greeks) prevail, it will be Virtue and daring, friendship and fidelity, that will win the guerdon of victory? These were, in fact, the only support that Alexander had with him at this time, since Fortune had put a barrier between him and the rest of his forces and equipment, fleets, horse, and camp. Finally, the Macedonians routed the barbarians, and, when they had fallen, pulled down their city on their heads.
    • On the Fortune of Alexander, II, 344 e-f, Loeb
  • That remiss and slow-paced justice (as Euripides describes it) that falls upon the wicked by accident, by reason of its uncertainty, ill-timed delay, and disorderly motion, seems rather to resemble chance than providence. So that I cannot conceive what benefit there is in these millstones of the Gods which are said to grind so late, as thereby celestial punishment is obscured, and the awe of evil doing rendered vain and despicable.
    • On the Delays of the Divine Vengeance 3 (549d)

Apophthegms of Kings and Great Commanders

Quotes reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Scilurus on his death-bed, being about to leave four-score sons surviving, offered a bundle of darts to each of them, and bade them break them. When all refused, drawing out one by one, he easily broke them,—thus teaching them that if they held together, they would continue strong; but if they fell out and were divided, they would become weak.
    • 31 Scilurus
  • Dionysius the Elder, being asked whether he was at leisure, he replied, "God forbid that it should ever befall me!"
    • 32 Dionysius
  • A prating barber asked Archelaus how he would be trimmed. He answered, "In silence."
    • 33 Archelaus
  • When Philip had news brought him of divers and eminent successes in one day, "O Fortune!" said he, "for all these so great kindnesses do me some small mischief."
    • 34 Philip
  • There were two brothers called Both and Either; perceiving Either was a good, understanding, busy fellow, and Both a silly fellow and good for little, Philip said, "Either is both, and Both is neither."
    • 35 Philip
  • Philip being arbitrator betwixt two wicked persons, he commanded one to fly out of Macedonia and the other to pursue him.
    • 36 Philip
  • Being about to pitch his camp in a likely place, and hearing there was no hay to be had for the cattle, "What a life," said he, "is ours, since we must live according to the convenience of asses!"
    • 37 Philip
  • "These Macedonians," said he, "are a rude and clownish people, that call a spade a spade."
    • 39 Philip
  • He made one of Antipater's recommendation a judge; and perceiving afterwards that his hair and beard were coloured, he removed him, saying, "I could not think one that was faithless in his hair could be trusty in his deeds."
    • 40 Philip
  • Being nimble and light-footed, his father encouraged him to run in the Olympic race. "Yes," said he, "if there were any kings there to run with me."
    • 41 Alexander
  • When Darius offered him ten thousand talents, and to divide Asia equally with him, "I would accept it," said Parmenio, "were I Alexander." "And so truly would I," said Alexander, "if I were Parmenio." But he answered Darius that the earth could not bear two suns, nor Asia two kings.
    • 42 Alexander
  • When he was wounded with an arrow in the ankle, and many ran to him that were wont to call him a god, he said smiling, "That is blood, as you see, and not, as Homer saith, ‘such humour as distils from blessed gods.'"
    • 43 Alexander
  • Aristodemus, a friend of Antigonus, supposed to be a cook's son, advised him to moderate his gifts and expenses. "Thy words," said he, "Aristodemus, smell of the apron."
    • 44 Antigonus I
  • Thrasyllus the Cynic begged a drachm of Antigonus. "That," said he, "is too little for a king to give." "Why, then," said the other, "give me a talent." "And that," said he, "is too much for a Cynic (or, for a dog) to receive."
    • 45 Antigonus I
  • Antagoras the poet was boiling a conger, and Antigonus, coming behind him as he was stirring his skillet, said, "Do you think, Antagoras, that Homer boiled congers when he wrote the deeds of Agamemnon?" Antagoras replied, "Do you think, O king, that Agamemnon, when he did such exploits, was a peeping in his army to see who boiled congers?"
    • 46 Antigonus I
  • Pyrrhus said, "If I should overcome the Romans in another fight, I were undone."
    • 47 Pyrrhus
  • Themistocles being asked whether he would rather be Achilles or Homer, said, "Which would you rather be,—a conqueror in the Olympic games, or the crier that proclaims who are conquerors?"
    • 48 Themistocles
  • He preferred an honest man that wooed his daughter, before a rich man. "I would rather," said Themistocles, "have a man that wants money than money that wants a man."
    • 49 Themistocles
  • Alcibiades had a very handsome dog, that cost him seven thousand drachmas; and he cut off his tail, "that," said he, "the Athenians may have this story to tell of me, and may concern themselves no further with me."
    • 50 Alcibiades
  • Being summoned by the Athenians out of Sicily to plead for his life, Alcibiades absconded, saying that that criminal was a fool who studied a defence when he might fly for it.
    • 51 Alcibiades
  • Lamachus chid a captain for a fault; and when he had said he would do so no more, "Sir," said he, "in war there is no room for a second miscarriage." Said one to Iphicrates, "What are ye afraid of?" "Of all speeches," said he, "none is so dishonourable for a general as ‘I should not have thought of it.'"
    • 52 Iphicrates
  • To Harmodius, descended from the ancient Harmodius, when he reviled Iphicrates [a shoemaker's son] for his mean birth, "My nobility," said he, "begins in me, but yours ends in you."
    • 54 Iphicrates
  • Once when Phocion had delivered an opinion which pleased the people,… he turned to his friend and said, "Have I not unawares spoken some mischievous thing or other?"
    • 55 Phocion
  • Phocion compared the speeches of Leosthenes to cypress-trees. "They are tall," said he, "and comely, but bear no fruit."
    • 56 Phocion
  • Lycurgus the Lacedæmonian brought long hair into fashion among his countrymen, saying that it rendered those that were handsome more beautiful, and those that were deformed more terrible. To one that advised him to set up a democracy in Sparta, "Pray," said Lycurgus, "do you first set up a democracy in your own house."
    • 57 Lycurgus
  • King Agis said, "The Lacedæmonians are not wont to ask how many, but where the enemy are."
    • 58 Agis
  • Lysander said, "Where the lion's skin will not reach, it must be pieced with the fox's."
    • 60 Lysander
  • To one that promised to give him hardy cocks that would die fighting, "Prithee," said Cleomenes, "give me cocks that will kill fighting."
    • 61 Cleomenes
  • When Eudæmonidas heard a philosopher arguing that only a wise man can be a good general, "This is a wonderful speech," said he; "but he that saith it never heard the sound of trumpets."
    • 62 Eudæmonidas
  • A soldier told Pelopidas, "We are fallen among the enemies." Said he, "How are we fallen among them more than they among us?"
    • 63 Pelopidas

Roman Apophthegms

Quotes reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Cato the elder wondered how that city was preserved wherein a fish was sold for more than an ox.
    • Cato the Elder
  • Cato instigated the magistrates to punish all offenders, saying that they that did not prevent crimes when they might, encouraged them. Of young men, he liked them that blushed better than those who looked pale.
    • Cato the Elder
  • Cato requested old men not to add the disgrace of wickedness to old age, which was accompanied with many other evils.
    • Cato the Elder
  • He said they that were serious in ridiculous matters would be ridiculous in serious affairs.
    • Cato the Elder
  • Cicero said loud-bawling orators were driven by their weakness to noise, as lame men to take horse.
    • Cicero
  • After the battle in Pharsalia, when Pompey was fled, one Nonius said they had seven eagles left still, and advised to try what they would do. "Your advice," said Cicero, "were good if we were to fight jackdaws."
    • Cicero
  • After he routed Pharnaces Ponticus at the first assault, he wrote thus to his friends: "I came, I saw, I conquered."
    • Cæsar
  • As Cæsar was at supper the discourse was of death,—which sort was the best. "That," said he, "which is unexpected."
    • Cæsar
  • As Athenodorus was taking his leave of Cæsar, "Remember," said he, "Cæsar, whenever you are angry, to say or do nothing before you have repeated the four-and-twenty letters to yourself."
    • Cæsar Augustus
  • "Young men," said Cæsar, "hear an old man to whom old men hearkened when he was young."
    • Cæsar Augustus

Consolation to Apollonius

Quotes reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Socrates thought that if all our misfortunes were laid in one common heap, whence every one must take an equal portion, most persons would be contented to take their own and depart.
  • Diogenes the Cynic, when a little before his death he fell into a slumber, and his physician rousing him out of it asked him whether anything ailed him, wisely answered, "Nothing, sir; only one brother anticipates another,—Sleep before Death."
  • About Pontus there are some creatures of such an extempore being that the whole term of their life is confined within the space of a day; for they are brought forth in the morning, are in the prime of their existence at noon, grow old at night, and then die.
  • The measure of a man's life is the well spending of it, and not the length.
  • For many, as Cranton tells us, and those very wise men, not now but long ago, have deplored the condition of human nature, esteeming life a punishment, and to be born a man the highest pitch of calamity; this, Aristotle tells us, Silenus declared when he was brought captive to Midas.
  • There are two sentences inscribed upon the Delphic oracle, hugely accommodated to the usages of man's life: "Know thyself," and "Nothing too much;" and upon these all other precepts depend.

Laconic Apophthegms

Quotes reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • To one commending an orator for his skill in amplifying petty matters, Agesilaus said, "I do not think that shoemaker a good workman that makes a great shoe for a little foot."
    • Of Agesilaus the Great
  • "I will show," said Agesilaus, "that it is not the places that grace men, but men the places."
    • Of Agesilaus the Great
  • When one asked him what boys should learn, "That," said he, "which they shall use when men."
    • Of Agesilaus the Great
  • Agesilaus was very fond of his children; and it is reported that once toying with them he got astride upon a reed as upon a horse, and rode about the room; and being seen by one of his friends, he desired him not to speak of it till he had children of his own.
    • Of Agesilaus the Great
  • When Demaratus was asked whether he held his tongue because he was a fool or for want of words, he replied, "A fool cannot hold his tongue."
    • Of Demaratus
  • Lysander, when Dionysius sent him two gowns, and bade him choose which he would carry to his daughter, said, "She can choose best," and so took both away with him.
    • Of Lysander
  • A physician, after he had felt the pulse of Pausanias, and considered his constitution, saying, "He ails nothing," "It is because, sir," he replied, "I use none of your physic."
    • Of Pausanias the Son of Phistoanax
  • And when the physician said, "Sir, you are an old man," "That happens," replied Pausanias, "because you never were my doctor."
    • Of Pausanias the Son of Phistoanax
  • When one told Plistarchus that a notorious railer spoke well of him, "I 'll lay my life," said he, "somebody hath told him I am dead, for he can speak well of no man living."
    • Of Plistarchus

Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)

Quotes reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • The most perfect soul, says Heraclitus, is a dry light, which flies out of the body as lightning breaks from a cloud.
    • Life of Romulus
  • Anacharsis coming to Athens, knocked at Solon's door, and told him that he, being a stranger, was come to be his guest, and contract a friendship with him; and Solon replying, "It is better to make friends at home," Anacharsis replied, "Then you that are at home make friendship with me."
    • Life of Solon
  • τὸ μὲν ἁμαρτεῖν μηδὲν ἐν πράγμασι μεγάλοις μεῖζον ἢ κατ' ἄνθρωπόν ἐστι...
    • To conduct great matters and never commit a fault is above the force of human nature.
    • Life of Fabius
  • Menenius Agrippa concluded at length with the celebrated fable: "It once happened that all the other members of a man mutinied against the stomach, which they accused as the only idle, uncontributing part in the whole body, while the rest were put to hardships and the expense of much labour to supply and minister to its appetites."
    • Life of Coriolanus
  • Knowledge of divine things for the most part, as Heraclitus says, is lost to us by incredulity.
    • Life of Coriolanus
  • The saying of old Antigonus, who when he was to fight at Andros, and one told him, "The enemy's ships are more than ours," replied, "For how many then wilt thou reckon me?"
    • Life of Pelopidas
  • Archimedes had stated, that given the force, any given weight might be moved; and even boasted that if there were another earth, by going into it he could remove this.
    • Life of Marcellus
  • It is a difficult task, O citizens, to make speeches to the belly, which has no ears.
    • Life of Marcus Cato
  • Cato used to assert that wise men profited more by fools than fools by wise men; for that wise men avoided the faults of fools, but that fools would not imitate the good examples of wise men.
    • Life of Marcus Cato
  • He said that in his whole life he most repented of three things: one was that he had trusted a secret to a woman; another, that he went by water when he might have gone by land; the third, that he had remained one whole day without doing any business of moment.
    • Life of Marcus Cato
  • Marius said, "I see the cure is not worth the pain."
    • Life of Caius Marius
  • Extraordinary rains pretty generally fall after great battles.
    • Life of Caius Marius
  • Lysander said that the law spoke too softly to be heard in such a noise of war.
    • Life of Caius Marius
  • As it is in the proverb, played Cretan against Cretan.
    • Life of Lysander
  • Did you not know, then, that to-day Lucullus sups with Lucullus?
    • Life of Lucullus
  • It is no great wonder if in long process of time, while fortune takes her course hither and thither, numerous coincidences should spontaneously occur. If the number and variety of subjects to be wrought upon be infinite, it is all the more easy for fortune, with such an abundance of material, to effect this similarity of results.
    • Life of Sertorius
  • Agesilaus being invited once to hear a man who admirably imitated the nightingale, he declined, saying he had heard the nightingale itself.
    • Life of Agesilaus II
  • It is circumstance and proper measure that give an action its character, and make it either good or bad.
    • Life of Agesilaus II
  • The old proverb was now made good, "the mountain had brought forth a mouse."
    • Life of Agesilaus II
  • Pompey bade Sylla recollect that more worshipped the rising than the setting sun.
    • Life of Pompey
  • When some were saying that if Cæsar should march against the city they could not see what forces there were to resist him, Pompey replied with a smile, bidding them be in no concern, "for whenever I stamp my foot in any part of Italy there will rise up forces enough in an instant, both horse and foot."
    • Life of Pompey
  • The most glorious exploits do not always furnish us with the clearest discoveries of virtue or vice in men.
    • Life of Alexander
  • Whenever Alexander heard Philip had taken any town of importance, or won any signal victory, instead of rejoicing at it altogether, he would tell his companions that his father would anticipate everything, and leave him and them no opportunities of performing great and illustrious actions.
    • Life of Alexander
  • Alexander said, "I assure you I had rather excel others in the knowledge of what is excellent, than in the extent of my power and dominion."
    • Life of Alexander
  • When Alexander asked Diogenes whether he wanted anything, "Yes," said he, "I would have you stand from between me and the sun."
    • Life of Alexander
  • Even a nod from a person who is esteemed is of more force than a thousand arguments or studied sentences from others.
    • Life of Phocion
  • Demosthenes told Phocion, "The Athenians will kill you some day when they once are in a rage." "And you," said he, "if they are once in their senses."
    • Life of Phocion
  • Pythias once, scoffing at Demosthenes, said that his arguments smelt of the lamp.
    • Life of Demosthenes
  • Demosthenes overcame and rendered more distinct his inarticulate and stammering pronunciation by speaking with pebbles in his mouth.
    • Life of Demosthenes
  • In his house he had a large looking-glass, before which he would stand and go through his exercises.
    • Life of Demosthenes
  • Cicero called Aristotle a river of flowing gold, and said of Plato's Dialogues, that if Jupiter were to speak, it would be in language like theirs.
    • Life of Cicero
  • Xenophanes said, "I confess myself the greatest coward in the world, for I dare not do an ill thing."
    • Of Bashfulness
  • One made the observation of the people of Asia that they were all slaves to one man, merely because they could not pronounce that syllable No.
    • Of Bashfulness
  • Euripides was wont to say, "Silence is an answer to a wise man."
    • Of Bashfulness
  • Alexander wept when he heard from Anaxarchus that there was an infinite number of worlds; and his friends asking him if any accident had befallen him, he returns this answer: "Do you not think it a matter worthy of lamentation that when there is such a vast multitude of them, we have not yet conquered one?"
    • On the Tranquillity of the Mind
  • Like the man who threw a stone at a bitch, but hit his step-mother, on which he exclaimed, "Not so bad!"
    • On the Tranquillity of the Mind
  • Pittacus said, "Every one of you hath his particular plague, and my wife is mine; and he is very happy who hath this only".
    • On the Tranquillity of the Mind
  • He was a man, which, as Plato saith, is a very inconstant creature.
    • On the Tranquillity of the Mind
  • The pilot cannot mitigate the billows or calm the winds.
    • On the Tranquillity of the Mind
  • I, for my own part, had much rather people should say of me that there neither is nor ever was such a man as Plutarch, than that they should say, "Plutarch is an unsteady, fickle, froward, vindictive, and touchy fellow."
    • Of Superstition
  • Remember what Simonides said,—that he never repented that he had held his tongue, but often that he had spoken.
    • Rules for the Preservation of Health, 7
  • Custom is almost a second nature.
    • Rules for the Preservation of Health, 18
  • Epaminondas is reported wittily to have said of a good man that died about the time of the battle of Leuctra, "How came he to have so much leisure as to die, when there was so much stirring?"
    • Rules for the Preservation of Health, 25
  • Have in readiness this saying of Solon, "But we will not give up our virtue in exchange for their wealth."
    • How to profit by our Enemies
  • Anacharsis said a man's felicity consists not in the outward and visible favours and blessings of Fortune, but in the inward and unseen perfections and riches of the mind.
    • The Banquet of the Seven Wise Men, 11
  • Said Periander, "Hesiod might as well have kept his breath to cool his pottage."
    • The Banquet of the Seven Wise Men, 14
  • Socrates said, "Bad men live that they may eat and drink, whereas good men eat and drink that they may live."
    • How a Young Man ought to hear Poems, 4
  • And Archimedes, as he was washing, thought of a manner of computing the proportion of gold in King Hiero's crown by seeing the water flowing over the bathing-stool. He leaped up as one possessed or inspired, crying, "I have found it! Eureka!"
    • Pleasure not attainable according to Epicurus, 11
  • Said Scopas of Thessaly, "We rich men count our felicity and happiness to lie in these superfluities, and not in those necessary things."
    • Of the Love of Wealth
  • That proverbial saying, "Ill news goes quick and far."
    • Of Inquisitiveness
  • A traveller at Sparta, standing long upon one leg, said to a Lacedæmonian, "I do not believe you can do as much." "True," said he, "but every goose can."
    • Remarkable Speeches
  • Spintharus, speaking in commendation of Epaminondas, says he scarce ever met with any man who knew more and spoke less.
    • Of Hearing, 6
  • It is a thing of no great difficulty to raise objections against another man's oration,—nay, it is a very easy matter; but to produce a better in its place is a work extremely troublesome.
    • Of Hearing, 6
  • As those persons who despair of ever being rich make little account of small expenses, thinking that little added to a little will never make any great sum.
    • Of Man's Progress in Virtue
  • What is bigger than an elephant? But this also is become man's plaything, and a spectacle at public solemnities; and it learns to skip, dance, and kneel.
    • Of Fortune
  • No man ever wetted clay and then left it, as if there would be bricks by chance and fortune.
    • Of Fortune
  • Alexander was wont to say, "Were I not Alexander, I would be Diogenes."
    • Of the Fortune or Virtue of Alexander the Great
  • Like watermen, who look astern while they row the boat ahead.
    • Whether 't was rightfully said, Live Concealed
  • Socrates said he was not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.
    • Of Banishment
  • Anaximander says that men were first produced in fishes, and when they were grown up and able to help themselves were thrown up, and so lived upon the land.
    • Symposiacs, book viii. Question viii
  • Athenodorus says hydrophobia, or water-dread, was first discovered in the time of Asclepiades.
    • Symposiacs, book viii. Question IX
  • Let us not wonder if something happens which never was before, or if something doth not appear among us with which the ancients were acquainted.
    • Symposiacs, book viii. Question IX
  • Why does pouring oil on the sea make it clear and calm? Is it for that the winds, slipping the smooth oil, have no force, nor cause any waves?
    • Symposiacs, book viii. Question IX
  • The great god Pan is dead.
    • Why the Oracles cease to give Answers
  • I am whatever was, or is, or will be; and my veil no mortal ever took up.
    • Of Isis and Osiris
  • When Hermodotus in his poems described Antigonus as the son of Helios, "My valet-de-chambre," said he, "is not aware of this."
    • Of Isis and Osiris
  • There is no debt with so much prejudice put off as that of justice.
    • Of those whom God is slow to punish
  • It is a difficult thing for a man to resist the natural necessity of mortal passions.
    • Of those whom God is slow to punish
  • He is a fool who lets slip a bird in the hand for a bird in the bush.
    • Of Garrulity
  • We are more sensible of what is done against custom than against Nature.
    • Of Eating of Flesh, Tract 1
  • When Demosthenes was asked what was the first part of oratory, he answered, "Action;" and which was the second, he replied, "Action;" and which was the third, he still answered, "Action."
    • Lives of the Ten Orators
  • Xenophon says that there is no sound more pleasing than one's own praises.
    • Whether an Aged Man ought to meddle in State Affairs
  • Lampis, the sea commander, being asked how he got his wealth, answered, "My greatest estate I gained easily enough, but the smaller slowly and with much labour."
    • Whether an Aged Man ought to meddle in State Affairs
  • The general himself ought to be such a one as can at the same time see both forward and backward.
    • Whether an Aged Man ought to meddle in State Affairs
  • Statesmen are not only liable to give an account of what they say or do in public, but there is a busy inquiry made into their very meals, beds, marriages, and every other sportive or serious action.
    • Political Precepts
  • Leo Byzantius said, "What would you do, if you saw my wife, who scarce reaches up to my knees?… Yet," went he on, "as little as we are, when we fall out with each other, the city of Byzantium is not big enough to hold us."
    • Political Precepts
  • Cato said, "I had rather men should ask why my statue is not set up, than why it is."
    • Political Precepts
  • It was the saying of Bion, that though the boys throw stones at frogs in sport, yet the frogs do not die in sport but in earnest.
    • Which are the most crafty, Water or Land Animals?, 7
  • Both Empedocles and Heraclitus held it for a truth that man could not be altogether cleared from injustice in dealing with beasts as he now does.
    • Which are the most crafty, Water or Land Animals?, 7
  • Simonides calls painting silent poetry, and poetry speaking painting.
    • Whether the Athenians were more Warlike or Learned, 3
  • As Meander says, "For our mind is God;" and as Heraclitus, "Man's genius is a deity."
    • Platonic Questions, i
  • Pythagoras, when he was asked what time was, answered that it was the soul of this world.
    • Platonic Questions, viii, 4

Quotes about Plutarch

  • [Plutarch's Parallel Lives contain] so many beautiful and serious discourses throughout, derived from the deepest and most hidden secrets of moral and natural philosophy, so many wise warnings, and fruitful advice.
    • Jacques Amyot, Plutarch, Les vies des hommes illustres (Paris, 1565 [second edition of Amyot's version]), quoted in Peter Burke, 'A Survey of the Popularity of Ancient Historians, 1450–1700', History and Theory, Vol. 5, No. 2 (1966), p. 142
  • [Plutarch's Lives are] crowded with very wise maxims and rules of life.
    • David Chytraeus in the anthology Artis Historicae Penus (Basel, 1579), II, 477, quoted in Peter Burke, 'A Survey of the Popularity of Ancient Historians, 1450–1700', History and Theory, Vol. 5, No. 2 (1966), p. 142
  • [Plutarch's works contains] the sum of Greek and Latin history made up of great maxims and greater instances, noble precepts and nobler examples, set off with...vigorous eloquence.
    • David Lloyd, The Worthies of the World (London, 1665), quoted in Peter Burke, 'A Survey of the Popularity of Ancient Historians, 1450–1700', History and Theory, Vol. 5, No. 2 (1966), pp. 142-143
  • In the writings of such "pagan" philosophers as Plutarch and Porphyry we find a humanitarian ethic of the most exalted kind, which, after undergoing a long repression during medieval churchdom, reappeared, albeit but weakly and fitfully at first, in the literature of the Renaissance, to be traced more definitely in the eighteenth century school of "sensibility."
  • [I]t is extremely difficult to say whether he wishes to expound moral philosophy with historical examples, or decorate the narration of important affairs...with philosophical arguments.
    • Francesco Sansovino, dedication to Plutarch, Le vite de gli uomini illustri (Venice, 1564), quoted in Peter Burke, 'A Survey of the Popularity of Ancient Historians, 1450–1700', History and Theory, Vol. 5, No. 2 (1966), p. 142
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Social and political philosophers
Classic AristotleMarcus AureliusChanakyaCiceroConfuciusMozi LaoziMenciusMoziPlatoPlutarchPolybiusSeneca the YoungerSocratesSun TzuThucydidesXenophonXun Zi
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