S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.


  • [One of the Seven Wise Men of Greece; became an ephor of Sparta, B.C. 556; and died of joy at the victory of his son at the Olympic Games.]
  • Know thyself.

  • The two inscriptions upon the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, “Know thyself” ([Greek]), and “Nothing to excess,” which appears most commonly in the Latin form (Ne quid nimis), employed by Terence (“Andria,” I. 1), are referred, the first to Chilo and Thales, the second to Chilo and Solon. La Fontaine transferred the latter maxim quite literally to the French language when he wrote:—
  • “Rien de trop est un point.”
  • Book IX., Fable 11.
  • Thales, when asked what were the hardest and easiest things in the world, replied, “The hardest, to know thyself; the easiest, to blame another’s actions.” Goethe objected to the first maxim, that it promoted excessive introspection. “Hypochondria,” he said, “is nothing but sinking into the subjective” (Hypochondrisch sein heisst nichts anders als im Subjekt versinken).—Table Talk, Riemer, II. 1814. But he declares again, “Man only knows himself in so far as he knows the world;” and, “The highest point to which man can attain is the consciousness of his own sensations and thoughts, the knowledge of himself.” Montaigne declared that he studied nothing but to know himself; and Pope versifies the philosophy of ages:—
  • “Know then thyself, presume not God to scan:
  • The proper study of mankind is man.”
  • Essay on Man, II. 1.
  • When asked by Æsop how Zeus employed himself, Chilo replied, “In humbling those that exalt themselves, and exalting them that abase themselves.”
  • “Gold,” he said, “is tried with the touchstone, and men with gold.”
  • Chilo first advised that “nothing but good be spoken of the dead;” which comes to us through the Latin translation (de mortuis nil nisi bonum) of a maxim in the “Life of Chilo,” by Diogenes Laërtius, only slightly modified by Thucydides, II. 45: “Everyone ought to praise the dead.” Cicero said, “A good name is the possession of the dead” (Bona fama possessio defunctorum).