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


  • [Called by Cicero the “Father of Philosophy;” born at Athens about 470 B.C.; served in the Peloponnesian war; held the office of senator; began to teach about 425 B.C.; accused of seeking to introduce new deities, and of corrupting the Athenian youth; sentenced to death by poison 400 or 399 B.C.]
  • After thunder follows rain.

  • When Xanthippe his wife, who had been scolding him sharply, threw water over him.
  • She hesitated at putting on his mantle to see a procession, whereupon he said, “What you are going for is not to see, but to be seen.”
  • We do not live to eat: we eat to live.

  • Quoted by Diogenes Laërtius, and Athenæus (“Deipnosophisten”). Molière uses the expression: “Following the dictum of an ancient philosopher, il faut manger pour vivre, et non pas vivre pour manger.”—L’Avare, III. 5.
  • I would lash thee, were I not angry.

  • To a slave.
  • As it is the attribute of God to want nothing, so to want as little as possible comes the nearest to God.

  • Memorabilia, I. 6. Seeing the luxury of certain ceremonies, and the quantity of gold and silver used in them, he remarked, “How many things I do not want!” When told that it was a great thing to get what one desired, he replied, “It is a still greater thing to have no desires.”
  • King Archelaus invited him to leave the dirty streets of Athens, and come to live at his sumptuous court; but he answered, “Meal, please your majesty, is half a penny a peck at Athens, and water I can get for nothing.”
  • By what means do I engage in state affairs to the greatest advantage; by busying myself in them alone, or by taking care that as many as possible may be capable of conducting them?

  • Memorabilia, I. 6.
  • If all our misfortunes were laid in one common heap, whence every one must take an equal portion, most people would be contented to take their own and depart.

  • PLUTARCH: Consolation to Apollonius.
  • I am preparing the sauce for my supper.

  • To a friend, who saw him walking rapidly: or, as it is given as an aphorism, “Hunger is the best sauce; for it makes all food palatable, and costs nothing.” Dionysius of Sicily, having heard a certain Spartan dish praised, secured a Lacedæmonian cook, and told him to prepare it. When, however, he found it unpalatable, the cook told him he had eaten it without the Spartan sauce,—work, exercise, hunger, and thirst. “Hunger,” writes Cicero (“De Finibus,” II. 28), “is the best seasoning for meat.”
  • Do you know any place out of Attica where people do not die?

  • When Crito told him that the jailer had been gained over, and that he could escape into Thessaly. Among the last words of Socrates before drinking the hemlock, were: “Crito, we owe a cock to Esculapius: pay it, I pray you; neglect it not.”