Arthur Fairbanks, trans. and ed., The First Philosophers of Greece (Scribner, 1898)
Electronic Text by Flask at Grove, University of Florida..
- Not on my authority, but on that of truth, it is wise for you to accept
the fact that all things are one.
- This truth, though it always exists, men do not understand, as well
before they hear it as when they hear it for the first time. For
although all things happen in accordance with this truth, men seem
unskilled indeed when they make trial of words and matters such as I
am setting forth, in my effort to discriminate each thing according to
its nature, and to tell what its state is. But other men fail to notice
what they do when awake, in the same manner that they forget what they do
- Those who hear without the power to understand are like deaf men; the
proverb holds true of them -- 'Present, they are absent.'
- Eyes and ears are bad witnesses for men, since their souls lack
- Most men do not understand such things as they are wont to meet with; nor
by learning do they come to know them, though they think they do.
- They know not how to listen, nor how to speak.
- If you do not hope, you will not find that which is not hoped for; since
it is difficult to discover and impossible to attain.
- Seekers for gold dig much earth, and find little gold.
- Nature loves to hide.
- The lord at Delphi neither speaks nor conceals, but gives a sign.
- And the Sibyl with raving mouth, uttering words solemn, unadorned, and
unsweetened, reaches with her voice a thousand years because of the god
- What can be seen, heard, and learned, this I prize.
- (For this is characteristic of the present age, when, inasmuch as all
lands and seas may be crossed by man, it would no longer be fitting to
depend on the witness of poets and mythographers, as our ancestors
generally did), 'bringing forth untrustworthy witnesses to confirm
disputed points,' in the words of Herakleitos.
- Eyes are more exact witnesses than ears.
- Much learning does not teach one to have understanding; else it would
have taught Hesiod, and Pythagoras, and again Xenophanes, and Hekataios.
- Pythagoras, son of Mnesarchos, prosecuted investigations more than any
other man, and he made a wisdom of his own -- much learning and bad art.
- No one of all whose discourses I have heard has arrived at this result:
the recognition that wisdom is apart from all other things.
- Wisdom is one thing: [to understand the intelligence by which all
things are steered through all things]; it is willing and it is
unwilling to be called by the name Zeus.
- This order, the same for all things, no one of gods or men has made, but
it always was, and is, and ever shall be, an ever-living fire, kindling
according to fixed measure, and extinguised according to fixed measure.
- The transformations of fire are, first of all, sea; and of the sea one
half is earth, and the other half is lightning flash.
- All things are exchanged for fire, and fire for all things; as wares
are exchanged for gold, and gold for wares.
- (The earth) is poured out as sea, and measures the same amount as
existed before it became earth.
- Want and satiety.
- Fire lives in the death of earth, and air lives in the death of fire;
water lives in the death of air, and earth in that of water.
- Fire coming upon all things will test them, and lay hold of them.
- How could one escape the notice of that which never sets?
- The thunderbolt directs the course of all things.
- The sun will not overstep his bounds; if he does, the Erinnyes, allies of
justice, will find him out.
- The limit of the evening and the morning is the Bear; and opposite the
Bear is the boundary of bright Zeus.
- If there were no sun, it would be night.
- The sun is new every day.
- (Herakleitos and Demokritos bear witness that Thales was an astronomer,
and predicted eclipses, etc.)
- The seasons bring all things.
- Hesiod is the teacher of most men; they suppose that his knowledge was
very extensive, when in fact he did not know night and day, for they
- God is day and night, winter and summer, war and peace, satiety and
hunger; but he assumes different forms, just as when incense is mingled
with incense; every one gives him the name he pleases.
- If all things should become smoke, then perception would be by the
- Souls smell in Hades.
- Cool things become warm the warm grows cool; the wet dries, the parched
- It scatters and brings together; it approaches and departs.
- You could not step twice in the same rivers; for the other and yet
other waters are ever flowing on.
- Herakleitos blamed Homer for saying: would that strife might perish from
among gods and men! For then, said he, all things would pass away.
- War is father of all and king of all; and some he made gods and some
men, some slaves and some free.
- Men do not understand how that which draws apart agrees with itself;
harmony lies in the bending back, as for instance of the bow and of
- Opposition unites. From what draws apart results the most beautiful
harmony. All things take place by strife.
- Hidden harmony is better than manifest.
- Let us not make rash conjectures about the greatest things.
- Men who desire wisdom must be learners of very many things.
- For woolcarders the straight and the crooked path is one and the same.
- Asses would rather have refuse than gold.
- The sea is the purest and the foulest water; it is drinkable and
healthful for fishes; but for men it is unfit to drink and hurtful.
- Swine like to wash in the mire; barnyard fowls in dust.
- Every beast is tended by blows
- Good and bad are the same.
- ...physicians, who cut and burn and in every way torment the sick,
complain that they do not receive any adequate recompense from them.
- Thou shouldst unite things whole and things not whole, that which tends
to unite and that which tends to seperate, the harmonious and the
discordant; from all things arises the one, and from the one all things.
- They would not have known the name of justice, were it not for these
- ...for god all things are fair and good and just, but men suppose that
some are unjust and others just.
- Men should know that war is general and that justice is strife; all things
arise and [pass away] through strife.
- For they are absolutely destined...
- All the things we see when awake are death, and all the things we
see when asleep are sleep.
- The name of the bow is life, but its work is death.
- Gods are mortals, men are immortals, each living in the others' death
and dying in the others' life.
- For to souls it is death to become water, and for water it is death to
become earth; but water is formed from earth, and from water, soul.
- Upward, downward, the way is one and the same.
- Beginning and end are common (to both ways).
- The limits of the soul you could not discover, though traversing every
- It is a delight to souls to become wet.
- Whenever a man gets drunk, he is led about by a beardless boy, stumbling,
not knowing whither he goes, for his soul is wet.
- The dry soul is wisest and best.
- Man, like a light in the night, is kindled and put out.
- Life and death, and waking and sleeping, and youth and old age, are the
same; for the latter change and are the former, and the former change
back to the latter.
- Lifetime is a child playing draughts; the kingdom is a child's.
- I inquired of myself.
- In the same rivers we step and we do not step; we are and we are not.
- It is weariness to toil at the same things, and to be subject to them.
- Changing it finds rest.
- Even a potion separates into its ingredients when it is not stirred.
- Corpses are more fit to be thrown away than dung.
- Being born they wish to live and to meet death, and they leave behind
children to die.
- The sleeping are workmen (and fellow-workers) in what happens in the
- Understanding is common to all. It is necessary for those who speak with
intelligence to hold fast to the common element of all, as a city holds
fast to law, and much more strongly. For all human laws are nourished
by one which is divine, and it has power so much as it will; and it
suffices for all things and more than suffices.
- And though reason is common, most people live as though they had an
understanding peculiar to themselves.
- With what they most constantly associate, with this they are at
- It is not meet to act and speak like men asleep.
- They that are awake have one world in common, but of the sleeping each
turns aside into a world of his own.
- For human nature has not wisdom, but divine nature has.
- Man is called a baby by god, even as a child is by man.
- The people ought to fight for their laws as for a wall.
- Greater deaths gain greater portions.
- Gods and men honour those slain in battle.
- Wantonness must be quenched more than a conflagration.
- It is not good for men to have whatever they want. Disease makes
health sweet and good; hunger, satiety; toil, rest.
- It is hard to contend with passion; for whatever it desires to get it buys
at the cost of soul.
- It is the part of all men to know themselves and to be temperate.
- To be temperate is the greatest virtue; and it is wisdom to speak the
truth and to act according to nature with understanding.
- It is better to conceal stupidity, but it is an effort in time of
relaxation and over the wine.
- It is better to conceal ignorance than to put it forth into the midst.
- It is law to obey the counsel of one.
- For what sense or understanding have they? They follow the bards and
employ the crowd as their teacher, not knowing that many are bad and
few good. For the very best choose one thing before all others,
immortal glory among mortals, while the masses eat their fill like
- In Priene was Bias son of Teutamas, who is of more account than the
- To me one man is ten thousand if he be the best.
- The Ephesians deserve to be hanged, every one that is a man grown,
and the youth to abandon the city, for they cast out Hermodoros
the best man among them, saying: -- Let no one among us be best, and if
one be best, let him be so elsewhere and among others.
- Dogs also bark at those they do not know.
- As the result of incredulity (divine things) miss being known.
- The fool is wont to be in a flutter at every word.
- The most esteemed of those in estimation knows how to be on his guard;
yet truly justice shall overtake forgers of lies and witnesses to them.
- (He used to say that) Homer deserved to be cast out of the lists and
flogged, and Archilochos likewise.
- One day is equal to every other.
- Character is a man's guardian divinity.
- There awaits men at death what they do not expect or think.
- Then [it is necessary] that God raise them up, and that they become
guardians of the living and the dead.
- Night-walkers, wizards, bacchanals, revellers, sharers in the mysteries.
- For what are esteemed mysteries among men they celebrate in an unholy
- For if it were not to Dionysos that they made the procession and sang the
song with phallic symbols, their deeds would indeed be most shameful;
but Hades and Dionysos are the same, to whomever they go mad and share
- (Herakleitos fittingly called religious rites) cures (for the soul).
- They purify themselves by defiling themselves with blood, as if one who
had stepped into the mud to wash it off with mud. If any one of men
should observe him doing so, he would think he was insane. And to these
images they pray, just as if one were to converse with men's houses, for
they know not what gods and heroes are.
- If they are gods, why do ye lament them? And if ye lament them, no
longer consider them gods.
- All things are full of souls and of divine spirits.
- He was wont to say that false opinion is a sacred disease, and that vision
- Each one who has come to be esteemed without due grounds, out to hide his
- False opinion of progress is the stoppage of progress.
- Their education is a second sun to those that have been educated.
- As food is timely in famine, so opportune favour heals the need of the
- The same one was wont to say that the shortest way to glory was to become
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