Useful Greek and Roman Quotations

Pithy Prose for Politicians, Preachers, Professors, Pundits, and Public Speakers.

By Mark D. Harris

Better be wise by the misfortunes of others than by your own.

In critical moments even the very powerful have need of the weakest.

It is thrifty to prepare today for the wants of tomorrow.

Aesop (620 BC – 560 BC)

Courage is of no value unless accompanied by justice; yet if all men became just, there would be no need for courage.

If all men were just, there would be no need for valor.

If I have done any deed worthy of remembrance, that deed will be my monument. If not, no monument can preserve my memory.

It is not the places that grace men, but men the places

It isn’t positions which lend distinction, but men who enhance positions.

Agesilaus the Second (443-359 BC, King of Sparta 401-360 BC)


Music is part of us, and either ennobles or degrades our behavior

Who would give a law to lovers? Love is unto itself a higher law.

Music is so naturally united with us that we cannot be free from it even if we so desired.

Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius, (A.D. 475-523?, Roman Statesman)


Familiarity breeds contempt, while rarity wins admiration. Apuleius (124 – 170)


Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.

Misfortune shows those who are not really friends.

Liars when they speak the truth are not believed.

Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.

Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC)


A happy life consists in tranquility of mind.

Advice is judged by results, not by intentions.

Never go to excess, but let moderation be your guide.

Cicero (106 BC – 43 BC)


Acquaintance lessens fame.

Here is a field open for talent; and here, merit will a have certain favor, and industry is graced with its due reward.

No one is free who does not lord over himself.

No one is more miserable than the person who wills everything and can do nothing.

Say not always what you know, but always know what you say.

To do no evil is good, to intend none better.

To do nothing evil is good; to wish nothing evil is better.

Claudius (10 BC-54 AD, Roman Caesar)


By desiring little, a poor man makes himself rich.

Do not trust all men, but trust men of worth; the former course is silly, the latter a mark of prudence.

Happiness resides not in possessions and not in gold; happiness dwells in the soul.

Hope of ill gain is the beginning of loss.

If thou suffer injustice, console thyself; the true unhappiness is in doing it.

Now as of old the gods give men all good things, excepting only those that are baneful and injurious and useless. These, now as of old, are not gifts of the gods: men stumble into them themselves because of their own blindness and folly.

The wrongdoer is more unfortunate than the man wronged.

Democritus (460-370 BC Greek)


He who confers a favor should at once forget it, if he is not to show a sordid ungenerous spirit.

To remind a man of a kindness conferred and to talk of it, is very much like reproach.

Beware lest in your anxiety to avoid war you obtain a master.

Small opportunities are often the beginning of great enterprises.

Nothing is easier than self-deceit. For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true.

A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true.

The readiest and surest way to get rid of censure, is to correct ourselves.

What we have in us of the image of God is the love of truth and justice.

Demosthenes (384 BC – 322 BC)


The laws of nature are but the mathematical thoughts of God. Euclid (325 BC-265 BC, Greek mathematician)


Short is the joy that guilty pleasure brings.

Do not consider painful what is good for you.

Waste not fresh tears over old griefs.

Your very silence shows you agree.

A bad beginning makes a bad ending.

Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish.

Euripides (484 BC – 406 BC)


One good turn deserves another.

What power has law where only money rules.

You see a louse on someone else, but not a tick on yourself. —In alio pediculum, in te ricinum non vides

Gaius Petronius Arbiter (27-66 A.D, Emperor Nero’s advisor)


There is nothing more foolish than a foolish laugh. Risu inepto res ineptior nulla est

I hate and I love. Perhaps you ask why I do so. I do not know, but I feel it, and am in agony.

It is difficult to suddenly give up a long love. Difficile est longum subito deponere amorem

Gaius Valerius Catullus (c.84 B.C. – c.54 B.C. Roman lyric poet)


A man’s character is his fate. Heraclitus (540 BC – 480 BC)


Force has no place where there is need of skill.

Great deeds are usually wrought at great risks.

Haste in every business brings failures.

Herodotus (484 BC – 430 BC, Greek historian & traveler)


What is food to one man is bitter poison to others.

Such evil deeds could religion prompt.

Nothing can be created from nothing.

What is food to one, is to others bitter poison.

The falling drops at last will wear the stone.

Lucretius (96 BC – 55 BC)


It is easier to do many things than to do one thing continuously for a long time.

Our minds are like our stomachs; they are whetted by the change of their food, and variety supplies both with fresh appetites.

The pretended admission of a fault on our part creates an excellent impression.

We excuse our sloth under the pretext of difficulty.

We must form our minds by reading deep rather than wide.

Marcus Fabius Quintilian (35 – 90) Roman orator


After I’m dead I’d rather have people ask why I have no monument than why I have one.

An angry man opens his mouth and shuts his eyes.

Old age isn’t so bad when you consider the alternatives.

The best way to keep good acts in memory is to refresh them with new.

The first virtue is to restrain the tongue; he approaches nearest to the gods who knows how to be silent, even though he is in the right.

Marcus Porcius Cato (95-46 BC, Cato the Younger)


Conceal a flaw, and the world will imagine the worst. Marcus Valerius Martialis (40 – 103)


Wait for that wisest of all counselors, Time.

Fishes live in the sea, as men do on land: the great ones eat up the little ones.

For famous men have the whole earth as their memorial.

Trees, though they are cut and lopped, grow up again quickly, but if men are destroyed, it is not easy to get them again.

Pericles (490 BC – 429 BC)


To add insult to injury.

The mind ought sometimes to be diverted that it may return the better to thinking.

The humble suffer when the mighty disagree.

There is danger in both belief and unbelief.

Men in however high a station ought to fear the humble.

Aggression unchallenged is aggression unleashed.

It is destruction to the weak man to attempt to imitate the powerful.

Phaedrus (15 BC – 50 AD)


Mankind is poised midway between the gods and the beasts.

Knowledge, if it does not determine action, is dead to us.

Knowledge has three degrees-opinion, science, illumination. The means or instrument of the first is sense; of the second, dialectic; of the third, intuition.

Plotinus (204 or 205 C.E., Egyptian Philosopher)


Those who know how to win are much more numerous than those who know how to make proper use of their victories.

There is no witness so dreadful, no accuser so terrible as the conscience that dwells in the heart of every man.

Polybius (205 BC – 118 BC)


Faith is not sure, if you cannot turn love to quarrel; may my enemies obtain a mild mistress.

Let each man pass his days in that wherein his skill is greatest.

Let no one be willing to speak ill of the absent.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Afflicted by love’s madness all are blind.

Propertius Sextus (c. 50-16 B.C.), Roman elegist.


Man is the measure of all things.

There are two sides to every question.

Protagoras (485 BC – 421 BC)


Moderation in all things.

There is nothing so easy but that it becomes difficult when you do it reluctantly.

Publius Terentius Afer “Terence” (195-159 BC)


Another such victory over the Romans, and we are undone. Pyrrhus Molossian (c.318-272 B.C, King of Epirus)


It is better wither to be silent, or to say things of more value than silence.

Sooner throw a pearl at hazard than an idle or useless word; and do not say a little in many words, but a great deal in a few.

Pythagoras (582 BC – 507 BC)


Not even the gods fight against necessity.

Simonides (556 BC – 468 BC), from Plato, Dialogues, Protagoras


I grow old learning something new every day.

In giving advice seek to help, not to please, your friend.

Let no man be called happy before his death. Till then, he is not happy, only lucky.

No man is happy; he is at best fortunate.

Put more trust in nobility of character than in an oath.

Rich people without wisdom and learning are but sheep with golden fleeces.

Society is well governed when its people obey the magistrates, and the magistrates obey the law.

Speech is the mirror of action.

Solon (636-558 BC, Greek Statesman)


Arguments about Scripture achieve nothing but a stomach ache and a headache.

He who lives only to benefit himself confers on the world a benefit when he dies.

Hope is patience with the lamp lit.

Nothing that is God’s is obtainable by money.

The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.

You can judge the quality of their faith from the way they behave. Discipline is an index to doctrine.

You cannot parcel out freedom in pieces because freedom is all or nothing.

Tertullian (160-240, Roman theologian)


Know thyself.

The past is certain, the future obscure.

A multitude of words is no proof of a prudent mind.

Thales (640 AD – 546 AD)


Justice is simply the advantage of the stronger.

Justice or right means nothing but what is to the interest of the stronger.


Thrasymachus (5th century B.C., Greek philosopher)

Men naturally despise those who court them, but respect those who do not give way to them.

The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.

The secret of happiness is freedom. The secret of freedom is courage. Wars spring from unseen and generally insignificant causes, the first outbreak being often but an explosion of anger.

The secret of happiness is freedom. The secret of freedom is courage.

The strong do what they have to do and the weak accept what they have to accept.

It is frequently a misfortune to have very brilliant men in charge of affairs. They expect too much of ordinary men.

Be convinced that to be happy means to be free and that to be free means to be brave. Therefore do not take lightly the perils of war.

The secret of Happiness is Freedom, and the secret of Freedom, Courage.

The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.

Men naturally despise those who court them, but respect those who do not give way to them.

Thucydides (born ca. 460-455 B.C. Greek Historian)


Criticism comes easier than craftsmanship. Zeuxis (464-400 BC)





We love constructive feedback! Please leave a reply.