Chilon of Sparta

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Chilon of Sparta

Chilon (fl. 555 BC) was a Spartan politician reckoned one of the seven wise men.


According to Diogenes Laërtius, The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers

Chilo, the Spartan sage, these sentences said:

  • Seek no excess—all timely things are good.
  • Suretyship, and then destruction.

He wrote:
Gold is best tested by a whetstone hard,
Which gives a certain proof of purity;
And gold itself acts as the test of men,
By which we know the temper of their minds.

He advised:

  • To threaten no one; for that is a womanly trick.
  • To be more prompt to go to one’s friends in adversity than in prosperity.
  • To make but a moderate display at one’s marriage.
  • Not to speak evil of the dead.
  • To honor old age.
  • To keep a watch upon oneself.
  • To prefer punishment to disgraceful gain; for the one is painful but once, but the other for one’s whole life.
  • Not to laugh at a person in misfortune.
  • If one is strong to be also merciful, so that one’s neighbors may respect one rather than fear one.
  • To learn how to regulate one’s own house well.
  • Not to let one’s tongue outrun one’s sense.
  • To restrain anger.
  • Not to dislike divination.
  • Not to desire what is impossible.
  • Not to make too much haste on one’s road.
  • When speaking not to gesticulate with the hand; for that is like a madman.
  • To obey the laws.
  • To love quiet.

to Periander:

  • a sole governor is in a slippery position at home; and I consider that tyrant a fortunate man who dies a natural death in his own house.

He also said once to his brother, who was indignant at not being an ephor, while he himself was one:

  • The reason is because I know how to bear injustice, but you do not.

Being asked in what educated men differed from those who were illiterate, he said:

  • In good hopes.

Having had the question put to him, “What was difficult?” he said:

  • To be silent about secrets; to make good use of one’s leisure, and to be able to submit to injustice.

And besides these three things he added further:

  • To rule one’s tongue, especially at a banquet, and not to speak ill of one’s neighbors; for if one does so one is sure to hear what one will not like.

It was a saying of his that a foresight of future events, such as could be arrived at by consideration, was the virtue of a man.

Quotes about[edit]

'The warlike Sparta called this Chilo son,'
'The wisest man of all the seven sages.'

  • engraved on his statue