Chilon of Sparta
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
'The warlike Sparta called this Chilo son,'
'The wisest man of all the seven sages.'
- engraved on his statue