Theognis of Megara
Theognis of Megara (fl. 6th century BC) was an ancient Greek poet. More than half of the elegiac poetry of Greece before the Alexandrian period is included in the 1,400 lines ascribed to Theognis.
- One finds many companions for food and drink, but in a serious business a man's companions are few.
- Line 115.
- We struggle onward, ignorant and blind,
- For a result unknown and undesign’d;
- Avoiding seeming ills, misunderstood,
- Embracing evil as a seeming good.
- Lines 137-139, as translated by J. Banks, The Works of Hesiod, Callimachus, and Theognis (1856), p. 464
- Even to a wicked man a divinity gives wealth, Cyrus, but to few men comes the gift of excellence.
- Line 149.
- Surfeit begets insolence, when prosperity comes to a bad man.
- Line 153.
- The lucky man is honored ...
- But earnest striving wins no praise at all.
- Lines 169-170, as translated by Dorothea Wender.
- Adopt the character of the twisting octopus, which takes on the appearance of the nearby rock. Now follow in this direction, now turn a different hue.
- Line 215.
- Don’t wag the tail of life if it goes well,
- But leave in undisturbed. If it should go
- Badly, rock it until it straightens up.
- Lines 303-305, as translated by Dorothea Wender.
- πολλοί τοι πλουτοῦσι κακοί, ἀγαθοὶ δὲ πένονται:
- ἀλλ᾽ ἡμεῖς τούτοις οὐ διαμειψόμεθα
- τῆς ἀρετῆς τὸν πλοῦτον, ἐπεὶ τὸ μὲν ἔμπεδον αἰεί,
- χρήματα δ᾽ ἀνθρώπων ἄλλοτε ἄλλος ἔχει.
- Many bad men are rich, many good men are poor. But we will not exchange wealth for virtue along with them. One man has money now, another has money at another time. Money goes around, whereas virtue endures.
- Lines 315-318, also attributed to Solon
- Too many tongues have gates which fly apart
Too easily, and care for many things
That don’t concern them.
- Lines 421-423, as translated by Dorothea Wender.
- Πάντων μὲν μὴ φῦναι ἐπιχθονίοισιν ἄριστον
μηδ' ἐσιδεῖν αὐγὰς ὀξέος ἠελίου,
φύντα δ' ὅπως ὤκιστα πύλας Ἀίδαο περῆσαι
καὶ κεῖσθαι πολλὴν γῆν ἐπαμησάμενον.
- The best of all things for earthly men is not to be born and not to see the beams of the bright sun; but if born, than as quickly as possible to pass the gates of Hades, and to lie deep buried.
- Lines 425-428.
- ἀμφ' ἀρετῇ τρίβου, καί τοι τὰ δίκαια φίλ’ ἔστω,
- μηδέ σε νικάτω κέρδος ὅ τ’ αἰσχρὸν ἔῃ.
- Spend time on excellence, and love the right,
- And don’t let shameful profit master you.
- Lines 465-466, as translated by Dorothea Wender.
- Wine is wont to show the mind of man.
- Line 500.
- Ploutos, no wonder mortals worship you:
You are so tolerant of their sins!
- Lines 523-524, as translated by Dorothea Wender.
- Unless the gods deceive my mind,
That man is forging fetters for himself.
- Lines 539-540, as translated by Dorothea Wender.
- The deckhands are in control, and the base have the upper hand over the noble.
- Line 667
- No man takes with him to Hades all his exceeding wealth.
- Line 725, comparable to: "For when he dieth he shall carry nothing away, his glory shall not descend after him", Psalm xlix, 17.
- Bright youth passes swiftly as a thought.
- Line 985.
Quotes about Theognis
- Theognis appears as a finely formed nobleman who has fallen on bad times, with the passions of a nobleman such as his time loved, full of fatal hatred toward the upward striving masses, tossed about by a sad fate that wore him down and made him milder in many respects. He is a characteristic image of that old, ingenious somewhat spoiled and no longer firmly rooted blood nobility, placed at the boundary of an old and a new era, a distorted Janus-head, since what is past seems so beautiful and enviable, that which is coming — something that basically has an equal entitlement — seems disgusting and repulsive; a typical head for all those noble figures who represent the aristocracy prior to a popular revolution and who struggle for the existence of the class of nobles as for their individual existence.
- Friedrich Nietzsche, as quoted in Friedrich Nietzsche (1978) by Curt Paul Janz, quoted and translated in On the Genealogy of Morality : A Polemic (1998) by Maudemarie Clark and Alan Swensen, p. 133.