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November 15, 2017 at 8:38 pm #2672
(COMMENT: I am not sure if this is more a work of religion or philosophy, but since it was connected to the Oracle of Delphi, and I wrote the comment in service to Apollo, I put my humble interpretation here. I shall post it in 3 parts.)
The Canon of Apollon
Based on the
147 Delphic Maxims
In the interpretation of
Gaius Florius Aetius
DEDICATED TO APOLLO MEDICUS
AND HOUSE FLORIUS
I am not going to write any lengthy historical background of these Maxims. In the early days they were believed to have come from the God Apollo, later on they were ascribed to the Seven Sages of myth, though it may be both, maybe Apollo spoke through these Sages. Whatever the case, the 147 Delphic Maxims give an interesting insight in the wisdom and ethics of Antiquity.
I have purposefully avoided reading too much info about this. I prayed and meditated at the Shrine of Apollo I am tending, and wanted to comment on these Maxims uninfluenced by any other source, to look at them with a fresh eye, praying for inspiration of Lord Apollon and using my knowledge as practical Philosopher. So of course, some of the interpretations will differ from how a Historian with detailed knowledge will comment on the Maxims. But that was not the intend here to present a reflection on historic views, but how these sentences can inspire us.
When you go over the maxims, you will realize how often they have various levels of meaning, different ways to look at them, and sometimes meditating upon them, I found myself amazed how many levels of detail are hidden inside such short phrases. When Gods speak or inspire, we can only approximate to the idea, for the views of Gods are lofty. So I wrote down what I thought about each maxim after meditating and thinking over them, hoping to give the reader an angle to follow his own thoughts.
May Apollo grand you wisdom.
Gaius Florius Aetius
November 2770 AUC
The Delphic Maxims
1. Follow God (Επου θεω)
One can assume that the first sentence may be the most important, because if you have a message, a canon, a creed, you start with the most basic, most vital first. Both words, follow and God are chosen with great care, and it becomes more clear, when we see what is NOT said. Apollo speaks in the singular, God. Of course he does not refer to the monotheistic principle, or merely to himself, but the Platonic Idea of the Divine. It is vital to note, what is not said. It is not said, obey God. The Gods are apparently no power to enslave humanity, they are an ideal to follow. They inspire us and are regarded as Patrons. Follow the Divine. It is an advise, a good council, not a commandment, that is important, as it sets the tone of the entire Canon: Apollo comes to us with these Maxims as Adviser, as Guide and Councillor, not as overlord or commander.
2. Obey the law (Νομω πειθου)
This 2nd Maxim stands in contrast to the first. Obey the law. The law is man made; we give it ourselves, based on reason, under the guidance of the Divine, as agreement or contract among ourselves. That is how law was made in Athens and in the Roman Republic, later, and that is how we have to assume the concept of law here: as something man made. But once we agreed on it, once we set it in place, society is based on lawfulness. So it is not an advise, a law is something that binds us, or Civilization falls apart. It is like the tale of Romulus and Remus: once the line in the sand was drawn, it was no longer an arbitrary place, but the realm of law. Ignoring the principle of law, means to destroy civilization itself. Right after the guidance of the Gods, comes the importance of the law, like the Gods are arbiters of Civilization.
3. Worship the Gods (Θεους σεβου)
Here the duty towards the Gods is defined, it comes apparently in third order. After we are asked to seek the guidance of the Divine, and to obey the man made laws, we are asked to bring worship to the Gods. In the Roman Religion, the Cultus is defined by the maxim “do et des” – I give so you give. It is a relation of a contract and of cooperation. That is what worship means to the Roman Cultor: find a connection to the Gods, with the Cultus as a formalized basis of give and take. The Gods guide and council, we give offerings and pray in respect.
4. Respect your parents (Γονεις αιδου)
Naturally very high ranking is, right after Gods and Laws, our relation to our parents. The family is the core of any society, of any civilization. The relation of parents and children is the primordial system of order. The parents: caring, protecting, commanding, loving, being just; the children: respectful, obedient, trusting, loyal. It is not a set of equals. Your Parents sacrificed so you came to exist and you had the chance to grow, and as such we owe our parents respect. This difference of status is of importance to understand and to be able to accept, for it is the foundation of all societies. Without filial love, society will end in chaos. It means to be able to be grateful, to be able to follow the wiser and the senior, in the broader sense. Even if you find you have harsh, cruel or depraved parents, you may wisely distance yourself from them, of course. But they will always be your parents and as such deserve your childlike respect.
5. Be overcome by justice (Ηττω υπο δικαιου)
Being overcome by justice seems at first as a strange wording. The Maxims of Apollo are all brief, as the God wanted to put as much information into a short sentence, and be as clear as possible. Overcome by justice seems to insinuate that justice is something that we do not naturally follow; by heart, we are all selfish beings, often first and foremost being driven by our own individual desires. And that is not wrong, but we have to open ourselves to the idea of Justice, which can transcend or purify the egotism and enable the common good, the Res Publica, the society where all benefit from. It also puts the emphasis on you: give yourself to justice, for it is all too common that people demand justice from others, but never subject themselves to it. So the wording hints that one is to practice justice by becoming a just person yourself, first.
6. Know what you have learned (Γνωθι μαθων)
Learning is important, and we learn through many different ways. By intellectual schooling, by watching others, by the examples from history, and through failure of course. But alas, in the everyday haste of life, all too quickly we forget what we have learned. The knowledge and wisdom is there, we have heard it, but what good is such wisdom, when we forget it at the most important time? That demands intellectual training, training to be aware of what is going on, and to take the time, not to be taken over by a hasty stream of events, that makes us forget and ignore what we know. If you remain calm and focused, you can remember that, what you have learned, and act right in the time of crisis.
7. Perceive what you have heard (Ακουσας νοει)
This 7th Maxim is closely tied to the 6th; both speak of variants of awareness. They have similar form, and cover a similar topic. While the 6th Maxim deals with knowledge of which we are aware – the inner awareness – the 7th Maxim refers to the outer awareness: Perceive, listen. Only if we look both inward and outward, can our understanding truly grow. We must not only be full with knowledge and information, we must listen and perceive. That will put knowledge in place and help us correct false perspectives. Observe the world. Listen and Perceive.
8. Know (or Be) Yourself (Σαυτον ισθι)
This is probably the most well known of the Delphic Maxims, Know Yourself, or also Be Yourself. Knowing yourself and Being yourself are here one and the same, or, two expressions of the same idea. If you look at the former two maxims, looking inward in knowledge and being aware of the world around you, you can then as the next step develop an understanding of who you are, and what your place in the world is. In the teachings of Platonism and Stoicism it is assumed that people have a sort of a True Nature, and we can find inner peace, when we understand and follow this Inner True Nature, when we refine it. Knowing yourself and being authentic are the true pathways of the Light. Thus the Eighth Maxim is one of the most vital ones: if you do not know yourself, every other understanding is dimmed to you.
9. Intend to get married (Γαμειν μελλε)
I really like the subtlety of this maxim. Intend. It is, again, not a commandment, it is an advise. Since only a God or an Animal can live alone, we should form bonds, and marrying a partner is the most sacred and intimate bond, so seeking a partner for your life, a loved one to marry, is something everyone should intend. But, sometimes, despite our best efforts, it does not work out. So here is no blame put at your feet. It is the advise of a God, who means well: try your best to get married.
10. Know your opportunity (Καιρον γνωθι)
Opportunity is very capitalistic term, and it is fascinating and refreshing that such a maxim is so high on the list to belong to the first ten. Life is full of chances, of opportunities. You can seek them, sometimes they come to us, but often we miss the chance, because we are not aware, we are too busy with too many things. That is what makes the difference between a very successful and a regular person: the people of great success have a high awareness of opportunities. Life is always to a degree, what you make of it. Sure, there are elements of destiny, both given by the Gods and then by the biological limitations of your inherited body. But beyond that, there are always possibilities, chances to make something. We are not supposed to remain in the perspective of a slave or a victim of the doings of others. No, we have opportunities, chances, and we must be aware of them and use them. Apollo does not advise a life of passive idleness, but of activity, of seeking opportunities and making the best of them, to live a worthy life.
11. Think as a mortal (Φρονει θνητα)
At first, it feels like this sentence is a bit putting one down. But then, the reality is that our lifetime as mortals is limited. Apollo is a God who values frugality. All too quickly we idle away time, we feel like we have endless time. When we are young, we think so especially. But we are mortals. So we must look at the quality of the time we spend. Do you waste your time with mindless and wicked people? People who only drag you down or waste your time with idle gossip? Or do you rather seek worthy company to spend your limited lifetime with? That does not mean we should run from any difficulty. Often we can achieve things only by facing challenges. But we must do so aware of what we want, and what is within our grasp. Do not waste the time given to you, for it is not endless.
12. If you are a stranger act like one (Ξepsilon;νος ων ισθι)
Being a guest where you are not at home, demands that you act with special care. When at home, you can do as you please, for it is your home. But out in the streets we are strangers all to another, and when we visit someone, we do so by the graciousness of our host, and we have to behave. Be calm and humble; things outside of your own realm do not belong to you. You have no right upon them. While the streets outside may belong to the public, nothing here is for your private fancy. You are not alone, but you have to share the public space with everyone else, so train yourself to speak soft, to walk with care and respect, and not grab everything, as if it were yours. When you are guest in another one’s house, be aware of it. Likewise, if you enter a foreign country, adapt to the habits and do not disturb the people, for you are there only through the goodwill of them.
13. Honour the hearth [or Hestia] (Εστιαν τιμα)
The Hearth and the fire were in ancient time the centre of the house. And while for us the modern kitchen no longer has this central role, we are advised to have an awareness of respect to all aspects connected to it. The hearth is the place of cooking. So what we eat and drink is stored and prepared for the meal. Hestia, or in Rome Vesta, is the great Goddess of the Hearth, and the Sacred Fire of it. Call her regularly to bless your house. Today we may do so with candles, which always create a very soothing atmosphere. Honouring Vesta and being aware of the sphere of food and drink are equally prudent. Look that you eat and drink healthy, and with good measure. Do not fill yourself with cheap and bad food, just for the lust, but honour your bodily needs. You may have a feast, enjoy wine or beer, cake or anything that is pleasurable, but in good measure. Honour the Goddess of the Hearth but also honour yourself by putting awareness into your eating and drinking.
14. Control yourself (Αρχε σεαυτου)
Pythagoras said, a person without self-control can never be free. Too easily people become slaves of their own passions, their own emotions. That is not to say passion and emotions are bad. They make life rich, but one should not become a slave to his passions. Learning to control the passions is the first thing the child gradually learns, and it is a course we have to follow through our lifetime. Lust and Greed, Wrath and Hate, all such passions can quickly overcome us, and then lead us to paths which are no longer to our benefit. Being able to control yourself thus, is what makes the Gentleman, or Gentlewomen; it enables you to achieve, that what you truly want, instead of being a wanton slave to your emotional ups and downs.
15. Help your friends (Φιλοις βοηθει)
It is not really an advise that needs much comment. Bonds of friendship are important, for as it is said, you can chose friends, but not family. Friends are not only there for kind words, but to stick together when push comes to shove. It should however, not be a free pass to manipulate people. A friend is not a slave to someone else’s whims. Help is what you decide to give, not what someone obliges you to give.
16. Control anger (Θυμου κρατει)
Seneca the Stoic philosopher wrote extensively about the harm of anger. And indeed, it is only a hindrance. If you need to punish someone rightfully, it should be justice that guides us, not anger. Anger blinds us, we become slaves to anger and often act way over the top. It is not that you are not allowed to be angry, but you are advised not to be controlled, but control it yourself. It is also a habituation. If you often give into anger, the more likely it becomes your master, and the more you train yourself to control it, the more calm and reasonable you can act.
17. Exercise prudence (Φρονησιν ασκει)
To be prudent means to be careful, but also think, to act intelligently. The wise person will always be careful in the things he does. Otherwise he would be reckless and endanger others and himself. This is not to say one has to be a coward, on the contrary. Daring has its time and place. But even then, one has to reflect before. You have only so many means, so much skill, and you must weight these against the situation at hand, otherwise you act in the hubris of powers, you do not have. The opposite of prudent action is hubris, you take more that you can bear or manage. Sometimes we need to challenge ourselves, indeed. But that is a reaction to extreme and strange situations, not a rule for everyday life. Often enough the prudent, the careful and the planning outsmart and defeat the powerful and reckless, who have no patience.
18. Honour providence (Προνοιαν τιμα)
Providence is a difficult topic to cover. What is destiny? How can we be sure? Honouring providence means, not to act lightly with the idea. There are events and people who are destined to be or to unfold. There are times, even in the smallest life, which have a power of destiny, of providence; a chance is given to you, an opportunity or challenge, and your decisions will shape you or the life around you. Not all moments are equal of impact and quality. Sometimes we spend years in learning, training ourselves, and then a fleeting moment of divine providence tests our ability and our insight. And then we waste it away, or we are up to the task, and one way or the other, a new road is set in your life. Be grateful for such moments of challenge and always train your mind and your skills to be up to such moments. Honour the moments of trial by becoming the best you can be.
19. Do not use an oath (Ορκω μη χρω)
It is a very old motif that we are warned against swearing an oath. An oath is a sacred bond, guarded by the Gods themselves, and who swears thoughtless, will bring great calamity upon himself. Oath-breakers are always the most harshly punished, for civilization itself depends on everyone keeping an oath, and speaking honest under oath. But who can know his self from tomorrow? Can you know what you want next month, next year? What will be? You know not. So, do not swear at all. Say yes, or say no. Be aware of your limitations as a mortal. You are not wise enough to know all things, so how can you swear standing on the quicksand of eternal change? Nay, swear you not at all.
20. Love friendship (Φιλιαν αγαπα)
It is interesting that Apollo would bring a second sentence about friendship just so quickly. Friendship has been a motif of greatest importance even in the oldest human myth and stories, like Enkidu and Gilgamesh, the old Sumerian tale of two friends. Often men regarded their male friendship even in higher regard than their wives; for friends of the same gender are bound by special understanding, being similar, and going through the same trials and issues together. So was the bond of warriors for example, men who faced deadly trials together, but also friends in spiritual development, where people go deep in the inner realms and share them with people of confident. It is not good that someone should live alone, so seek worthy and good company, ease the life of others by being their friend and strife to become worthy of being a friend to others.
21. Cling to discipline (Παιδειας αντεχου)
A person without discipline may have great intentions, but he will carry out nothing. And then what are all your good intentions worth, if you finish nothing which you start? When you do not plan and just randomly go hither and thither? So do not be wasteful, but focus on what you really want to achieve. What is it you really desire to manifest in life? So often people want many different and opposing things, and they reach little or nothing, where one who focuses on a few things, or one thing, may achieve much. Too many people look for example at great artists and marvel, oh what great talent did they have! What a foolish thought! Most of what they achieved was through hard work, diligence and discipline; they trained and improved themselves and their skills, and only through that did they accomplish great works.
22. Pursue honour (Δοξαν διωκε)
Honour is one of the most difficult ideas to grasp. For many people think of something else, when they think of honour. Some say, it is the good name, and when someone slanders you, he or she damaged your honour; but I do not think so. Honour is what you do, for true honour is not diminished if nobody knows, nor would it be true honour when you get praise for something you falsely claim. The Gods see your actions, and only actions count. You can hold speeches and say idle words what you plan and desire, but only the test of action proves what sort of person you are. Your actions define your honour! Not your idle words, and not the petty words of others. Let thine actions speak for you!
23. Long for wisdom (Σοφιαν ζηλου)
The wise man is he who seeks wisdom. I find it remarkable that Apollo tells us to long for wisdom, for here it is the path that counts, more than any achievement we can name. Who can define what wisdom is? We seek it, we develop it, let it grow. We can study the sages of old, the philosophers, and indeed it is prudent to listen to the great minds who were there before, to seek many different views to broaden our horizon, lest you become slave of one dogmatic view. With training, one day you yourself can turn into a teacher. And teaching others will teach you things, as well. Without wisdom all the strength and power of the world will be useless to you, for you will not know where and how to apply your powers, you will fall to ill council. Seeking wisdom should therefore be among the highest aims of anyone.
24. Praise the good (Καλον ευ λεγε)
Praise the good, oh an easy word, and yet too often forgotten among men! How sad is the nature of many, that they are all too quickly to open their mouth, when something goes wrong. When another makes a mistake, look how fast we are ready to speak up, to criticize and to condemn! But when things are good, we take it all for granted in the shortest time. Much that is good in life, is the hard work of other people. People in the past who built your world, people in the present around you. Praise the good. It is such a small thing, and yet it can make the world so much better, this small gesture of being thankful, to praising that what is good.
25. Find fault with no one (Ψεγε μηδενα)
This seems like a very high demand. How can we find fault with no one! But then, it is said that our focus influences our life. And look how many focus on the flaws of others, the shortcomings. So quickly they are ready to slander, to drag down, and especially in public. See the good in others. Learn to give trust, and people can improve and prosper. To the sceptic, the critic and cynic, all people are fools and thieves, and over time their view will manifest as reality. But give people credit, and see how they grow! And have we not been given the benefit of the doubt time and again? Even when it were small things, maybe we didn’t even notice. Assuming always the worst, that everyone is a scoundrel is the easiest thing to do. And it will drag you down and everyone around you. Lifting up people by believing in them, that is the hard way. Your focus influences your life, so focus on the good, and not on the faults in people.
26. Praise virtue (Επαινει αρετην)
Praise virtue – in what way does that differ from “praise what is good”? Good is many things; what is useful in relation to you. That was a maxim focused more on the concrete: people, events, developments. Virtue however is an ideal, something that is never reached, but always aimed for. So praising virtue means, to speak up about what is virtuous. It is more an abstract thing, in contrast to praising what is good, which refers to concrete, manifested things, virtue refers to what is not manifested, but what you aim for. Justice, Mercy, Discipline, Honour, Humility. These are never perfected, they are not so much concrete things, but ideals. Even if some ideal is so high, we know we can never achieve it in perfection, like for example Justice, we praise the idea, we promote it. Speak about what is right.
27. Practice what is just (Πραττε δικαια)
It is not enough to speak up about virtues, we have to practice them, or we would only be charlatans and sophists. Justice, like Virtue, has no clear and simple concept to be defined by. So it is something we seek to understand all our lifetime. Someone else may think of what is just very different than you, and so you need to listen to the other. You can not push Justice as if it was your right only! Justice is what is equal to all, and it said that Lady Justice is blind; she does not judge you based on any exterior description, but only and alone through the merit of your actions. If you demand justice only for yourself, you are not just at all. Practice to be just to everyone, for only if you act just to all alike, is it truly justice; otherwise it would only be favouritism and corruption.
28. Be kind to friends (Θιλοις ευνοει)
Kindness is a small thing, and yet it betters the world in limitless ways. We take so many things for granted, until they are gone. Even if someone just does his job, thank him. Even when it is something trivial, be kind. The world is moved through the sum of many such small actions, so be mindful of the small actions. If you are cruel or cold in small things, it will add up; it will sour someone else, who may be more unkind in turn, and step by step the world turns darker. But often can you see people are lifted up, when you act kind and polite even in small things, words of thank you and please, excuse me and you are welcome. If your life is a fountain, filled by many small drops, ask yourself: what drops did you fill in day by day? Kindness and good nature, or anger and spite? Be mindful, be kind.
29. Watch out for your enemies (Εχθρους αμυνου)
That you are kind and see the good in others should, however, not blind you to bad people. There are people who, for whatever reason, are harmful to you: either because they desire the same you have, or just because who you are is antithetical to them. So while you focus on good, you must understand there are people who are unkind and mean, who enjoy cruelty and dragging down others. Being nice should not make you naive and blind. We focus on the good and the productive, but we are ready to stand up for ourselves in the face of enemies and slanderers. Let no one attack you unguarded, for you have the right and the duty to defend your name, your integrity and your freedom. There lies no virtue in suffering harm, when you can protect yourself. Defend yourself, when you are attacked, for not doing so would just encourage a lowlife to continue his ways more and to others just as well. Hindering the enemy, without wrath and fanaticism, but proportionate and with determination is necessary and righteous.
30. Exercise nobility of character (Ευγενειαν ασκει)
The noble character is build by exercise. Character is not something that is given to you, or something you can decide upon, it is built, over time. A noble character is one who acts like a gentleman – or gentlewomen. One who is not slave of his passions, but neither cold and apathetic. One with sympathy, but does not fall into childish emotions. One who is firm but not harsh; decisive, but not stubborn; one who acts in grandeur of thinking and humble politeness. It is not an easy task to be explained in few words. Being noble is something you can learn; as you can develop character. But these things have to be exercised. Especially in children. We have to teach our children these things early on, then it will more likely endure. A person with noble character will be pleasant to others, but not common. He does his own way, but is not isolating himself. The noble character is a lifelong challenge, and we are obliged to teach this our children, or they will become gross, spoiled people as adults, and their lives will be all the harder.
31. Shun evil (Κακιας απεχου)
It is said that a person of good character shuns people of bad character. When you can chose your company, avoid bad people, for the company you chose will either elevate you or drag you down. This is of course especially the case with evil people and criminals, but it goes down to more mundane things: negative people, who drag everyone down, people who are always sarcastic and value nothing, people who love to mock, and without any respect have to slander people. Beware people who are so mean spirited, even when it seems like small things. Over time it may drag you down to their level, or at the best they drain you of energy you need to get back to a more positive level. Learn to identify people who drag you down, either confront them about it, or, should that be fruitless, avoid their company. Shun bad people.
32. Be impartial (Κοινος γινου)
It is said that the root wisdom, knowledge and justice is impartiality. If you are unable to be impartial, you can achieve neither of these. Now of course, none of us is able to be perfectly impartial, for we all are driven by needs and fears, some we are aware of, others we do not know. But like virtue, impartiality is a goal, an ideal we aim for as best as we can. We must learn to see ourselves form the outside, how others see us. At one time we may understand we are not as grand as we see ourselves, but it may also be we are overly critical with ourselves, were others see flaws much less, or some we may even just imagine. Be impartial to knowledge, to information. Try you best to see everything you hear and see first from a neutral point of view. You then still can follow your own interests, but if you are confined to your know own interests only, you are blinding yourself to the bigger picture, and ultimately you will be more likely to make mistakes. Cultivate impartial thinking.
33. Guard what is yours (Ιδια φυλαττε)
This is a warning, that we should not be blind to risk and danger, even when we are people of goodwill and trust. The idea of “what is yours” has a more extensive meaning than merely your material property. You have your interests, you intellectual property, your dignity. All these things shape and make you, and it is prudent and just to look after your interests. Being good does not mean you have to give away all that is yours and thus ruin yourself through unlimited generosity and kindness. It is too often the misunderstood zeal of being good, whereby people ruin themselves; they give all away, open their doors to strangers and find themselves robbed for the foolish trust. The wise man looks after his interests and his belongings.
34. Shun what belongs to others (Αλλοτριων απεχου)
In reverse, do respect the property and interests of others. Just as you have the right on what is yours, so they have it for theirs. Society functions in balance, when both sides are respected. The righteous does not take away what belongs to others. Too easy we fabricate justifications why we are entitled to the belongings of others, and is a nefarious thinking. All societies require a certain balance and an avoidance of extremes, and there is a common good, but that is a matter of agreement, not robbery, a trade, if you will. There is a fine line, especially in matter of the state, and many will think this line lies differently. The property is a sacred right, which we should never violate as individuals, and for the Common Good only after the most thorough reflection and debate.
35. Listen to everyone (Ακουε παντα)
The sage hears everything and listens to all. Wisdom and insight often comes from small things and simple people. Learn to understand different ways than just your own, and you will broaden your horizon. Know what is alien to you and the pathway of the stranger, so your wisdom and justice can grow. Only the fool thinks he knows it all, already. No person is so wise, to need no council, to be above learning new things. It is proper humility that you have time and an open ear for everyone, low and high. The petty, who listens only to his own, or to his underlings, will bury himself in his own folly and short-sightedness. Be open minded, give everyone an ear.
36. Be (religiously) silent (Ευφημος ιοθι)
Be silent, or be silent in religion. Silence is a spiritual quality. We all are so talkative, so in love with our own voice and our own words. The wise avoids this, he hems his words, and speaks less, so what he says has the greater impact. The sage knows to explain things in few words, while only the fool needs many words to explain himself. Wisdom is often, to know when not to speak. Often we break friendships, loves and positive developments, because we speak up too early. Untimely speech can cost you. Also in religious matters: better few words, than endless litanies. The Gods will listen to you, if you are serious, not because you make many words. They will look at your actions, more than what you proclaim you will do. There is also the element that in religious rite, we are supposed to be attentive. Whether you deal with the Gods or your fellow men: silence allows you to listen.
37. Do a favour for a friend (Φιλω χαριζου)
Favours have always been a thing of great importance in Antiquity, especially in Rome. Do ut des, I give so that you give, is the maxim of the Roman Religion. But also the social life between people falls under this maxim. We do a favour, and gain a favour, even if it may just be friendship, kindness or a thankful person. There is a difference between help and a favour. Help is free, but favours have to be repaid, that is what keeps society going, therefore it may be prudent to do rather less, do give rather smaller, lest you put the other in shame, if he cannot do the favour back in the same measure. And aren’t it often small favours through which we find the best friends? Buying a friend a beer, thinking of someone’s birthday, inviting someone for a dinner. Small favours are easy to give, and since they are small, they put people less under strenuous obligation. Keep your friendships alive through small gestures as such.
38. Nothing in excess (Μηδεν αγαν)
Nothing in excess, or “All in Moderation” is one of the most well known of the Delphic Maxims, and sort of the heart of the virtues of Apollo. The great Aristotle wrote at great length about the principle of moderation as a guideline to pragmatic virtue. Guided by such a virtue one will act out of principle, but he will also heed the outcome, and will refrain of zealous puritanism. Even goodness itself must be moderated, for a man who relentlessly speaks the truth may be cruel or unsocial; a man who always demands exact justice, may be seen as selfish or pernickety. Look not only at rules for the sake of rules, but understand that rules serve us, serve the common good, and not we serve the rules, for all rules and systems are man made, and we must seek to be wise and balanced in any approach. Over-zeal, even when someone is in the right, can easily destroy rather that which one seeks to preserve. Also in your pleasures. Enjoy life with all the pleasures it offers, but keep healthy moderation. Balance is the key to wisdom.
39. Use time sparingly (Χρονου φειδου)
This is another suggestion to be efficient in your doings. Do not idle time away or procrastinate endlessly. Duties, especially painful ones, do not get easier the longer you wait, often on the contrary. Think of a painful medical issue, which grows worse the longer you wait, and so with many affairs we delay. While there is a time for leisure and relaxation, we have our time as mortals, so be mindful and think how you want to spend that limited time. Time is fleeting, and all too soon passed away, and then what have to done with the time given? But that also means, that you do not let others rob your time without end. While it may sound harsh, there are people who just steal our time, they ask you many things, but never really learn; they want to debate, and yet they never really want a true dialogue, but only push their own view upon you. People can steal your time in many ways, and you must learn to be aware, when someone wastes your time. Treat the time you are given as a great treasure.
40. Foresee the future (Ορα το μελλον)
The fool lives only in the here and now, the sad man lives only in the past, but the wise and the hero look toward the future. What chances they have, what opportunities, what they can manifest in the future. Now while it is wise to appreciate the moment and to ponder the past, people can easily get lost in both. There are those, who dwell only in the past; mostly sad and negative, they see only the good that was, and gradually develop an apathy that undermines all their efforts. And then others are fools. They live only for the pleasures and the trivialities of the present; they are like little children, unaware of the consequences of their actions. And even in the ways you do not act, it will have consequences. The wise person takes responsibility for the future. See what you do now, tend to difficulties while they are small, solve problems now, before they grow larger tomorrow. Think of the consequences.
41. Despise insolence (Υβριν μισει)
Politeness, good manners make the man, or the woman too. No matter how harsh you may struggle with a competitor or even an enemy, a sense of manners, of limits you do not overstep, is vital for society to function. Manners are not superficial; people can not look inside your mind, so the gestures of good form show your respect, your good upbringing. Insolence, bad manner, rude behaviour, being gross is averse to the wise and the good. Practice good manners, respect and humility, and avoid the insolent.
42. Have respect for suppliants (Ικετας αιδου)
Everyone may fall out of luck, no matter what the reasons are. For some it is ill fortune, others were pressured and put down by those stronger than them, and some may also have brought themselves into calamity by folly. It does not behove the gentleman to look down on the pleading. Look at their request with generosity and fairness. Give people who fell a chance, for that too shows your great character. You are as great as you are able to respect those below your status. Only the fool looks down on others.
43. Be accommodating in everything (Παςιν αρμοζου)
Do not always insist in your right to the full extend. You may be in the right, but people who always push their advantage, who never compromise, become the people who are soon hated by everyone. Your right is your right, and you do well to stand up for it. But there is a point where you only see your own interest, and create endless numbers of fanatic enemies. Be generous. The great person can allow an exception to rules now and then, giving people a breathing room, and they may rise out of their own aspiration, whereas the rule-monger can suffocate all initiative, and will in the end only be surrounded by fearful cronies.
44. Educate your sons (Υιους παιδευε)
We knew the old days were societies were most the education of the sons counted, but we can quite well translate the idea in modern times that people should care for the education of their children of either sex. Education is so much more that just pumping knowledge into young minds. It means to raise a proper and independent person. Do not neglect the classic education! History, Philosophy, especially the Sages of Old! For in their knowledge lies deep and useful insight. Let your children learn the classics again, and they learn intellectual tools to master their life. That is the greatest gift you can give your children, far beyond any material or purely intellectual things you give them. Educate them in the ability to learn!
45. Give what you have (Εχων χαριζου)
The great man is always the generous man, not the miser. Be mindful of the calamities of the less fortunate, help up the fallen, reach out to those who are alone. Cicero writes about the necessity of generosity and compassion at length, though it should always aim to empower the people you help to help themselves! It should not aim to keep them dependent. Also understand, people fall ill, people get old, such is the lot in life. Be compassionate and give to those who are needy, for that is the way of the Light and the virtue of Apollon, and the Gods shall look pleased upon you!
46. Fear deceit (Δολον φοβου)
Of all the great evils, lying and deceit are among the worst, for without the knowledge of truth, we are aimless and can not make any decisions, so if you lie to another, it is like you destroy a part of reality. If you deceive others, you become a person who cannot be trusted, a quicksand in which everyone is endangered to fall. Fear deceit, for the liar and the deceiver have the friendly face often, while who is truly your friend may say, what you do not like to hear, whereas the deceiver always seems nice and friendly to your face, while he mocks you in front of others. Therefore be mindful of the mocker: as he mocks others to you, he mocks you to others.
47. Speak well of everyone (Ευλογει παντας)
Encouraging others can motivate them to do more. People these days are often starved just for a friendly word, and it makes your day so much better, when someone says a good word to you. Focus on the positive, encourage people and reinforce what is good in people around you, and you will see people grow.
48. Be a seeker of wisdom (Φιλοσοφος γινου)
Philosophy means literally “lover of wisdom”. We who learn philosophy are seekers, we are not people who “are wise”, but we love and seek wisdom. It is a process, not something that is ever finished or completed. Only that makes a person truly wise: know you are on an endless journey, a road, a search, but you do not have not a finial answer which is at some point complete. It is like the saying of Socrates, I know that I know nothing, and so I know more than those who don’t know they know nothing. Be a seeker.
49. Choose what is divine (Οσια κρινε)
The divine is waiting for you, it is there for you to reach out to it, but you must do the act of choosing. The Gods do you force themselves upon you. If you neglect them, they just retreat. The Divine comes in many forms, and who can say whose way is more true. The Gods are mysterious, and so every Polytheist will accept the Gods of every other, even when they are alien to himself. Put the Divine into your life, let it not just be an arbitrary duty, but something that becomes part of your life, to seek its guidance, to be close to the Divines, and they will guide you in turn.
50. Act when you know (Γνους πραττε)
What worse sin could there be, than acting against your better knowledge, than to reject the truth, because it is uncomfortable, because it does not fit to your prejudices? Act when you know what to do. Do not dawdle away when things must be done! Act when, implies timely action, so there is a time for everything. Be quick. Be decisive. If you wait, often other people or events will decide for you. Seeking intellectual knowledge is one thing, but we also need to act on what we know, and act in time. If you wait too much, too often the opportunity to act is past altogether! Act when you know in time.November 15, 2017 at 8:39 pm #12048
PART II 51-99
51. Shun murder (Φονου απεχου)
The decent person does never condone murder. A society may create laws to put someone who is evil and dangerous to death, but we never take the law into our own hands. Murder is a great evil. You are in the right to defend yourself of course; you are not forced to be a helpless sheep, for that is not the way of Rome or Greece. Never take a life, unless defending yourself leaves you no alternative, for live is always precious and sacred. Be always mindful of that.
52. Pray for things possible (Ευχου δυνατα)
This is religious advise. Do not come to the Gods to ask for absurd things, like wanting to become the King of the world, to that all your enemies drop dead. The Gods support your development, but they are not wishing machines. They will always let you work on that, which you can achieve by yourself. But sometimes you need a chance, a better opportunity, that is what you can pray for. Pray for general ideas: guidance, protection, so the Patrons who are the Gods will take your hand and guide you. Many a man was ruined by being showered in goods, which he could not handle, and the undeserved overabundance was many a man’s downfall.
53. Consult the wise (Σοφοις χρω)
Seeking out wise people is the first step to become wise yourself. If you want to learn, seek out those who are learned. Especially the classics are so rich and full of wisdom, often much more practical than modern thinkers. Read Cicero and Seneca, Aristotle and the many great thinkers of the past, also of other regions of the world, India, China. Do not be narrow minded. Many wise people have existed, and we are fortunate to have so many of their writings. Their wisdom is often the result of centuries or even millennia if human experience, and you must be humble enough to seek out their wisdom. Also if you meet wiser people in life, be respectful, listen to them and regard what they teach, so that someday when you are old, you can be wise and a teacher of others in turn.
54. Test the character (Ηθος δοκιμαζε)
It is said that the untested life is weak and worth less, than the tested life. Anyone can write or speculate in his room, when nothing tests his character, his ethics in difficult and challenging situations. Only in confrontation is it that great character is proven, and only by being tested can you grow. But pamper yourself, and all qualities of your character will shrink and vanish over time. It is only by interacting, by confronting your limits, that you can really grow.
55. Give back what you have received (Λαβων αποδος)
Life is a circle. You learn and teach, you achieve and pass on. Greed and hoarding destroy the circle and divide the world in those who have everything, and those who suffer and lack. Giving back can be done on many levels. You give back the favour of the friend, you pass on what you have learned to your pupil or your children. Woe to those who only take and receive and never give to others, who know only their own needs, lonely misers. All great things rise in value when shared, and only the worthless glitter is for one alone. And this is most true for any seekers of wisdom. Teaching is your duty. I knew too many who consumed great wisdom and knowledge, but never passed it on. Too challenging and strenuous it was to teach, they said. But the master makes progress again, when he teaches. You can learn a multitude of things, when you teach, when you pass on what you have learned. Keep the circle of giving and receiving, for that is life.
56. Down-look no one (Υφορω μηδενα)
The truly great person will never look down on anyone, be he less smart or less wealthy, or in whatever way. Hubris is hated by the Gods, and the humble person has the favour of Apoll, for he knows his own limitation, he sees value and the Divine from which we all came, in everyone and everything. Do not look down on the fallen, for how can you know in his place you might not have fallen too? And even if so, why should you despise a person for the fall? Only the low in character gloats and rejoices the fall of another. Only the arrogant fool mocks those simpler and lower than himself.
57. Use your skill (Τεχνη χρω)
We all have skills. But skills need to be honed and improved. They are improved by practice. The Gods want us to excel in what we do, be it the most simple work, or some elaborate piece of Art, it matters not. In the eyes of the Gods it is your effort that counts! The Gods will look on someone who works hard and trains much for even a simple thing more than one given great talent, but idling it away. Always improve your abilities, always try to be better than before, not only for others, but also for yourself. If you see you can improve, you better your skills, your self worth will also grow.
58. Do what you mean to do (Ο μελλεις, δος)
This maxim seems to built on the former one. Do not be too lazy. Laziness is not a virtue, even if you can rest and enjoy life, the way of life is the way of action, of doing things. There are duties and things we want to do, but too often we waste our time and in the end do neither. If you delay your duties, over time your life will become a mess. Also to things you want to do. What good is it, if you always talk about what you plan and want, but never act it out? Better to have small goals, but making real progress, than have plans of grandeur, but never progress a single step on the path.
59. Honour a benefaction (Ευεργεςιας τιμα)
Be thankful, when people do good to you. The ability to be thankful is the root of virtue, for if you can not be thankful, you cannot be virtuous. If something good comes your way, and you know not from where, thank the Gods. If a person does good to you, thank that person. The thankful mind is the pious mind, but he who knows no thanks is a scoundrel, avoided by people, one who will quickly develop a selfish and bad character. Train to be thankful. For what was built before you, to the wisdom given, for any gifts small and large. Be thankful to Gods and Men.
60. Be jealous of no one (Φθονει μηδενι)
The jealous person prepares the ground for his own downfall. Everyone knows another who has more in something. More money, more friends – or so it seems, he looks better. We are so quick to find so many reasons to be envious of another. It is good if the envy inspires you to work harder, but jealousy will harden your heart, and soon you think to rather take away what others have, than enriching yourself, and you will only drag down everyone, then, to your misery. Jealousy leads to greed, and the greedy heart is a bottomless pit, a desire that can never be satiated, so he starves even when his belly is full and his property large. If you allow jealousy to grow in your mind, you will always be unhappy, no matter how much you have.
61. Be on your guard (Φυλακη προσεχε)
The wise man is trusting, but not blind. Be not only a sage, but also a noble warrior. We must be ready to defend ourselves, our family, our house and our nation. Being on guard is not just good advise, it is your duty, for you guard not only yourself but all of your kin, all who trust on you, and we as human beings guard each others from ill and evil. Pay attention to what is going on around you! Walk through life with open eyes! Too many people were so trusting, they never see any evil intent, because they had none themselves and fell victim to others. Finding culprits is something you can learn. Look at the signs of dishonesty, of the mocker and slanderer, and be on your guard against such people.
62. Praise hope (Ελπιδα αινει)
Hope is a great treasure. We all hope, and nurturing hope, for yourself, but also inspiring it in others, is truly the way of the Light! For we all live in uncertain circumstances, too often life is bleak and dark. But if we give to despair, we fall to the lowest character. Giving yourself hope even in dark times is what true strength of characters is made for. Any fool can always only see the worst, he gives up and in apathy endures whatever is thrown at him. He gave up his life, his worth. Give yourself hope and give others hope! Be an inspiration for the people around you!
63. Despise a slanderer (Διαβολην μισει)
Do not slander. If you have a quarrel with someone, solve this between you and him. But slandering others, badmouthing them in front of the crowd will solve nothing. The slanderer will only look distrustful to others, for as quick he slanders someone you dislike, and you may cheer about that, he also slanders and mocks you, when you are away. Speak well of others. Create an atmosphere of peace and welcome, for the slanderer and the mocker will find the roads of their life lonely.
64. Gain possessions justly (Δικαιως κτω)
We all value worldly possessions, and there is nothing wrong with that. Achieving goods can show your hard work and your dedication. Those are possessions achieved justly. But if you rob and deceive, if you leech off the naivety of others, your possessions are worthless, for they do not signify your character or your value, but you would only be a thief and robber. Just possessions inspire others to follow you, unjustly achieved good will give you sleepless nights and a life spent in fear. For what greater possession would there be, than a good consciousness that lets you sleep sound?
65. Honour good men (Αγαθους τιμα)
Woe to the country which has no heroes, but worse still the country that does not honour its heroes. A hero does not have to be famous or a great warrior; often it can be small deeds, deeds of diligence and passion. Honour the good men, men of skill and hard work. Men who achieved much and contributed much to the welfare of the Common Good. Look up to those who furthered true progress, by actions, by speech and writing, by the result of their works. If we do not honour such men of accomplishment, we are ungrateful wretches. If you are truly wise, you will have no problem to acknowledge and praise those, who are better and greater in a thing, than you, and it will make other people work harder to reach up to achieve great things, themselves. That is why we must honour the people of achievement, so they stand as inspiring examples for the times to come.
66. Know the judge (Κριτην γνωθι)
It is bad enough if you must come before a court, maybe as witness, but familiarize yourself with the laws and customs of the land. Knowing the judge means more than just knowing the character of him, who judges you. Such a judge can be a literal judge, but it may as well be a person who has authority to judge you for any reason. A teacher, a mentor, an official person. Learn their character, if you want to manage to move on in life. For if you are ignorant about those who circumstance has given powers over you, you do great harm to your own interests. None is so great to forever be above judgment, formal or informal. Your betrothed’s parents may judge you. We are judged in life time and again, so being familiar with who judges you is prudent.
67. Master wedding-feasts (Γαμους κρατει)
It seems a bit a strange advise, especially in our days where people life more isolated. But let us look at the advise in the greater context. A wedding-feast is two things: it is a social event, and it is a party. So in the broader sense it means: train yourself to be able to walk in social situations. That is something especially shy people have difficulties with. But retreating from life is not the answer. We all can learn to master social situations. The gentleman or woman is also a person of the world. One who can deal with larger social situations. Do not remain to be like a child, who is afraid at every meeting, but learn to stay calm; train yourself to act well and good mannered in company. But also think that a wedding-feast is something very special. It brings two families, two circles of friends together, and this is what creates the fabric of society, so value these things.
68. Recognize fortune (Τυχην νομιζε)
So many people do not recognize when they are happy. Or they always compare themselves with others. You have a home, you are clothed and have a good meal to eat and drink, you have friends and you are healthy? So what do you have to complain? Often people with less are more happy, than people whom luck has given too plenty. Be able to lean back and understand what you have, to enjoy what you have and recognize fortune, when it is there. Some never feel happy, because they are always only focused on the horizon, on what other goods they might want, and never see and savour that which they have. Only when it is lost they understand what they had.
69. Flee a pledge (Εγγυην φευγε)
Apollo advised us several times until now to be generous, helpful and act responsibly. But do not put duties upon yourself, lest they overburden you. The honourable man seeks to preserve his liberty, so he joins and allies himself, he helps and obliges his duties. But do not be too eager to pledge yourself to anything, for once a pledge is given, it is guarded by the Gods. An gift is a free exchange, but a duty, even a sweet one, is always a shackle. So be mindful how much you burden yourselves with, before you give your word and pledge yourself too quickly to anything! Better give no pledge, and help voluntarily, than give a great pledge and then fall short of it!
70. Speak plainly (Αμλως διαλεγου)
Speak honest, speak plain, so that people can understand you. Some people are so in love with fancy words and elaborate speech, but what good is it for, when people do not understand you? Clarity is an important quality of the Light, and Apollo is the God of Light, so he wants us to add to clarity, not cloud things in confusing phrases and misleading words. Speak clear and simple. Use words wisely, or you end up more hiding what you want to say, than actually clearing up the matter. People who always use crooked words and flowery speeches – take heed of them!
71. Associate with your peers (Ομοιοις χρω)
It is always wise to surround yourself with like minded people, people of similar interests and outlook on life. While the sage tries to understand many different views to broaden his understanding, built your life up with people of equal sense, for otherwise you life will be full of pointless struggle. Sometimes we are infatuated by people who impress us, by their fancy words, their possessions, their looks, but you have nothing in common with them. And is it not the greatest pleasure of anyone to live surrounded by his peers, by people of similar views and backgrounds? Seek people with whom your harmonize, and not superficial profit from strangers.
72. Govern your expenses (Δαπανων αρχου)
A quite straightforward maxim. Do not be wasteful. Mostly in terms of money, but also generally, all your resources. Do not waste.
73. Be happy with what you have (Κτωμενος ηδου)
There are two kind of people who seek: those who want to flee from where they are, and those who desire what they seek. Wanting to better your fate is not wrong, if you do it for the right reasons. If you seek out of a mindset of being needy, you will not find more happiness. So be happy with what you have, only then can you truly move forward to achieve more, if you want. Think of dating. Is not a person who seems so needy exactly the kind of person that nobody would want to date with? If you are not thankful and at peace with what you have, you are like a hole that sucks in everything, but can never be filled.
74. Rever a sense of shame (Αισχυνην σεβου)
The Chinese Philosopher Confucius said, a person who never feels ashamed, can never better himself. It is the shameless people, who are stuck in their childish and depraved manners, for they see not their own shortcomings, they are ashamed of nothing, and thus not knowing where they lack, they will never be better. They are stuck. When a society forgets to feel shame, it falls into the darkness of Barbary. The sage is servant to all, but slave to none.
75. Fulfil a favour (Χαριν εκτελει)
As I wrote in the comment about giving a favour, a favour is something that always must be returned; in that way it differs from a gift and from help. Politeness asks that a favour is returned in time; that is what keeps civilization going. And that is why one must be cautious in giving not too many favours, for you bind the other in moral obligation, and that can be a discomforting place to be in. Return a favour in time, so you free yourself of being obliged to someone.
76. Pray for happiness (Ευτυχιαν ευχου)
The topic is here again, what is wise to pray for. Often we have very specific desires, and we come before the Gods with something akin to wish lists. While it may be prudent to ask a God for something specific, the general advise here seems to be to put the trust in the Gods to know what is good for you, rather. Trust in the Gods, ask for simple things: happiness.
77. Be fond of fortune (Τυχην στεργε)
This can be read in two different ways, and both have their right. Be thankful if you are fortunate, but also seek fortune. The Gods do not ask you to be poor. To build a good fortune thought work, through life, is something good. It is no reason to be ashamed to be rich or well off. It may be that the Gods see your role in life in other things. Some men become philosophers, when they lost all their fortunes. If you built a good fortune in life, you can achieve more, both in benefit to your community, in helping others less fortunate, but also in revenue to the Gods. Property is a moral obligation for the Res Publica, the common good, but it is a good, not a sin. Be thankful for it, work to achieve, but at the end of the day remember to give your share to the Community and the Gods. For in hubris the Gods may strike you down in time.
78. Observe what you have heard (Ακουων ορα)
This maxim returns to the topic of awareness. Observe the world around you, mind what you hear. Be attentive to the people around you. Many people are just fond of talking and do not really listen; they just use what others say as a chance to continue their monologues. The sage trains himself to really listen what others say, what they mean by what they say. To observe and to listen means to stand back, to take a distance, to grasp the bigger picture of things.
79. Work for what you can own (Εργαζου κτητα)
This returns to the topic of prosperity and property: the right way to achieve both is work. You achieve by the meritocratic principle of deserving something, by your effort, your work. Things are not given to you for free, unless calamity has fallen upon you and you are not capable. Otherwise, it is prudent and righteous that we work to what we want. Work is the foundation of righteous property.
80. Despise strife (Εριν μισει)
It is said, that the gentleman knows no strife. It is a matter of your attitude. That doesn’t mean you do not disagree, or that you become a coward. But too quickly the hothead is involved in all kind of petty arguments and strife. Neighbours argue over some twig reaching into the other garden. The sage seeks no strife and avoids petty arguments, which all too often lead to nothing, but he seeks to create harmony and retreats when there is nothing to gain from dispute.
81. Detest disgrace (Ονειδς εχθαιρε)
We can only disgrace ourselves through our own action. Usually through folly, either by a lack of understanding, or because we have become slaves of our passions. The first can only be remedied through learning, by extending our knowledge, bettering our understanding. The latter means, we must as people of proper ethics, learn to master our passions, mainly wrath and greed, for if we are slaves to such passions, we act like spoiled children and consequently disgrace ourselves. The noble acts and lives with grace and dignity.
82. Restrain the tongue (Γλωτταν ισχε)
One who says nothing, can say nothing foolish.
83. Keep yourself from insolence (Υβριν αμυνου)
Apollon as God of Light and Order values good manners. That is what differs the person of good character from the barbarian. Do not act impertinent, audacious and with pretension. The wise man knows his status. You do not have to humble yourself artificially. Making yourself smaller is not required. But truly great people do not need to boast, and it is highly unwise to claim a status you do not have. Regard the good manners, pay attention to the customs of the land you visit or you move to. Submit yourself to piety and respectful action. That will make your company pleasing to others and create an environment of relaxation. Manners make the man – and the woman too.
84. Make just judgments (Κρινε δικαια)
Justice above all. If you come to judge people and situations, be fair, impartial and just. Justice is one of the most important fundaments of society. Every society will have some level of inequality, because some work harder than others, some are more intelligent, others are just blessed with luck. Inequality is unavoidable, but people will accept it, when a society is just. When all people are judged according to their merit and to their dignity, when justice reigns the affairs, then people are content, for they can trust in the order they live in and the people ruling their affairs. When judgments are unjust, the people will be discontent, and society will fall apart.
85. Use what you have (Χρω χρημασιν)
How often do we think, of if I had only this and that, what great things could I do! And people waste away years waiting for something to come their way, instead of working with what they have. They think, I had done great things, if only fate had given it to me! They do not understand that most people who did great things or achieved greatness, did so by hard work and dedication. Even if your place in life puts you in a lesser place, make use of your skills, learn, expand your knowledge, use the skills and things given to you and do not waste time waiting for Lady Luck.
86. Judge incorruptibly (Αδωροδοκητος δικαζε)
Judgment needs to be impartial, it needs to be just, but it also needs to free of corruption. The topic here is the decay of a society through corruption and favouritism. The power of lobbies have become a great harm in modern societies, when too often a seemingly neutral expertise is not merely partial, but at times directly paid to serve a certain interest group. As such corruption spreads, the trust in society erodes, and the social order itself becomes endangered. Thus corruption is a great harm, less so because the monetary aspect, but because trust destroyed undermines the civilization itself.
87. Accuse one who is present (Αιτιω παροντα)
If you have to accuse someone, do so in his presence. Only the coward speaks ill behind someone’s back. But it is also a matter of justice, as the Roman proverb, audiatur et altera pars: let the other side also be heard. So if you have to accuse some, speak to him, let him defend himself. Only that way allows fair process. That shows that you are no coward who only works behind people’s backs, but you face any issue head on and honest, but it also gives the other the fair chance to reply. Accusing people who are absent are the way of the coward and the slanderer.
88. Tell when you know (Λεγε ειδως)
Speak up, when it necessary! While being one of few words is a good thing, there are always times when you need to speak up. In the face of injustice, when people around you are about to make a harmful error, say what you know. Saying what you know is not arrogance, but you contribute to your community. When you do not say what you know, you cannot expect people to read you mind, and you cannot complain when people ignore you, if you give them the silent treatment. The righteous man speaks up, when he knows something worth to be heard. It may be facts you know, or it may be just your view on things. Only if we speak can people progress to an agreement, to better understanding.
89. Do not depend on strength (Βιας μη εχου)
Civilization means that not brute strength rules, but ethicality and the rule of law. That differs a civilization from the life of Barbary. Having strengths is not a bad thing, for it gives you independence, but if you depend on strength alone, you walk a dangerous road. Human beings are social beings, they need to learn to cooperate, to share wisdom and views, to find the smart solution rather than the brute solution. It is said that violence is the last refugee of the inept. When we need to fall back on it, is is a sign of failure, bad evil necessity, not something we should aspire for. Use wit and intelligence, wisdom and to establish a common ground. Forcing your issue every time all too quickly destroys that what you seek.
90. Live without sorrow (Αλυπως βιου)
The man without regret and sorrow is king. While it is prudent to sometimes reflect the past, look what you could have done better, live for the opportunity you have, for the things you can build in the future. Regret of past mistakes, sorrow from loss; if you bathe in such emotions, they can overtake you and ruin your life. All the sages of Antiquity have emphasized that the noble is steadfast even in times of loss. It is not prudent to lose oneself in regret and sadness, but train yourself to be calm and focus on making things better in the future, rather than become a slave of the past.
91. Live together meekly (Ομιλει πραως)
Living in community with others is the greatest gift. For what good is all the wealth of the world, when you are alone? When you have no loved ones, nobody who respects you or cares about you? If you are able to share, you will find a community, and your life will have meaning far beyond just enriching yourself. That does not necessarily need to be meek, but it puts the emphasize that we should create a togetherness first and foremost, since we humans are “social animals”. Woe to the arrogant loner, who thinks only of himself, for he who lives only for himself will always be poor, despite all the riches of the world, while those who have one another are rich, may they even live meekly.
92. Finish the race without shrinking back (Περας επιτελει μη αποδειλιων))
When you compete, always give your best. When you are challenged, go all for it. Apollo is also a God of excellence. Try to be the best you can be. If you give your best in a competition, you can always learn something, and you honour the competition by going in with all you have. Some people constantly lose, not because they are unable, but because they give up too quickly. They shrink back at the first difficulty, and what otherwise would be within their reach is never attained. Tenacity and endurance are the virtues of the noble.
93. Deal kindly with everyone (Φιλοφρονει πασιν)
Kindness is the hallmark of a great heart, and it is pleasing to the Gods, for they love us, and want us to get along well. Kindness is a sort of gift, something you give for free, not calculating or expecting to get something out of it; only then is it true kindness. True kindness is given without second thought, because we are all human. Apollo emphasises “with everyone”. Not, be kind to friends, or be kind to people who are kind to you. That would not be something special. It also says “deal kindly”. Sometimes kindness of action, of behaviour, even when it is just small gestures, is better than words.
94. Do not curse your sons (Υιοις μη καταρω)
I think it is prudent to modernize this too, to your children in general. Children owe parents respect, and parents must guide their children. But a child is not your property or your slave. It grows into an adult of its own free will and character, and you can only guide and accompany your child. Time and again parents are unhappy with their children and angry, because they chose other ways then them. Of course a parent is sad, when the son or daughter does not continue what the parents began. But they have their own destiny. Even when your children go astray or fall to evil ways, the parent must always be there for their children to help them back to the road of light, if they have fallen. Sometimes, our children just have simply their own ways, and if they are lawful and make them happy, do not curse your children for being different, but accept them as they are.
95. Rule your wife (Γυναικος αρχε)
That sounds like quite a sexist thing in our modern days. But let us step back, and see what wisdom we may find therein, yet. The fact is, that most women are much better with words, more eloquent. Men on the other hand are often rather of fewer words, such is the way of things, in part due to the anthropological development of the genders, women became more social oriented than men, on average. Because that is so, it is often tragic to see husbands, who became like caricatures under the heels of their wives. When husbands are always commanded around by their wives, that is a bad development for any marriage. While both genders should treat each others with respect, because women are so good with words, the men are sometimes at risk that their wives rather act like their mothers. As a result, the wives lose respect for their husbands, the husbands of themselves, and it is an unhealthy situation for any marriage. The good man is gentleman, but he is manly, still.
96. Benefit yourself (Σεαυτον ευ ποιει)
Being kind and good is the hallmark of the virtuous man. But we should never be good at the expense of our own foundation. Everyone has some self interest, and it is righteous and prudent to follow it. People who seem not to have any self interests in mind, and claim only and always work for someone else’s good are to be treated with the utmost suspect. Free man can say open what they want, and only that allows cooperation and agreement, when everyone follows his own healthy self interest. You still give to the needy and help the fallen. But a man who entirely forsakes his own interests, is just a fool. If you lose everything, you can not benefit the Common Good either. Look after your interests, for only you can truly do that. There lies no evil in having a healthy dose of self interest.
97. Be courteous (Ευπροσηγορος γινου)
This maxim emphasises the importance of formalities. They are no small things, as alas has become the idea in present times. Gestures and formalities matter. They show the respect you bring towards others and that you respect the civilized society. It is this sticking to simple formalities, how you eat, how you greet, using courteous words, a friendly welcome, a proper farewell, you excuse yourself when you ask for something, all these little formal things which make you pleasing in the eyes of others and set a good example for everyone around you. Formalities show that you put some effort to make your appearance and actions pleasing to others. Cultivate these things.
98. Give a timely response (Αποκρινου εν καιρω)
Never let other people wait too long. That shows disrespect towards others. If you were asked something, respond in time. But so in all matters, be timely in dealing with other people. Their mortal time is limited just as yours, so you have no right to delay them and make them wait. It just shows you don’t care about another person.
99. Struggle with glory (Πονει μετ ευκλειας)
Glory is what you achieve only through conflict. It is not given to you by others, and not achieved by grand words or speeches, or by anything you plan to do. It is only your own merits which add your your glory. So we must struggle, face trials and tribulations, for only through overcoming them, can we prove our character and our skills. The untested man is the man without glory. Therefore embrace the challenge if you seek to grow. Power diminishes without trial, skills without confrontation. The lazy life is the life of weakness, a life without achievements and glory. Only if you toss yourself into the difficulties of life, can you hope to grow.November 15, 2017 at 8:40 pm #12049
PART III 100 – 147
100. Act without repenting (Πραττε αμετανοητως)
101. Repent of sins (Αμαρτανων μετανοει)
These two sentence seem like a contradiction, so I will speak about them together. Act without repenting, and then repents of sins. How can we do both of these? But the answer is much simpler than you think. The first sentence emphasises on action. Act. Do things. Some people are so full of regret, sorrow and fear to do something wrong, that they do not act at all. They retreat into a passivity, frightened to step on someone’s toes, to make a fool of themselves, to do something bad. If you let regret and fear overwhelm you, you come into a mindset of risk avoidance, and that fear makes you small and smaller, until you are just a shadow of yourself. The Gods sent you into this world to act, to grow, and not avoid life itself by fear to make an error.
But, since you are mortal, you can err. You can hurt someone, make a mistake, do something wrong. If you find you did this, apologize. Repent of what you did wrong, but let never fear drive you into a slave morality, where you are stuck in endless cycles of self loathing and self justification. Act, if you did wrong repent, but then learn to let go and move on. If you let yourself to become a slave of regret and fear, you will achieve and manifest nothing good, either.
102. Control the eye (Οφθαλμοθ κρατει)
Only children and fools stare. Control the eye. It is rude to stare at people. May it be a misfortune, or something very attractive: the sage controls his passion and trains himself in serenity. Some people for instance have this love for “accident tourism”. When some misfortune happened, they gawk at things and people without end, always waiting for a new calamity to happen to someone. That is gross and the noble avoids such habits.
103. Give a timely counsel (Βουλευου χρονω)
It is noble to give advise and counsel people, but any advise must be given in time. How many people are smart afterwards, but what then is it good for? We should not be busybodies, always forcing our views on others. Counsel is something the wise is hesitant to give. For if we give counsel to others, we influence them in a way, and so bear a bit of the burden too. Wise counsel should rather show someone the options, instead of outright saying what to do. But as with all things, act in time. Advise is no longer helpful, when the time has past, or when it is way too early.
104. Act quickly (Πραττε συντομως)
The fast is master of the slow. It is a fact often reflected in history, that people without any plan succeeded, simply out of the boldness of the action, when the sceptical intellectual, filled with self doubt and understanding all that could go wrong, fails. With all the advise to seek wisdom, to reflect and control yourself, you should also know when to be swift. Being overly cautious is not the way of the noble. Sometimes we must be daring, we must act. There is always a time for thinking, but that time must come to an end and lead to action. Once you know what you want to do, or what you have to do, do not delay and act quickly!
105. Guard friendship (Φιλιαν φυλαττε)
Friendship is one of the greatest gifts in life, so guard and protect it; do not neglect it, or it falls away; do not let a short term temper destroy it all. All people have their own weaknesses, and you are not free of that either. Knowing that, learn to accept your friends, even if some habits of them may be annoying. You have your issues just the same. Keeping a friendship alive requires work, compromise and attention. If you neglect your friends, you do not need to wonder, if at some point they walk away. Some people love their friends, but never call back, or show much interest in them. If you treat friends with so one-sided lack if interest, they will someday no longer be your friends. Show them though the small gestures you are interested in hearing from them.
106. Be grateful (Ευγνωμων γινου)
A person who cannot be grateful can not develop virtue. We all depend on so many things outside of ourselves: The civilization built by millennia of people before us, our country, the city which shelters us, the society our ancestors created an upheld. Then of course our parents who raised us, friends and people around us, who bear with us, even in times when we are not easy to take, and of course the Gods who guided people and societies to prosper, to give you opportunities. A man who knows not gratitude, for whom even the best is never good enough, is a wretch, undeserving of what he has. He will always look on someone who has more, someone who has something different, he will blow up every small issue into something large, and has no eye for the good things in his life, for that for which he should be grateful.
107. Pursue harmony (Ομονοιαν διωκε)
Harmony is, when all different parts come together. It is when we all are free to be ourselves, and yet create the Common Good. When peace and respect reign our affairs, balance is the leading maxim and nobody is oppressed by the wantonness of others. All things have their place and time, vast and diverse is the cosmos. Harmony comes to exist, when all things are in their right place and interact with each other in harmony. The maxim says, pursue it. Like any lofty ideal, harmony is never perfectly achieved. It is like a distant star we aim for. Real life is often messy and not harmonious at all, but we are to pursue it. Create a harmonious environment, by action, but also visually. We know that a visually pleasing and harmonious environment can help a lot, just as ugly and dis-harmonic surroundings can undermine harmony. That is why the Ancient puts so great effort in the design of houses and cities, into art and music. Bautiful things can create harmony, just as making them ugly destroys it.
108. Keep deeply the top secret (Αρρητον κρυπτε)
Keep sacred the secret entrusted to you. For that will decide about your honour. The Gods look very keenly on our actions, when we swear oaths and when secrets are entrusted to us. What is told to you in privacy keep to yourselves. Sometimes you may think, oh I will tell only this one person! And soon the entire village knows. Do not gossip around, do not brag with the secrets you know, even if you heard them not under oath, be silent about what you learn in secrecy. That makes the trustworthy person.
109. Fear ruling (Το κρατουν φοβου)
This is one of these wonderful maxims which like a coin have two sides, two opposing perspectives, so it puts several ideas linked together in a mere two words. Fear ruling, that can mean to fear being ruled, as well as to be a ruler, for both are dangerous positions to be in. Note that it says “ruling”, not “governing”. Ruling implies a dimension of power that the ruler can exert over others without feedback. Like a monarch or a dictator. A President or Chancellor does not rule, he merely governs us, by our mandate. Being ruled puts you in a bad place: someone else decides for you, and you have no say in it. Ruling is likewise terrible, for while it sounds seductive at first, history has proven time and again, that having unchecked power, can corrupt even the best people.
110. Pursue what is profitable (Το συμφερον θηρω)
The problem of too many people is, they don’t know what they really want, and even less what actually benefits them. What is profitable to you is what you really want, and what also is good for you. Many people just aim for what others tell them, whether through the bombardment of advertisement that we face today, through mass media, politics and the many small bounds of social pressure, until what they want themselves is lost and buried. And then, we often are made to want things which are not really good for us. Like always eating junk food. Yes, you can want that, but do you profit from eating that always? Certainly not. So, pursue what is profitable.
111. Accept due measure (Καιρον προσδεχου)
This continues the topic of moderation. Act measured to what happens to you. Do not overreact to events, but do not neglect them either. Do not be overzealous, but avoid apathy and complacency. When you give, give with measure as well. Do not be a miser, but do not waste away gifts. Likewise when you ask for payment: ask for what is prudent, be not greedy, but do not undersell yourselves. Know your value, all in due measure.
112. Do away with enmities (Εχθρας διαλυε)
This is a tricky sentence. Keep in mind, we listening to Apollo here, whose Oracles of Delphi were famous to have a surface and a deeper meaning. More than one man was misled by what seemed pleasing to read into a sentence. First and foremost I would say: overcome enmities, try to make friends, settle with people who you are in conflict with. If that person does not cooperate in that, ignore him and focus on creating what is good. Many people are so focussed to fight against things, they have nothing they want to create instead, no plan or positive ideals to manifest. They define themselves only via their enmities. And that is not productive. But, there is also a darker possible way to interpret, and knowing the Gods, it can also be read as such. If you think about it, I am sure you will come to it.
113. Accept old age (Γηρας προσδεχου)
Cicero has written a good book about old age and its benefits, for each age has its own strengths and weaknesses. While sure age has its downsides, it also has benefits. You can develop a calmness, based on more experience in life. Largely old age depends on what you built in youth. So pursue knowledge, live healthy, seek the company of good people, and your old age will allow you to reap the fruits you were sowing. I can only advise you to read Cicero’s book “Cato – On Old Age”.
114. Do not boast in might (Επι ρωμη μη καυχω)
One who is powerful or has might, is well advised not to boast about it. It makes you look arrogant, other people become suspicious of your intention. The wise ruler acts with humility, lest he creates enemies and hinders himself. Arrogance and hubris are the doorstep to a fall. Know your limits, even in power.
115. Exercise (religious) silence (Ευφημιαν ασκει)
It seems strange that we have an almost similar maxim again, and it seems significant, when a request for silence comes twice. We may interpret this in several ways. It might refer to the silence of the Mystery Cults, so that the impact of the initiation remains. It is not something I as Roman feel well with; we Romans like religion to be in the open and known. A suggestion I take up, because it makes the most sense to me: do not use the name of Gods in vain. Do not be preachy. There is always the risk that a religious person becomes overzealous, feeling authorized by a God, and it is advised to avoid this hubris.
116. Flee enmity (Απεχθειαν φευγε)
Flee is a strange advise given from a God. So we have to take this in a proverbial sense. The 112th Maxim “do away with enmity” had put the emphasis on your doing, like, do not make enemies by what you do. This is the other case: someone else is trying to be your enemy, a person is trying to sour your life. Avoid toxic people. Some people have such a negative character, they drain you, and no discussion will ever lead to a better status quo. Such people can only be avoided, for no argument with such toxic people will lead to any good.
117. Acquire wealth justly (Πλουτει δικιως)
This is a sentence with a simple and clear message. It is right to acquire wealth, there lies no evil in doing that. Wealth can lead to countless evils, when some people are so much richer than others, and there is no justice and balance anymore. Only when your property and wealth is gained and held in balance with justice, will people not develop resentment against you. All things must be balanced by justice. Mark what the sentence does not say, it does not say by the law. The law is covered in other maxims; here is clearly a higher, a moral standard, that of justice. That demands more than just following the letters of the law. Acquire justly.
118. Do not abandon honour (Δοξαν μη λειπε)
The question what is honour is as old as it is disputed. Some say it is what others do to you, like the actions of others can besmirch your honour, but I do not think so. Honour is what you achieve, your merit, built on your character and you abilities. It is your decisions and triumphs. Honour is not what is bestowed upon you by others, quite on the reverse, you honour the titles by your doing, the live you life, the examples you give, the work you do. Through these things you honour titles and offices given. So your good name is rooted in your virtues, your qualities, both intellectual and ethical. Often in times of darkness, we are tempted to abandon honour for the sake of profit and power. But once lost, you may lose your way forever. Do not abandon honour by abandoning what is righteous.
119. Despise evil (Κακιαν μισει)
The sage despises evil, people who commit evil and are evil. No decent person relishes in evil done, and one who does not distance himself from evil must be looked at with great suspicion. Evil methods will ruin you and all your doings. The sage despises evil and does not drop to evil methods for any gain or profit.
120. Venture into danger prudently (Κινδυνευε φρονιμως)
There are always times for being courageous, but in the face of danger, one walks with prudence and care. People need to know the limits of their skills, they need to know what is possible and what is out of reach. Danger is a situation, where we know these things not clearly, so we can not make very good plans. Danger is either the unknown or that which is more powerful than we are. Both alternatives demand acting prudent and careful. When the danger is the unknown, prudence suggests to learn more, to find information. When the danger is greater power than you, you must seek ways around, alliances and things that compensate for your shortcomings.
121. Do not tire of learning (Μανθανων μη καμνε)
Learning is always good, never cease learning. The open mind will always welcome the chance to learn something new. Learning when you are young will prepare you for when you get older, it will come to fruition only in the future, if you keep learning. But it will also give you comfort in old age, if you can use your mind to learn new things. Learning drives away boredom, it gives your life meaning, it opens up you perspectives for opportunities you did not see before, and it gives you comfort in dark times.
122. Do not stop to be thrifty (Φειδομενος μη λειπε)
All goods on earth are scarce, so the sage and the noble person do not waste. This was wise long before environment movement came to be. Do not be wasteful. All goods exist only limited, so we have to be thrifty in our life; both not to waste away our own life, as well as too secure the well-being of future generations. You do not need to become a miser, however. There is always the time to be generous, but foresee the future, stay within your means. That is what it means to be thrifty.
123. Admire oracles (Χρησμους θαυμαζε)
The Gods speak to us through signs and omens, through oracles of many kinds. In the past the Gods chose rather to speak through established institutions, now they speak more directly, as we all can learn oracle methods, if we learn them properly and use them with humility. Some people even today are more versed in the oracles, so respect such people and heed the oracles.
124. Love whom you rear (Ους τρεφεις αγαπα)
Those rear to you are those who are given to your trust, those you lead or command, as the situation is. The wise leader and representative leads out of love, not arrogance. Those who entrusted you to lead them or whom fate has made you their leader, you should lead with love and sympathy. Even if you are not above them in some form of office, but by intelligence, wisdom or power, do not look down on those lesser than you, but with loving kindness. That is the righteous way to look to those lower than you.
125. Do not oppose someone absent (Αποντι μη μαχου)
This continues the topic of maxim 87. But while in Maxim 87 you are in the role of the accuser, here you are the opposed party. It does not make sense to defend yourself, when the attacker is absent. At best it will be a waste of time, and you will appear defensive. Face your accuser, for that is the way of the honourable, and that has at least a chance to solve the issue. Some people fall into the habit of constantly justifying themselves, even when there is nobody present to accuse them, and that is s sad habit. Defending yourself when your critic is absent is only a waste of time, and it is not what the gentleman does.
126. Respect the elder (Πρεσβυτερον αιδου)
This and the following Maxim belong together. They highlight your attitude to the older and the younger. The elder are to be respected. They have lived through more experience than you, and as they grow old their burden gets heavier. But there is of course also the meaning of the Elder, like the wise senior leaders and councillors. The word Senate means “council of the older” or elder, because it was known that older people have more experience. No matter how smart you are when you are young, experience gives your knowledge a whole new quality, which no amount of book reading and smartness can replace. Therefore respect the elder.
127. Teach a youngster (Νεωτερον διδασκε)
The attitude towards the young is: they need to be taught. That is the general sense of the sentence. Youth needs to be taught. But there is also a personal meaning: it is good for one to become teacher and find pupils, to pass on what you have learned, intellectually but also through experience. In that way the chain of lore is passed on from generation to generation. The elder teach, the younger respect and learn. It is your obligation to teach, when you grow older, as it is the obligation of the young to learn from the older.
128. Do not trust wealth (Πλουτω απιστει)
Wealth is good and fine, but it is not something to put your trust upon. But Lady Luck is a fickle Goddess, and the wealth you got can all too easy be lost again. Also wealth can attract people of envy and resentment. Regard wealth as a nice bonus, but not as an essential. Just because one is wealthy he is not wiser, or more intelligent or morally better. On the contrary, wealth all too often reinforces the worst quality in a person. And where your vices were small when you were poor, when your get rich, you might be at risk that your vices plague you much more, given your wealth gives you so much more opportunity.
129. Respect yourself (Σεαυτον αιδου)
A man who does not respect himself can not expect others to respect him, and you can not trust him. It would be like building a house on quicksand. Therefore you must learn first and foremost to cultivate self-respect. It means not to fall to depraved and evil ways, not slander people, to stick to the virtues of the noble and the wise. You do these things out of self-respect. But it also means you do not allow others to treat your without respect.
130. Do not begin to be insolent (Μη αρχε υβριζειν)
Insolence is lack of manners. Manners make the man, and the woman. But the sentence says, do not begin. So it signifies a deeper meaning. Sometimes we are tempted by a quick rush of anger. But manners are like all things, a matter of training. Once you start slipping down once, you may fall down the path of insolence all the way before you know it. So stop yourself in the first smallest insolence. We must stand against the decay of manners right away where it begins, before it grows, before it becomes a habit and then is much harder to fight. Do not even begin to be insolent, but control yourself right away, even in small matters.
131. Crown your ancestors (Προγονους στεφανου)
You crown your ancestors in three ways. But honouring them at the Ancestor Shrine, the Lararium, by making the best out of your life and thus honouring them through action, being the best you, which you can be, and finally by raising good children which continue to revere the ancestors! Those are your three familial duties to the ancestors.
132. Die for your country (Θνησκε υπερ πατριδος)
Apollo truly is a lover of Patriotism. A person who does not defend his country and protect it from harm doesn’t have the favour of the Gods! That may mean at times to fight against your government, when it is evil and corrupt. You are not required to follow governments blindly, for only virtuous government is righteous. While dying for your country is sort of just an ultima ratio, be ready to protect and defend your country. Apollo wants to make clear how important Patriotism is to be a good person, by putting the highest stake into it. You are responsible for the welfare of your country, and the noble person does to shirk this duty to the fatherland, be it from threats form the inside or the outside.
133. Do not be discontented by life (Τω βιω μη αχθου)
All life is sacred, for it is the gift of the Gods, and while you are free to do with that gift as you wish, including ending it, when you feel it is no longer fit for you, you must value the live given to you! Even the miserable person has some things in life, which make it worth. Value can come from many things you do in life: friends and good company, work you do, things you learn or teach, art you create, or just by exploring the world with open eyes. Embrace the good in life and value what is given to you.
134. Do not make fun of the dead (Επι νεκρω μη γελα)
It is said that about the dead the noble speaks no ill word. Mocking the dead is greatly displeasing to the Gods and will incur their wrath upon you. You do not have to lie, when someone dies and claim falsely how noble he was, when it was not so. But you shall not mock and slander the dead. They have had their life, and all quarrel with them ended. If you cannot respect someone who is dead, because he was too depraved and evil, ignore him and forget his memory, but do not mock the dead.
135. Share the load of the unfortunate (Ατυχουντι συναχθου)
Sharing and bettering the situation of the less fortunate is the moral duty of the noble. Whether it was bad luck, ill intent from evil people or their own fault: we all can fall into bad times, so do unto others as you would wish be done to yourselves. Help up the poor and the fallen, comfort the sad and suffering, be companion to the lonely and the lost, for that will ease your heart, it will brighten the world and you will look pleasing in the eyes of the Gods.
136. Gratify without harming (Χαριζου αβλαβως)
This maxim is a great complementary to the one before. If we do good to others, if we help and support others, we must be thoughtful. Does our help, as well meant as it may be, really help? Or do we in the long term rather harm the other? Good intentions alone are not good enough. We must look at the outcome, the longer perspective, when we help and support. You may put a person in dependence on you; giving people undeserved good can make them arrogant, or the target of ill intent. Imagine people in a region starve, and you support them with food, so they survive. But if you let them get used to that, they may create more children than their land can nourish, and then even greater calamity is caused by your thoughtless support. See that your gratification, your help, your support does not do harm. Consider the consequences always.
137. Grieve for no one (Μη επι παντι λυπου)
Do not let yourself be overcome by grief. It is not the way of the noble to let grief overcome you, whether a friendship broke apart, a love or someone died. It is not good to wallow in grief. You can be sad, for that is human. Maybe the wording seems harsh to us. But grief is a powerful emotion, and too easy we get accustomed to it. Some people then manage to use their grief, aiming to get comforts and pity from others. People who can not get over a loss for a too long time become a burden for others. Be sad of a loss, but learn to let go and move on, for if you allow your life to be overcome by grief and sadness, it can become like an addiction, and you may fall ever deeper into apathy.
138. Beget from noble routes (Εξ ευγενων γεννα)
We may assume that in Antiquity this meant to marry families of nobility and good standing, so do not “marry down”, to assure your kids have the best chances. In the modern time we can interpret this in a different way: cultivate your abilities and your virtue. Both are important: learning and training as well as manners and ethics. It is the classic idea of the Gentleman, the Noble, who is less defined by wealth, but by his qualities. Education, good manners and a virtuous, exemplary life. Practice this lifestyle, and connect with people who value these things yourself. Avoid people who are gross and drag you down. And then also pass this on to the next generation. The Noble trains himself and seek noble company.
139. Make promises to no one (Επαγγελου μηδενι)
This is a variant to the advise, not to swear oaths. Make no promises, for like oaths, the Gods watch over a promise given. Just say yes or no. If you give a promise, you never know what will be in the future and you may rue having given a promise. Then you disappoint your friends, to whom you gave the promise, and it may plague your consciousness, while you have not fulfilled it. Of course sometimes you can not avoid making promises, but do not throw them around lightly; take your promise as the greatest, sacred duty, and Zeus himself looks over oaths and promises with a watchful eye!
140. Do not wrong the dead (Φθιμενους μη αδικει)
Wronging the dead refers to the traditional rules in dealing with the dead. Heed the sacred days where they are remembered. Give the offering according to the traditions to preserve the peace between the dead and the living. Do not desecrate the sacred spaces of the dead by misbehaviour. In the places of the dead, walk with respect, silence and dignity.
141. Be well off as a mortal (Ευ πασχε ως θνητος)
We all quarrel with our mortality and we fear age and death. Making peace with your human mortality is the greatest test of our character, and only then can we value the time given, and make the best of our life. Since we are mortals, make sure your life is put to good use, and to make you happy. Look after yourselves. Live is worth living, even when it is limited. In the end, we shall come together on the Elysian Fields under the everlasting blessing. But this journey here on Earth is important, but what you built is not lost, for as Plato teaches, all things exist forever, so grieve not, fear not, but be happy to be here now, and at peace for what is to come thereafter.
142. Do not trust fortune (Τυχη μη πιστευε)
Fortune is what is given to you by luck, by the doing of others. It isn’t what you worked for, or what you achieved by your merit. It is the fickle goodwill of others, or the equally changing ways of Lady Luck, Fortuna. Be happy with luck comes your way, but do not overly trust in luck. Trust in skill, in ability, in work. Luck is the ever changing wheel. Now it favours you, and the next moment it turns and drags you down. Do not built on luck and fortune.
143. As a child be well-behaved (Παις ων κοσμιος ισθι)
144. as a youth – self-disciplined (ηβων εγκρατης)
145. as of middle-age – just (μεσος δικαιος)
146. as an old man – sensible (πρεσβυτης ευλογος)
147. on reaching the end – without sorrow (τελευτων αλυπος)
I will comment on these final five Maxims in one go, as they refer to five stages of age and their respective dominant virtue. For the child the most important thing is to learn to behave. A child is wanton and egoistic, it has yet to learn to cooperate. When children do not learn to behave, they can never function well in society.
The youth must learn and master self-discipline, for when you are young, you are arrogant, full of desires, so control your passions, train yourself in humility. The arrogant youth is a sight unwanted by anyone, and the arrogant youth may ruin his own life.
The person of middle-age must cultivate justice, for people in this age are usually running society, they are in position of power, so they need to practice justice above all, for in their hands rests the main responsibility of the country.
The older people need to be sensible. When people get old, they are often too set in their ways, and they can be harsh and judgemental towards the younger. Be mild and sensible, keep an open mind and be flexible to change.
Finally when you are very old, make peace with yourselves; let go of regret, for soon the Gods will call you to pass on to the Elysian fields and a new life.November 16, 2017 at 2:25 pm #12052
I am profoundly impressed by this canon. This summarizes all that a virtuous life is about. Our modern society needs more of that. The world could be almost a perfect place, if we all adhered to these guidelines.
And I think they should be understood as guidelines or advices, not as strict laws with the threat of punishment for any violation.
Thanks for posting this, and particular thanks for dedicating it to Gens Floria.
Indeed it might be more suited for the philosophy forum than for the Cultus Deorum, but since Apollo is associated with it, it also has a place here.
C. Florius LupusAugust 8, 2018 at 12:04 pm #12749
This is really amazing, and the evidence that some human principles are followed no matter the period of History or the culture.
Titus Decius Aculeo.
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