Thursday, January 02, 2020


Know Thyself

Comparatio Menandri et Philistionis II.166-174, in Siegfried Jaekel, ed., Menandri Sententiae. Comparatio Menandri et Philistionis (Leipzig: B.G. Teubner, 1964), p. 111 (tr. Francis G. Allinson):
When thou wouldst know thyself and who thou art, look on the grave-stones as thou journeyest by. There are the bones and unsubstantial dust of men who once were kings, of despots, of the wise, of men who plumed themselves on noble birth, on wealth, and on their fame and bodies beautiful. Yet none of these things availed them aught against Time. Hades is the common lot of mortals all. Look thou on these and know thyself the man thou art.

Ὅταν εἰδέναι θέλῃς σεαυτὸν ὅστις εἶ,
ἔμβλεψον εἰς τὰ μνήμαθ', ὡς ὁδοιπορεῖς.
ἐνταῦθ' ἔνεστ' ὀστᾶ τε καὶ κούφη κόνις
ἀνδρῶν βασιλέων καὶ τυράννων καὶ σοφῶν
καὶ μέγα φρονούντων ἐπὶ γένει καὶ χρήμασιν
αὑτῶν τε δόξῃ κἀπὶ κάλλει σωμάτων.
κᾆτ' οὐδὲν αὐτοῖς τῶνδ' ἐπήρκεσεν χρόνος·
κοινὸν τὸν Ἅιδην ἔσχον οἱ πάντες βροτοί.
πρὸς ταῦθ' ὁρῶν γίνωσκε σαυτὸν ὅστις εἶ.
Another version, by John Addington Symonds, Studies of the Greek Poets, Vol. II (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1902), p. 214:
When thou wouldst know thyself, what man thou art,
Look at the tombstones as thou passest by:
Within those monuments lie bones and dust
Of monarchs, tyrants, sages, men whose pride
Rose high because of wealth, or noble blood,
Or haughty soul, or loveliness of limb;
Yet none of these things strove for them 'gainst time:
One common death hath ta'en all mortal men.
See thou to this, and know thee who thou art.

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