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Link to an image of this page Link to an image of this page [n7v p206]

Dicta VII. sapientium.[1]

Sayings of the Seven Sages


Haec habeas, septem sapientum effingere dicta.
Atque ea picturis qui celebrare velis.
Optimus in rebus modus est, Cleobulus ut inquit,
Hoc trutinae examen, sive libella docet.
Noscere se Chilon Spartanus quenque iubebat.
Hoc specula in manibus, utraque [=vitraque] sumpta dabunt.
Quod Periander ait, fraena adde Corinthius irae
Pulegium[2] admotum naribus efficiet.
Pittacus at ne quid dixit nimis. haec eadem aiunt,
Contracto qui gith[3] ore liquefaciunt.
Link to an image of this page Link to an image of this page [n8r p207]Respexisse Solon finem iubet,[4] ultimus agris
Terminus[5] haud magno cesserit ipse Iovi.
Heu qum vera Bias, est copia magna malorum
Musimoni insideat effice sardus eques.[6]
Ne praes esto [7]Thales dixit, sic illita visco
In laqueos sociam parra, meropsque trahit.

If you wish to represent the sayings of the Seven Sages and celebrate them in picture, you may have the following suggestions. - ‘Moderation is best’, as Cleobulus said. This the balance teaches or the plumbline. - Chilon of Sparta bade each man know himself. A mirror or glass taken in the hand will represent this. - The saying of Periander of Corinth, ‘Rein in your wrath’, pennyroyal held to the nostrils will show. - Pittacus said, ‘Nothing in excess’. The same thing is said by those who suck cassia with wry mouth. - Solon bids us look to the end. Set at the field end is Terminus, who would not yield to mighty Jove. - How truly did Bias say, ‘There is great store of evil men’. Make a Sardinian rider sit upon a wild sheep. - ‘Do not stand surety’, said Thales. Even so, smeared with bird-lime, the lapwing or bee-eater draws its fellow-bird into the snare.


1. The list of the Seven Sages of the ancient Greek world was not fixed: various selections were made from up to seventeen names (though this one is the most common). Their utterances were variously reported and attributed now to one, now to the other. See Diogenes Laertius, De Clarorum philosophorum vitis, 1.40-42. The list here is derived from Anthologia Graeca, 9.366.

2. pulegium, ‘pennyroyal’. See Emblem 252, line 4 ([A56a252]).

3. gith, ‘cassia’ or ‘senna’. See Pliny, Natural History, 20.71.182ff. for its medicinal and culinary uses. It is so bitter that a little goes a long way.

4. Respexisse finem, ‘look to the end’, i.e.only when his life is over can a man be judged to have been happy. See the story of Solon and Croesus in Plutarch, Solon, 27-8.

5. Terminus, see Emblem 259 ([A56a259]).

6. Musmoni insideat effice Sardus eques, ‘make a Sardinian rider sit upon a wild sheep’, i.e. a worthless rider on a worthless beast. Cf. Erasmus, Adagia, 505 (Sardi venales, ‘Sardinians for sale’).

7. Ne praes esto, ‘Do not stand surety’. See Erasmus, Adagia, 597 (Sponde, noxa praesto est, ‘Stand surety and disaster is at hand’).

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