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Greatest Minds and Ideas of the Western World

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Seven Sages of Ancient Greece

Western philosophy begins with the ancient Greeks and Greek philosophy begins with the so called Seven Sages of the 6th century B. C.  The earliest reference to the Seven Sages is in Plato's dialogue entitled Protagoras where he names them as follows:

Such men were Thales of Miletus, Pittacus of Mitylene, Bias of Priene, Solon of our city [Athens], Cleobulus of Lindus, Myson of Chen, and, last of the traditional seven, Chilon of Sparta.

The 3rd Century A. D. philosopher, Diogenes Laertius, in his well known work entitled Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, provides the following list of sages

The men who were commonly regarded as sages were the following:  Thales, Solon, Periander, Cleobulus, Chilon, Bias, Pittacus ... so much for the sages or wise men.

The list of Diogenes Laertius differs from that of Plato in that he cites Periander (of Corinth) rather than Myson of Chen; otherwise the lists are identical.  The well known English mythologist, E. Cobham Brewer (18101897), made up a little poem on the subject:

First, Solon, who made the Athenian laws,
   While Chilon, in Sparta, was famed for his saws:
   In Miletus did Thales astronomy teach;
   Bios used in Priene his morals to preach;
   Cleobulus, of Lindus, was handsome and wise;
   Mitylene 'gainst thraldom saw Pittacus rise;
   Periander is said to have gained through his court
   The title that Myson, the Chenian, ought.


Each sage is associated with certain terse and pithy sayings that purport to convey important philosophical truths; these sayings are called apothegms.  The following table lists each sage together with his most commonly cited apothegm:

Name Apothegm

Bias of Priene

"Most men are bad"

Chilon of Sparta

"Consider the end"

Cleobulus of Lindus

"Avoid extremes"

Periander of Corinth

"Nothing is impossible to industry"

Pittacus of Mitylene

"Seize Time by the forelock"

Solon of Athens

"Know thyself"

Thales of Miletus

"Who hateth suretyship is sure"