Seven Sages of Greece

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The Seven Sages (of Greece) or Seven Wise Men (Greek: οἱ ἑπτὰ σοφοί, hoi hepta sophoi; c. 620 BCE–550 BCE) was the title given by ancient Greek tradition to seven early 6th century BCE philosophers, statesmen and law-givers who were renowned in the following centuries for their wisdom.


The Seven Sages

Traditionally, each of the seven sages represents an aspect of worldly wisdom which is summarized in an aphorism. Although the sages included in the list has sometimes varied, the most usual ones included are the following ones:

  • Solon of Athens: he said that "Keep everything with moderation." Solon (640-559 BC) was a famous legislator and social reformer from Athens, enforcing the laws that shaped the athenian democracy.
  • Chilon of Sparta: authored the aphorism "You should never desire the impossible." Chilon was a spartan politician from the 6th century BC, to whom the militarization of the spartan society is attributed.
  • Bias of Priene: "Most men are bad." Bias was a politician who became a famous legislator from the 6th century BC.
  • Thales of Miletus: Thales is the first known philosopher and mathematician. He famously said "Know thyself," a sentence so famous it was engraved on the front façade of the Oracle of Apollo in Delphos.
  • Pittacus of Mytilene (c. 650 BC), governed Mytilene (Lesbos) along with Myrsilus. He tried to reduce the power of nobility and was able to govern Mytilene with the support of popular classes, to whom he favoured. He famously said "You should know which opportunities to choose."
  • Periander of Corinth: he was the tyranos of Corinth circa 7th and 6th centuries BC. Under his rule, Corinth knew a golden age of unprecedented prosperity and stability. He was known for "Be farsighted with everything."

Sources and legends

The oldest[1] explicit mention on record of a standard list of seven sages is in Plato's Protagoras, where Socrates says:

The passage in which the above occurs is "elaborately ironical"; so it is unclear which of its aspects may be taken seriously,[3] although Diogenes Laertius later confirms that there were indeed seven such individuals who were held in high esteem for their wisdom well before Plato's time. According to Diogenes, citing Demetrius Phalereus, it was during the archonship of Damasias (582/1 BCE) that the seven had first become known as "the wise men", Thales being the first so acknowledged.[4]

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