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Seven Sages of Greece

The Seven Sages of Greece (c. 620-550 B.C.) was the title given by Greek tradition to seven wise ancient Greek men who were philosophers, statesmen and law-givers. They were philodorians. The Seven Sages are known for their practical wisdom which "consisted of pithy and memorable dicta". (1) Later, they met at Delphi to dedicate their wise sayings to the god Apollo. Socrates provides the earliest list of the so-called Seven Sages.

 Solon of Athens                   "Nothing in excess".
 Chilon of Sparta                   "Know thyself".
 Thales of Miletus                 "To bring surety brings ruin".
 Bias of Priene                     "Too many workers spoil the work".
 Cleobulus of Lindos                "Moderation is the chief good".
 Pittacus of Mitylene               "Know thine oppurtunity".
 Myson of Chen 

Instead of Myson of Chen, some authorities add:

 Periander of Corinth              "Forethought in all things".
 Anacharsis A Scythian prince

Other quotes attributed to the sages include: "Master anger"; "Look to the end of life"; " Avoid responsibility for others' debts"; and the characteristically Greek "Most men are bad".

Socrates obliquely refers to a tale of the Seven Sages which points out that humility is the basis of wisdom. This story is recorded by Diogenes Laertius. The story goes that some fishermen brought up the tripod of Helen of Troy who dropped it into the sea on her return voyage to Sparta. The Coans wanted it back and the fishermen refused. War broke out. Seeing no conclusion to the war, the combatants sent to Delphi inquiries on what to do with the Tripod. The oracle commanded the tripod to be given to the wisest man. So, the Coans sent it to Thales of Miletus. He modestly disclaimed the title and sent it to Bias of Prience, who also refused the honor and so it continued throughout the group. In the end, it was finally to be dedicated to Apollo; some say to Ismenian Apollo at Thebes, and others to Apollo at Delphi.


  • Protagoras, Plato, 343a-b.


  • Harper's Dictionary of Classical Literature and Antiquities, ed. by Harry Thurston Peck, Cooper Square Publishers, Inc., l962.
  • Brush Up Your Classics, Michael Macrone, Gramercy Books, NY, 1991.

Last updated: 10-24-2004 05:10:45