Diogenes Laërtius’ Lives of the Eminent Philosophers is one of the most comprehensive biographical works on the Greco-Roman thinkers of antiquity. As the only extant – albeit secondary – source to many of these philosophers’ works, Lives lays the foundation to our perception of classical philosophy and its multitude of proponents. From the pre-Socratic sages to Epicurus, Laërtius covers both major and minor philosophers of Ionian and Italian schools, alluding also to several other writers, poets, and thinkers of this era.
Not only does Laërtius provide us with priceless insight into the lives of these wise men, but he also cites several of their works – some of them now lost to us. Here are ten of the best quotes found in Lives to make your day more philosophical:
“Many words do not declare an understanding heart.
Seek one sole wisdom.
Choose one sole good.”
– Thales of Miletus
“There is only one good, knowledge,
and one evil, ignorance.”
“It is better to be a beggar than to be uneducated;
the one needs money, the others need to be humanized.”
“Truth, O stranger, is a fair and durable thing.
But it is a thing of which it is hard to persuade men.”
“What is a friend?
A single soul dwelling in two bodies.”
“It is strange that we weed out the darnel from the corn and the unfit in war,
but do not excuse evil men from the service of the state.”
“Lovers derive their pleasures from their misfortunes.”
– Diogenes the Cynic
“The reason why we have two ears and only one mouth is that we may listen the more and talk the less.”
– Zeno of Citium
“Friendship is equality.”
“It takes a wise man to recognize a wise man.”
“Who knows if to die be but to live,
And whether that called life by mortals be but death?”