Quotations by Aristophanes


Wise people, even though all laws were abolished, would still live the same life.

Aristophanes (c.450-c.388 BC) Athenian comedic playwright
(Attributed)

Alt trans: "Wise men, though all laws were abolished, would lead the same lives."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 10-Aug-09
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DICAEPOLIS:  Comedy too can sometimes discern what is right. I shall not please, but I shall say what is true.

Aristophanes (c.450-c.388 BC) Athenian comedic playwright
Acharnians, li. 500-501 (425 BC) [tr. Athen. (1912)]

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Added on 8-Apr-11 | Last updated 8-Apr-11
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DICAEPOLIS: Comedy too can sometimes discern what is right. I shall not please, but I shall say what is true.

Aristophanes (c.450-c.388 BC) Athenian comedic playwright
Acharnians, ll. 500-501 (425 BC) [tr. Athenian Society (1912)]
    (Source)
Added on 18-Mar-20 | Last updated 18-Mar-20
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PRAXAGORA: I want all to have a share of everything and all property to be in common; there will no longer be either rich or poor; […] I shall begin by making land, money, everything that is private property, common to all. […]
BLEPYRUS: But who will till the soil?
PRAXAGORA: The slaves.

Aristophanes (c.450-c.388 BC) Athenian comedic playwright
Ecclesiazusae, ll. 590-591, 597-598, 651 (392 BC) [tr. O’Neill (1938)]

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Added on 22-Apr-11 | Last updated 22-Apr-11
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PISTHETAERUS: Undoubtedly; words give wings to the mind and make a man soar to heaven.

Aristophanes (c.450-c.388 BC) Athenian comedic playwright
The Birds, l. 1447-48 (414 BC) [tr. O’Neill 1938)

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Added on 3-Feb-11 | Last updated 3-Feb-11
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EPOPS: You’re mistaken: men of sense often learn from their enemies. Prudence is the best safeguard. This principle cannot be learned from a friend, but an enemy extorts it immediately. It is from their foes, not their friends, that cities learn the lesson of building high walls and ships of war. And this lesson saves their children, their homes, and their properties.

Aristophanes (c.450-c.388 BC) Athenian comedic playwright
The Birds, l. 375 (414 BC) [tr. Anon. (1812)]

Full text.

Alt trans. [Hickie (1853)]: "Yet, certainly, the wise learn many things from their enemies; for caution preserves all things. From a friend you could not learn this, but your foe immediately obliges you to learn it. For example, the states have learned from enemies, and not from friends, to build lofty walls, and to possess ships of war. And this lesson preserves children, house, and possessions."

Alt trans. [O'Neill (1938)] : "The wise can often profit by the lessons of a foe, for caution is the mother of safety. It is just such a thing as one will not learn from a friend and which an enemy compels you to know. To begin with, it's the foe and not the friend that taught cities to build high walls, to equip long vessels of war; and it's this knowledge that protects our children, our slaves and our wealth."

Alt trans. [Goldstein-Jackson (1983)]: "A man may learn wisdom even from a foe."

Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 10-Aug-09
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EPOPS: You’re mistaken: men of sense often learn from their enemies. Prudence is the best safeguard. This principle cannot be learned from a friend, but an enemy extorts it immediately. It is from their foes, not their friends, that cities learn the lesson of building high walls and ships of war. And this lesson saves their children, their homes, and their properties.

CHORUS [LEADER]: It appears then that it will be better for us to hear what they have to say first; for one may learn something at times even from one’s enemies.

Aristophanes (c.450-c.388 BC) Athenian comedic playwright
The Birds, l. 375ff (414 BC) [tr. Anon. (1812), Ramage (1864)]
    (Source)

Alt. trans. [Hickie (1853)]:
EPOPS: Yet, certainly, the wise learn many things from their enemies; for caution preserves all things. From a friend you could not learn this, but your foe immediately obliges you to learn it. For example, the states have learned from enemies, and not from friends, to build lofty walls, and to possess ships of war. And this lesson preserves children, house, and possessions.
CHORUS [LEADER]: It is useful, as it appears to me, to hear their arguments first; for one might learn some wisdom even from one's foes.

Alt. trans. [O'Neill (1938)]:
EPOPS: The wise can often profit by the lessons of a foe, for caution is the mother of safety. It is just such a thing as one will not learn from a friend and which an enemy compels you to know. To begin with, it's the foe and not the friend that taught cities to build high walls, to equip long vessels of war; and it's this knowledge that protects our children, our slaves and our wealth.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS: Well then, I agree, let us first hear them, for that is best; one can even learn something in an enemy's school.
Added on 1-Apr-20 | Last updated 1-Apr-20
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LEADER OF THE CHORUS: Weak mortals, chained to the earth, creatures of clay as frail as the foliage of the woods, you unfortunate race, whose life is but darkness, as unreal as a shadow, the illusion of a dream.

Aristophanes (c.450-c.388 BC) Athenian comedic playwright
The Birds, ll. 685-687 (414 BC) [tr. O’Neill (1938)]

Full  text.

Alt. trans.: Frere (1839) (text): "CHORUS (LEADER): Ye Children of Man! whose life is a span, / Protracted with sorrow from day to day, / Naked and featherless, feeble and querulous, / Sickly, calamitous creatures of clay!"

Alt. trans.: Hickie (1853) (text): "CHORUS (LEADER): Come now, ye men, in nature darkling, like to the race of leaves, of little might, figures of clay, shadowy feeble tribes, wingless creatures of a day, miserable mortals, dream-like men."

Added on 15-Apr-11 | Last updated 15-Apr-11
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Times change. The vices of your age are stylish today.

Aristophanes (c.450-c.388 BC) Athenian comedic playwright
The Clouds, l. 914 (c. 423 BC) [tr. Arrowsmith (1962)]

This line frequently quoted to show the antiquity of the sentiment. However, it is only found in the Arrowsmith translation. Compare, for example, to Hickie (1853)
Added on 12-May-16 | Last updated 12-May-16
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