Quotations by Democritus


The wise man belongs to all countries, for the home of a great soul is the whole world.

Democritus (c. 460 BC - c. 370 BC) Greek philosopher
(Attributed)
Added on 24-Jul-12 | Last updated 24-Jul-12
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Men have made an idol of luck as an excuse for their own thoughtlessness. Luck seldom measures swords with wisdom. Most things in life quick wit and sharp vision can set right.

Democritus (c. 460 BC - c. 370 BC) Greek philosopher
Frag. 119 (Diels) [tr. Bakewell (1907)]
    (Source)

Alt. trans.: "Men have fashioned an image of Chance as an excuse for their own stupidity. For Chance rarely conflicts with intelligence, and most things in life can be set in order by an intelligent sharpsightedness." [tr. Freeman (1948)]

Bakewell lists this under "The Golden Sayings of Democritus." Freeman notes this as one of the Gnômae, from a collection called "Maxims of Democratês," but because Stobaeus quotes many of these as "Maxims of Democritus," they are generally attributed to the latter.
Added on 12-Jan-21 | Last updated 12-Jan-21
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Many who have not learned wisdom live wisely, and many who do the basest deeds can make most learned speeches.

Democritus (c. 460 BC - c. 370 BC) Greek philosopher
Frag. 53 (Diels) [tr. Bakewell, 1907)]
    (Source)

Alt. trans. "Many who have not learnt Reason, nevertheless live according to reason. Many whose actions are most disgraceful practise the best utterances." [tr. Freeman (1948)].

Bakewell lists this under "The Golden Sayings of Democritus." Freeman notes this as one of the Gnômae, from a collection called "Maxims of Democratês," but because Stobaeus quotes many of these as "Maxims of Democritus," they are generally attributed to the latter.
Added on 29-Dec-20 | Last updated 29-Dec-20
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By convention sweet is sweet, by convention bitter is bitter, by convention hot is hot, by convention cold is cold, by convention color is color. But in reality there are atoms and the void. That is, the objects of sense are supposed to be real and it is customary to regard them as such, but in truth they are not. Only the atoms and the void are real.

[νόμωι (γάρ φησι) γλυκὺ καὶ νόμωι πικρόν, νόμωι θερμόν, νόμωι ψυχρόν, νόμωι χροιή, ἐτεῆι δὲ ἄτομα καὶ κενόν]

Democritus (c. 460 BC - c. 370 BC) Greek philosopher
Fragment 0 (Diels) [tr. Bakewell (1907)]
    (Source)

Cited to Tetralogies of Thrasyllus, 9; Sext. Emp. Math VII 135. Alt. trans.:
  • "Sweet exists by convention, bitter by convention, colour by convention; atoms and Void (alone) exist in reality ... We know nothing accurately in reality, but (only) as it changes according to the bodily condition, and the constitution of those things that flow upon (the body) and impinge upon it." [tr. Freeman (1948), frag. 9]
  • "By convention sweet is sweet, bitter is bitter, hot is hot, cold is cold, color is color; but in truth there are only atoms and the void." [tr. Durant, from Bakewell]
Added on 22-Dec-20 | Last updated 22-Dec-20
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Continuous association with base men increases a disposition to crime.

[Φαύλων ὁμιλίη ξυνεχὴς ἕξιν κακίης συναέξει]

Democritus (c. 460 BC - c. 370 BC) Greek philosopher
Fragment 184 [tr. Freeman (1948)]
    (Source)

Collected in Joannes Stobaeus (Stobaios) Anthologium II, 31, 90

Alt. trans.
  • "Associating with scoundrels frequently increases the possession of wickedness." [tr. @sententiq, as Fr. 234]
  • "By associating with scoundrels, you will turn out a scoundrel"
  • "Continuous association with the wicked increases bad character."
Added on 26-Jun-20 | Last updated 26-Jun-20
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The man who is fortunate in his choice of a son-in-law gains a son; the man unfortunate in his choice loses his daughter also.

Democritus (c. 460 BC - c. 370 BC) Greek philosopher
Fragment 272 [tr. Freeman (1948)]
    (Source)
Added on 19-Jan-21 | Last updated 19-Jan-21
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The good things of youth are strength and beauty, but the flower of age is moderation.

[Ἰσχὺς καὶ εὐμορφίη νεότητος ἀγαθά, γήραος δὲ σωφροσύνη ἄνθος.]

Democritus (c. 460 BC - c. 370 BC) Greek philosopher
Fragment 294 [tr. Freeman (1948)]
    (Source)

Original Greek. Alternate translation: "Strength and beauty are the blessings of youth; temperance, however, is the flower of old age."
Added on 26-Jan-21 | Last updated 26-Jan-21
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Many much-learned men have no intelligence.

[Πολλοὶ πολυμαθέες νοῦν οὐκ ἔχουσιν.]

Democritus (c. 460 BC - c. 370 BC) Greek philosopher
Fragment 64 (Diel) (190 N.) [tr. Freeman (1948)]
    (Source)

From "Demokrates 29" in Stobaeus, Anthologium III, 4, 81). Original Greek.

Alt. trans.: "There are many who know many things, yet are lacking in wisdom." [tr. Bakewell (1907)].
Added on 5-Jan-21 | Last updated 5-Jan-21
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