Quotations about   gods

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Idiot, not to know
his days are numbered who would fight the gods!
His children will not sing around his knees
“Papa! Papa!” on his return from war.

Ὅττι μάλ’ οὐ δηναιὸς ὃς ἀθανάτοισι μάχηται,
οὐδέ τί μιν παῖδες ποτὶ γούνασι παππάζουσιν
ἐκ πολέμοιο καὶ αἰνῆς δηϊοτῆτος.

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Iliad, Book 5, ll. 407-409 (c. 750 BC) [tr. Fitzgerald (1974)]
    (Source)

Alt. trans.:

No man who fights with gods will live long or hear his children prattling about his knees when he returns from battle.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

Know thou, whoe'er with heavenly power contends,
Short is his date, and soon his glory ends;
From fields of death when late he shall retire,
No infant on his knees shall call him sire.
[tr. Pope (1715-20)]

Unknowing he how short his term of life
Who fights against the Gods! for him no child
Upon his knee shall lisp a father's name,
Safe from the war and battle-field return'd.
[tr. Derby (1864), ll. 463-466]

Verily he endureth not for long who fighteth with the immortals, nor do his children prattle about his knees when he is come back from war and the dread conflict.
[tr. Murray (1924)]

That man who fights the immortals lives for no long time, his children do not gather to his knees to welcome their father when he returns home after the fighting and the bitter warfare.
[tr. Lattimore (1951)]

Doesn't the son of Tydeus know, down deep,
the man who fights the gods does not live long?
Nor do his children ride his knees with cries of 'Father' --
home at last from the wars and heat of battle.
[tr. Fagles (1990), ll. 465-468]

Added on 9-Sep-20 | Last updated 23-Sep-20
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Experts in ancient Greek culture say that people back then didn’t see their thoughts as belonging to them. When ancient Greeks had a thought, it occurred to them as a god or goddess giving an order. Apollo was telling them to be brave. Athena was telling them to fall in love.

Now people hear a commercial for sour cream potato chips and rush out to buy them, but now they call this free will.

At least the ancient Greeks were being honest.

Chuck Palahniuk (b. 1962) American novelist and freelance journalist
Lullaby, ch. 3 (2002)
    (Source)

Much of this is repeated in ch. 39.
Added on 11-Aug-20 | Last updated 11-Aug-20
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Gods always behave like the people who make them.

Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) American writer, folklorist, anthropologist
Tell My Horse, ch. 15 (1938)
Added on 5-Jul-17 | Last updated 5-Jul-17
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And therefore it was a good answer that was made by one who, when they showed him hanging in a temple a picture of those who had paid their vows as having escaped shipwreck, and would have him say whether he did not now acknowledge the power of the gods — “Aye,” asked he again, “but where are they painted that were drowned after their vows?” And such is the way of all superstition, whether in astrology, dreams, omens, divine judgments, or the like; wherein men, having a delight in such vanities, mark the events where they are fulfilled, but where they fail, though this happen much oftener, neglect and pass them by.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Novum Organum, Book 1, Aphorism 46 (1620)
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Added on 7-Jul-16 | Last updated 7-Jul-16
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He shrugged his shoulders. “I have known many gods. He who denies them is as blind as he who trusts them too deeply. I seek not beyond death. It may be the blackness averred by the Nemedian skeptics, or Crom’s realm of ice and cloud, or the snowy plains and vaulted halls of the Nordheimer’s Valhalla. I know not, nor do I care. Let me live deep while I live; let me know the rich juices of red meat and stinging wine on my palate, the hot embrace of white arms, the mad exultation of battle when the blue blades flame and crimson, and I am content. Let teachers and priests and philosophers brood over questions of reality and illusion. I know this: if life is illusion, then I am no less an illusion, and being thus, the illusion is real to me. I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, and am content.”

Robert E. Howard (1906-1936) American author
“Queen of the Black Coast” (1934)
Added on 9-May-16 | Last updated 9-May-16
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Do your duty, and leave the outcome to the Gods.

Pierre Corneille (1606-1684) French tragedian
Horace, Act 2, sc. 8 (1640)
Added on 9-Jul-15 | Last updated 9-Jul-15
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When struck by a thunderbolt it is unnecessary to consult the Book of Dates as to the precise meaning of the omen.

Ernest Bramah (1868-1942) English author [Ernest Brammah Smith]
“The Transformation of Ling,” The Wallet of Kai Lung (1900)
Added on 15-Apr-15 | Last updated 15-Apr-15
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When the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) Irish poet, wit, dramatist
An Ideal Husband, Act 2 (1895)
Added on 14-Apr-15 | Last updated 14-Apr-15
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To search for meaning we must not forget that the gods (or God, for that matter) are a concept of the human mind; they are the creatures of man, not vice-versa. They are invented to give meaning and purpose to the puzzle that is life on earth, to explain strange and irregular phenomena of nature, haphazard events, and, above all, irrational human conduct. They exist to bear the burden of all the things that cannot be comprehended except by supernatural intervention or design.

Barbara W. Tuchman (1912-1989) American historian and author
The March of Folly: from Troy to Vietnam, ch. 2 (1984)
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Added on 14-Apr-15 | Last updated 14-Apr-15
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There is no great invention, from fire to flying, which has not been hailed as an insult to some god.

J.B.S. Haldane (1892-1964) English geneticist [John Burden Sanderson Haldane]
“Daedalus, or Science and the Future,” speech, Cambridge (24 Feb 1923)
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Added on 21-Nov-14 | Last updated 21-Nov-14
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I believe that the gods themselves are frightened of the world which they have fashioned.

Peter Ackroyd (b. 1949) English biographer, novelist, critic
The Last Testament of Oscar Wilde (1983)
Added on 16-Sep-14 | Last updated 16-Sep-14
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Against stupidity the very gods
Themselves contend in vain.

[Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens]

Schiller - against stupidity the gods themselves - wist_info quote

Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805) German poet, playwright, critic [Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller]
The Maid of Orleans [Die Jungfrau von Orleans], Act III, sc. vi (1801) [tr. Swanwick]

Alt. trans:

  • "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain."
  • "Against stupidity the gods themselves labor in vain."
  • "Against stupidity the gods themselves fight unvictorious."
  • "Against stupidity even the gods contend in vain."
  • "With stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain."
  • "With stupidity the gods themselves struggle in vain."
Added on 5-Jun-08 | Last updated 25-Feb-16
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Heaven-sent calamities you may stand up against, but you cannot survive those brought on by yourself.

Shu Ching (6th Century BC) Chinese collection of political philosophy [Shujing, Shu-kin, Shangshu, The Book of History, The Book of Documents, or The Classic of History]
T’ai Chia

Also cited as Shu Ching 4, 5
Added on 17-Oct-05 | Last updated 17-Mar-16
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We, ignorant of ourselves,
Beg often our own harms, which the wise powers
Deny us for our good; so we find profit by losing of our prayers.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Antony and Cleopatra, Act 2, sc. 1, l. 5
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 20-May-16
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Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad with power;
The mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly small;
The bee fertilizes the flower it robs;
When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.

Charles Beard (1874-1948) American historian
Summary of human history, in reply to George S. Counts

See also Euripides, George Herbert.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 14-Nov-17
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When we talk of tomorrow, the gods laugh.

Other Authors and Sources
Chinese proverb
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 11-Feb-20
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