Delphic maxim a week

We live in a golden age of technology and possibilities, but we still repeat the same mistakes humans have always made. Around 29 centuries ago, the ancient Greeks analyzed a ton of these mistakes and distilled what they learned into useful tidbits for avoiding them in the future.

“Know Thyself” is the most famous of the Delphic maxims, ancient commands/advice attributed to either the Oracle at Delphi or the Seven Sages of Greece, but the other 146 maxims are equally striking.

Seven Sages
Seven Sages

Interestingly, most of the blogs talking about the maxims are Pagan, usually prefaced with statements like “I don’t worship Apollo, but…” You don’t have to be religious to read, learn, and love wisdom from the past. Last week I added the first 31 to my calendar as a theme for the week. Here are the ten most striking to me, reordered as a useful flow:

  1. Listen to everything
  2. Perceive what you have heard
  3. Know what you have learned
  4. Know your opportunity
  5. Use your skill
  6. Act when you know
  7. Act without repenting
  8. Do not trust fortune
  9. Foresee the future
  10. Think as a mortal

At least 15% of the maxims are about being self-aware. Understanding the significance of sensory input, recognizing events, and taking advantage of them within the context of your limited life. Understanding your limitations but never hesitating to grow and overcome them is a theme that has always resonated with humans. 

As with all information, you have to read critically through the maxims and cherry pick the ones that are useful to you. I suspect some of the later maxims like “Die for your country” and “Admire oracles” were more self-serving than true wisdom.

masyukun Written by:

Software engineer consultant.

One Comment

  1. Peter
    September 27, 2014

    Thanks! I didn’t know that “Know thyself” was part of a collection. Now for me to seek out the other 146…

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