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 Little known advice from the ancients still applicable today

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nordmann
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PostSubject: Little known advice from the ancients still applicable today   Tue 01 May 2012, 16:35

When we think of "ancient wisdom" we sometimes tend to associate the term with worthy epigrams, aphorisms and advice which has been transmitted to us through religious or high-brow academic media such as theology, philosophy (with a capital "P"), and other "ologies" or "osophies" of the ilk. What is lost therefore is the realisation that some of the best and most enduring maxims encapsulating such wisdom originated in, and endured because of, a basic common sense which is as important and relevant to us all today as it always has been. As such they belong to no particular ideological creed or discipline, but to humanity itself.

Taking as an arbitrary cut-off point for "ancient" to be the transition from BCE to CE in the western calendar, how many gems of sound advice from two millennia and longer ago are there which, when one thinks about it, should be taught today to the point that we are as familar with them as we are now with contemporary pearls of wisdom coincidentally surviving as religious or philosophical doctrine? The Book of Proverbs is a reservoir of some of these home-spun aphorisms familiar to many now outside the Judaic, Christian or Muslim faiths, but only because they were protected from extinction through the preservation of scripture by these faiths for religious reasons, not for their appeal to common sense.

How many of these nuggets' contemporaries however have also endured, despite not being so "protected", and did so because they were primarily sensible, not ever supporting or intended to support any ideology apart from that which promoted general common sense?

My curiosity was prompted after reading the advice attributed to Ptahhotep, a vizier in 5th Dynasty Egypt around 2,500BCE, which in our modern western society should now be compulsorily taught, I reckon, to everyone from birth;

"Be merry all your life. Toil no more than is required nor cut short the time allotted for pleasure. It offends the spirit to be robbed of its time. So waste not an hour more than you must taking care of your household. Wealth will come even if you indulge in your own wishes, but it will be useless if you are glum."
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Islanddawn
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PostSubject: Re: Little known advice from the ancients still applicable today   Tue 01 May 2012, 17:01

I rather like this one from Democritus, somewhere around 300BC

Everywhere man blames nature and fate, yet his fate is mostly but an echo of his character and passions, his mistakes and weaknesses.
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ferval
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PostSubject: Re: Little known advice from the ancients still applicable today   Sat 05 May 2012, 09:11

Ovid just sneaks in to this time frame and one is spoiled for choice. How about
Quote :
Prisca iuvent alios: ego me nunc denique natum gratulor: Let others praise ancient times; I am glad I was born in these.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Little known advice from the ancients still applicable today   Sat 05 May 2012, 15:09

ferval wrote:
How about
Quote :
Prisca iuvent alios: ego me nunc denique natum gratulor: Let others praise ancient times; I am glad I was born in these.

I think Sophocles was right with his "Not to be born is best."

It could be argued that the ancients actually were wasting their time offering us all their wisdom. Nothing changes. Mankind persists in its folly - we are just as vicious, brutal, greedy and stupid now as we ever have been.

But the ancient inscriptions they had at Delphi were excellent - clever and nicely subtle, and I believe they were actually just popular proverbs, not "philosophy". It might be an idea to "teach" these to the younger generation. Mind you, I still haven't quite got to grips with numbers one and two myself:

1. Know thyself.

2. Nothing in excess.

3. Make a pledge and mischief is nigh.

I believe they had "Know thyself" on the wall of the Oracle's kitchen in "The Matrix", but the advice was in Latin. I suppose there was a reason for that. Its origin, whatever the language - and indeed the significance of the Oracle itself/herself - was certainly "little known" when the film came out: most young people I talked to about it at the time thought it was all to do with computers!
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Vizzer
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PostSubject: Re: Little known advice from the ancients still applicable today   Sun 22 Mar 2015, 14:11

The Chinese philosopher Mo Tzu (c. 400 BC) is generally seen as a bit of puritan bore. For example he even wrote a treatise called Against Music. An ascetic who hated aesthetics, you get the picture. That said - there is a tenet from his essay On Indulgence and Excess that is difficult to refute:

'Moderation and probity bring health and prosperity while indulgence and excess lead to disease and destruction.'
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Gilgamesh of Uruk
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PostSubject: Re: Little known advice from the ancients still applicable today   Sun 22 Mar 2015, 23:27

Siduri answered,
'Gilgamesh, where are you hurrying to?
You will never find the life for which you are looking.
When the gods created man
they allotted to him death,
but life they retained in their own keeping.
As for you, Gilgamesh,
fill your belly with good things;
day and night, night and day, dance and be merry,
feast and rejoice.
Let your clothes be fresh,
bathe yourself in water,
cherish the little child that holds your hand,
and make your wife happy in your embrace;
for this too is the lot of man.'

Bet you can all guess where that comes from.
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