Demotivational quote from Epictetus

You ought to possess your whole body as a poor mule loaded, as long as it is possible, as long as you are allowed. But if there be a press, and a soldier should lay hold of it, let it go, do not resist, nor murmur; if you do, you will receive blows, and nevertheless you will also lose the mule.

Epictetus, Discourses. Book IV

Interestingly, the second part of this quote is a lot more practical, when not fraught with the burden of a philosophical analogy. more...

Xerxes--King of Persia

While retreating from Greece aboard a Phonecian ship, a dangerous storm blew up. The ship was overloaded with Persians and it looked as though the ship would sink. Xerxes asked the pilot if there was anyway to survive and was told that the ship's load must be lighted substantially. On hearing this, the king addressed the Persians, "It is on you that my safety depends. Now let some of you show your regard for your king." more...

Demosthenes' comeback

An orator of Athens said to Demosthenes, "The Athenians will kill you if they are in a rage." Demosthenes replied, "And they will kill you if they are in the right mind." more...

Alexander the Great as Parmenion

After Alexander had conquered Egypt, King Darius of Persia offered Alexander generous terms for peace.

Darius would pay Alexander 10,000 talents for releasing Perisan prisoners, give him the areas west of the Euphrates and he would hand over his daughter to Alexander in marriage.

Alexander was unsure if he should accept these terms and consulted his general, Parmenion. Parmenion said, "If I were Alexander, I would accept these offers."
Alexander countered, "So would I, if I were Parmenion."

Pyrrhic victory

Pyrrhus, after his victory ofer the Romans, near the river Siris, said to those sent to congratulate him, "One more such victory and Pyrrhus is undone."

From Dictionary of Phrase and Fable: Giving the Derivation, Source, Or Origin of Common Phrases, Allusions and Words that have a Tale to Tell by Ebenezer Cobham Brewer more...

Cato and statues

Cato, on observing that statues were being set up in honour of many, remarked, "I would rather people would ask, why is there not a statue to Cato, than why there is."

From Greek Wit: A Collection of Smart Sayings and Anecdotes by Frederick Apthorp Paley more...

Caesar's wife must be above suspicion!

Bona Dea (Lat. "the Good Goddess "), in Roman myth, a divinity also known as Fauna or Fatua and described as the sister, daughter or wife of Faunus. Her worship was exclusively confined to women in somuch that men were not even allowed to know her name. Being the goddess of fertility her rites degenerated from rustic simplicity in their original environment to unseemly license in the metropolis. The matrons of the noblest families in Rome met by night in the house of the highest official of the state. Only women were permitted to attend. more...

Caesar and the pilot

Once he had taken ship in disguise to cross the Adriatic Sea, and the helmsman, terrified by the adverse wind, dared not pursue his course. But Caesar said to him, " Fear not, my friend! You carry Caesar and his fortunes!"

From the Bible for Leaners more...

Death of Archimedes

When Syracuse was taken, Archimedes was describing mathematical figures upon the earth, and when one of the enemy came upon him, sword in hand, and asked his name, he was so engrossed with the desire of preserving the figures entire, that he answered only by an earnest request to the soldier to keep off, and not break in upon his circle. The soldier, conceiving himself scorned, ran Archimedes through the body, the purple streams more...

Roman Wit

A Roman knight coming to Adrian to request a favour of him, received a denial: the knight was old, and had a very gray beard, but a few days after, having covered his beard black, like a young man, he came to the emperor again about the same business. The emperor, perceiving the fraud, said to him, " I would be very glad to gratify you in your desire, but a few days past I denied it to your father, and therefore it would not be just to grant that to the son which I refused to the father."

From The Olio, Or, Museum of Entertainment more...

Plato's wit

Plato, living in the Academy at Athens, which
the physicians considered unhealthy, was advised
to remove to the Lyceum. "I would not have
removed even to the top of Mount Athos," he
replied, "for the sake of a longer life."
(Aelian, Var. Hist. ix. 10.)

* * *

When Plato was lecturing on his theory of "Abstracts,"
Diogenes said, "Table-ism and cup-ism
I cannot see, though I can see a table or a cup."
"That," replied Plato, " is because you have eyes
to see the one, but not mind to apprehend the
other." (Diog. LAERT. vi. 2, 53.)

From Greek Wit: A Collection of Smart Sayings and Anecdotes by Frederick Apthorp Paley more...

Spartan Soldier's Wit

Just before the battle of Thermopylae, a Spartan soldier came and reported, that the Persians were so numerous, that their clouds of arrows darkened the sun. 'So much the better,' said Leonidas,' for we shall fight in the shade.'

From The Flowers of Wit by Henry Kett more...

Spartan army on the march - friend or foe

Agesilaus, intending to march through Macedonia, sent to ask the king of that country whether he intended to receive him as a friend or an enemy. " I will consider," he replied. "Then," said the Spartan, "do you think about it, and we meanwhile will commence our march." The king very soon sent a message : "Come as a friend." PLUTARCH, Ap. Lac., Ages. 43 more...

Spartans and the arts

* * * A Spartan ephor cut two of the strings of a harp, saying to the performer, "Don't murder music." * * * Some one seeing a picture of Laconians being killed by Athenians, observed, "Brave fellows,these Athenians." "On canvas," interposed a Laconian. From 'Greek Wit: A Collection of Smart Sayings and Anecdotes' by Frederick Apthorp Paley. more...

Spartan meal

Xerxes, when he fled from Greece, left Mardonius all his costly dinner-service of plate. Pausanias, aware of this, ordered the cooks, after the death of Mardonius at Plataea, to prepare a dinner precisely as they would have done for Mardonius. When this was ready, and the divans and gold and silver tables had been duly set out, he told his own servants to prepare a Spartan dinner. Laughing heartily at the contrast, he called his generals and said, "Gentlemen, I wished to point out to you the folly of this Persian general, who with all this grandeur came to rob you of your miserable meal." more...

Reading Hesiod

A Spartan was praising a saying of Hesiod's,
"Not even an ox would be lost if one had not
a bad neighbour," in the hearing of Diogenes, who
cynically replied, "But the Messenians are lost,
and their oxen too; and you are their neighbours." more...

The Greek Prize of Victory

WHEN some Arcadian deserters asked to be admitted into the service of the Persian king,
Xerxes asked them what the Greeks were doing. The
answer was that they were keeping the great feast of
Olympia, and beholding the contests of wrestlers and
horsemen. On hearing this, a Persian asked what the
prize might be for which they strove, and was told
that it was an olive wreath. 'Ah, Mardonius,'
exclaimed one of the satraps who were standing by,
'what men are these against whom you have brought
us here to fight, who strive not for money, but for
glory?' more...