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Greek/Maxims on Temple of Apollo at Delphi


Marie Ault wrote at 2009-12-16 00:15:00
According to the book I'm reading (Long for Wisdom,Allyson Szabo, ISBN 978-1438239767), The third maxim is Surety brings Ruin.  Surity is using one's own liberty as collateral for a debt.  So, the third maxim says don't take on a debt that could cause you to lose your freedom.  I hope this helps.

builtbybosche wrote at 2011-01-30 02:15:13
I in no way wish to contradict Michael's opinion. As I found his answer refreshing and fascinating. My own personal opinion of the three inscriptions is very similar. To me, 'Know Thyself' is at first a very difficult proposition. Seen philosophically, one could argue, how can one possibly ever know oneself. For example, scientist are still trying to understand the complexities of the human brain. And also if the brain is a construct of 'Mother Nature' then how can humans who use brains ever understand their 'creator'. However, I think the Greeks were far more practical. There are many things that each individual knows about themselves via their experiences in life. For example do you like tea? We have to eat to survive, sleep is beneficial and necessary etc etc. The fact that there are mysteries in the cosmos is another thing that is known. The second inscription seen again from this practical view is the ultimate in 'common sense'. One may indugle oneself in anything but must return to an equilibrium or the consequences could be disastrous. One could use overeating to obesity as a perfect example. The third inscription to me means that if one gives oneself to another completely then this can lead to dire consequences. Blind allegiance to a cause or individual whilst sacrificing ones own life learned preferences is bad. An example here could be someone who follows the word of a religion and yet in their heart has doubts, or the one time held view by scientists that the world was flat. The lesson of the three inscriptions seems to be, follow yourself and know through personal trial and error what suits you, but don't do any of those things -or indeed anything - to excess. This is all of course a personal opinion.  

drkatiam wrote at 2011-11-27 16:10:42
I have always felt that these three maxims were deeper warnings of what travelers went to the Oracle for...that being, Truth.

I say "warnings" because when one truly chooses to seek Truth it turns one's world upside down and shatters previously held and, sometimes treasured, beliefs.

The first, "Know Thyself!" is wherein lie all the answers to all questions.

The next, "Nothing in Excess!" reminds one to seek the middle path, to veer neither left nor right but to stay true to one's path and not to be misled by that which sparkles briefly.

My opinion of the third maxim which is being discussed here, "Commitment brings misfortune!" is that in committing to the first two maxims, one will lose the attachment to the life lived prior to the quest for truth.

When one commits to a life of knowing oneself and turns away from excess, one finds that one's previous life falls away. Material fortune is laid down, cultural, familial, social, financial "fortunes" have no more hold nor importance in one's Truth.

Maxims or sayings in our world have many-layered meanings. They can be looked at from the layer at which one is functioning and as one goes deeper into oneself, the meanings deepen along with the person's understanding.

This is simply my opinion. I hope it sheds light upon another perspective.

In peace,


Bouzanis K. wrote at 2013-11-24 08:57:39
The ®E® of Delphi and the "know thyself"

Read an interesting point of view concerning the ® E ® of Delphi:

T wrote at 2015-02-24 07:20:59
Whoa, Michael's answer is mostly skewed interpretation and wild extrapolation. Most actual scholars think the third maxim warns of the consequences of giving/receiving a rash pledge. The most literal translation is 'A pledge (either given or received), and thereupon ruin." The final noun (alpha, tau, eta) is fairly nuanced. See this page for all it's possible meanings -

Some, myself included, think that this is simply a warning against giving/receiving a 'surety,' an ancient practice which could be compared to paying someone's bail by putting up your own freedom as collateral. More broadly, and more applicable to today's world, it's a warning against putting yourself out on a limb for another person and/or allowing someone else to put themselves out on a limb for you. In other words, it's a warning against owing or being owed. For example, giving or receiving a loan. "A loan, and thereupon ruin" could probably serve as a modern version.  


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Michael Barkas


I provide assistance in linguistic, literary topics of Greek and Latin covering, thus, the following fields: translation, grammar, syntax, vocabulary, etymology, morphology, semantics and interpretations etc.


Studies: University of the Aegean, Dept Rhodes Friedrich Wilhelm Universitšt Bonn

Magister Artium (Archeology/Linguistics) Bachelor (Latin/English/Greek)

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