Judge (6th century BC)
Bias was a poet, philosopher and statesman widely renowned for his rhetorical skills and his strong sense of justice. He was one of the Seven Sages of Ancient Greece who flourished in Priene during the 6th century BC.
Few things are known about Bias’ life and work. His biography was written by Diogenes Laertius. As a judge, he would take only just cases. As poet, he wrote a poem composed of 2000 lines as well as numerous others which have been lost. As a statesman, Bias was never actually involved with politics on a practical scale. Nevertheless, he was involved in the salvation of his country from its siege by Alyattes, king of Lydia using an ingenious trick that he came up with that outwitted the king. In addition, he served as advisor of kings and generals concerning administrative and strategic subjects.
Bias is most renowned today for his sayings, which reflect his wisdom and sense of justice. Perhaps his most famous one is «Οἱ πλεῖστοι ἄνθρωποι κακοί» (Most men are evil). For this reason, Bias considered democracy an unsuitable political system. Other of his sayings include:
«Ἀνάξιον ἄνδρα μὴ ἐπαίνει διὰ πλοῦτον» – Do not honour the rich if he is a man without values.
«Ἄκουε πολλά» – Listen to many.
«Βραδέως ἐγχείρει· ὃ δ᾽ ἂν ἄρξῃ, διαβεβαιοῦ» – Be slow in considering, but resolute in action.
«Κτῆσαι ἐν μὲν νεότητι εὐπραξίαν, ἐν δὲ τῷ γήρᾳ σοφίαν. Ἕξεις ἔργῳ μνήμην, καιρῷ εὐλάβειαν, τρόπῳ γενναιότητα, πόνῳ ἐγκράτειαν, φόβῳ εὐσέβειαν, πλούτῳ φιλίαν, λόγῳ πειθώ, σιγῇ κόσμον, γνώμῃ δικαιοσύνην, τόλμῃ ἀνδρείαν, πράξει δυναστείαν, δόξῃ ἡγεμονίαν» – In your youth, seek to earn the means of a comfortable life, in your old age, wisdom. With your work you will acquire memory, with circumstances, respect, with your behaviour, bravery, with your efforts, temperance, with your fears, euseby, with wealth, friendship, with logos, persuasion, with silence, ornaments, with mind, justice, with boldness, gallantry, with your actions, power, with your good name, authority.
«Φρόνησιν ἀγάπα» – Love prudence.
«Πείσας λάβε, μὴ βιασάμενος» – Accept of things, having procured them by persuasion, not by force.
«Λάλει καίρια» – Speak when the time is right.
«Ὅ,τι ἂν ἀγαθὸν πράσσῃς, θεούς. μὴ σεαυτὸν αἰτιῶ» – Whatever good fortune befalls you, attribute it to the gods.
It is said that Bias died in old age in the court during pleading of one of his clients. The epitaph on his tomb, as quoted by Diogenes Laertius writes:
Beneath this stone lies Bias, who was born
In the illustrious Prienian land,
The glory of the whole Ionian race.
- “Bias of Priene”. Wikiquote. Wikiquote.org. Web. Retrieved on October 28, 2016.
- Bias of Priene. Livius.org. Web. Retrieved on October 27, 2016.
- Pleures, Konstantinos. The persecution of the best elements of society. Athens: Hilektron publications, 2013. Print.
- Seven Sages Series: the wisdom of Bias of Priene. Baringtheaegis.blogspot.bg. July 7, 2015. Web. Retrieved on October 28, 2016.