Periander of Corinth

This biographical sketch and the laws ascribed to Periander of Corinth here are derived primarily from Diogenes Laertius' The Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, translated by Robert Drew Hicks.

Periander (tyrant 625-585 BC): "Periander, the son of Cypselus, was born at Corinth, of the family of the Heraclidae. His wife was Lysida, whom he called Melissa. Her father was Procles, tyrant of Epidaurus, her mother Eristheneia, daughter of Aristocrates and sister of Aristodemus, who together reigned over nearly the whole of Arcadia, as stated by Heraclides of Pontus in his book On Government. By her he had two sons, Cypselus and Lycophron, the younger a man of intelligence, the elder weak in mind.

"He was the first who had a bodyguard and who changed his government into a tyranny, and he would let no one live in the town without his permission, as we know from Ephorus and Aristotle. He flourished about the 38th Olympiad and was tyrant for forty years.

"Sotion and Heraclides and Pamphila in the fifth book of her Commentaries distinguish two Perianders, one a tyrant, the other a sage who was born in Ambracia. Neanthes of Cyzicus also says this, and adds that they were near relations. And Aristotle maintains that the Corinthian Periander was the sage; while Plato denies this."

Practice makes perfect.

("Periander is mentioned in the Politics of Aristotle (v. 4, 1304 a 32), but not as one of the Seven Wise Men. In Plato's Protagoras, 343 A, where the Seven Wise Men are enumerated, Periander's name is omitted, his place being taken by Myson. It would almost seem as if Diogenes Laertius knew of some passage in Aristotle in which Periander was called one of the Seven, though no such passage is extant.")

Periander of Corinth on Moral Law

Practice makes perfect. – Periander

Pleasures are transient, honours are immortal. – Periander

Be farsighted with everything. – Periander

Nothing is impossible to industry. – Periander

Live according to your income. – Periander

The mind still longs for what it has missed, and loses itself in the contemplation of the past. – Periander

He who assists the wicked will in time rue it. – Periander

He who has once made himself notorious as utterly unprincipled, is not credited even when he speaks the truth. – Periander

He who trusts himself for safety to the care of a wicked man, in seeking succour meets with ruin. – Periander

However exalted our position, we should still not despise the powers of the humble. – Periander

Judge of a tree by its fruit, not by its leaves. – Periander

Liars pay the penalty of their own misdeeds. – Periander

Relaxation should at times be given to the mind, the better to fit it for toil when resumed. – Periander

Success brings many to ruin. – Periander

The soft speeches of the wicked are full of deceit. – Periander

The success of the wicked tempts many to sin. – Periander

Those who plot the destruction of others often perish in the attempt. – Periander

To counsel others, and to disregard one's own safety, is folly. – Periander

Unless your works lead to profit, vain is your glory in them. – Periander

Witty remarks are all very well when spoken at a proper time: when out of place they are offensive. – Periander

The useful and the beautiful are never separated. – Periander

Be moderate in prosperity, prudent in adversity. – Periander

Be the same to your friends whether they are in prosperity or in adversity. – Periander

Whatever agreement you make, stick to it. – Periander

Betray no secret. – Periander

Correct not only the offenders but also those who are on the point of offending. – Periander


Laertius, Diogenes, "Life of Periander," The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers. R.D. Hicks, trans. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 1972 (First published 1925) [Perseus Digital Library, retrieved November 16, 2017].

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