Ancient Wisdom That Stands The Test Of Time – Volume 2



Powerful words of ancient wisdom from long dead philosophers that are just as meaningful today as they were thousands of years ago – and will still be just as relevant thousands of years from now.

These incredible words from our ancient past are brimming with solid ways to live your life. While many centuries have passed since the death of all of these people, they thought and discussed the way things are. Why humans act the way we do. What will truly make us happy? Hint: It isn’t money.

If you find yourself lost in life, seek out the wisdom of these philosophers of old. They spent their lives observing and seeking the basic motives of people. Technology has advanced, but we are still the same. The modern self-help gurus only repackage what has been said long ago. I encourage you to really think about the quotes as you read them. Open your mind and let the wisdom tell you the truth. If you do this, really do it, you will witness a change within yourself. A change for the better.

Democritus – c. 460 – c. 370 BC

Philosopher and scientist, he is most known for his formulation of an atomic theory of the universe. Not much is known of his life or works other than what later philosophers have written down of him. He was said to have been a wealthy citizen of Thrace and to have written 73 books, none of which survived long after his death. He was said to have been hated by Plato, and Plato made it known that he wished all the works of Democritus burned. He earned himself the nickname “The Laughing Philosopher,” but another translation of the word means ‘to scoff’ and he was also known as “The Mocker.”

Democritus was ambivalent towards wealth building, so long as it was not gained from wrongdoing which was ”the worst of all things,” but valued self-sufficiency greater. His was against violence, but was no pacifist and advised to be prepared for war. As to whether humans were innately good or bad, he believed that goodness came from discipline and practice. He said to be content in life was to practice moderation and be satisfied with what you have, but be extravagant on occasion as feasts are necessary for joy and relaxation.

”If your desires are not great, a little will seem much to you; for small appetite makes poverty equivalent to wealth.”

”It is hard to fight desire; but to control it is the sign of a reasonable man.”

”Our sins are more easily remembered than our good deeds.”

”Happiness resides not in possessions, and not in gold, happiness dwells in the soul.”

”Many much-learned men have no intelligence.”

”Moderation multiplies pleasures, and increases pleasure.”

Marcus Aurelius – 121-180 AD

He may be most known for being the 16th Roman Emperor from 161 to 180, but he was also a skilled thinker and philosopher. His most significant book being a series of thoughts he wrote down while on a campaign from 170-180AD, titled Meditations. The book being the single greatest source of ancient Stoic philosophy.

Of course, he was born into a wealthy and politically prominent family, but he was also a great and intelligent man by his own standing. Marcus devoted much time to understanding the Stoic philosophy of Epictetus – a former slave. His intelligence and hard work were noticed by Emperor Hadrian who arranged his own successor, Titus Aurelius Antoninus, to adopt Marcus at the age of 17. Later he married the daughter of the Emperor, Faustina, and became Emperor when his adopted father died in 161.

”Our anger and annoyance are more detrimental to us than the things themselves which anger or annoy us.”

“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.”

“How much time he saves who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks.”

”You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”

”You always own the option of having no opinion. There is never any need to get worked up or to trouble your soul about things you can’t control. These things are not asking to be judged by you. Leave them alone.”

”Think of all the years passed by in which you said to yourself “I’ll do it tomorrow,” and how the gods have again and again granted you periods of grace of which you have not availed yourself. It is time to realize that you are a member of the Universe, that you are born of Nature itself, and to know that a limit has been set to your time. Use every moment wisely, to perceive your inner refulgence, or ’twill be gone and nevermore within your reach.”

Epicurus – 341-270 BC

He has the honor of having his own school of thought named after him, Epicureanism. Like many ancient philosophers, his 300 or so books have been lost and only fragments remain. He refused to believe in anything that was intangible, and that included God. His thoughts on God were highly criticized by Christian theologians, especially during the middle ages.

He told students that to have a tranquil and happy life is to live without fear, avoid pain, have friends near, and be self-sufficient. He also went on to say to do no harm to others and do not overindulge in any of life’s pleasures.

”Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”

” Of all the things which wisdom provides to make us entirely happy, much the greatest is the possession of friendship.”

”Being happy is knowing how to be content with little.”

”The man least dependent upon the morrow goes to meet the morrow most cheerfully.”

”Freedom is the greatest fruit of self-sufficiency.”

”A beneficent person is like a fountain watering the earth, and spreading fertility; it is, therefore, more delightful to give than to receive.”

”The things you really need are few and easy to come by, but the things you can imagine you need are infinite, and you will never be satisfied.”

Antisthenes – c. 445- c. 365 BC

He was first a student of the philosopher Gorgias before becoming a passionate disciple of Socrates, and was even present at his death. He is considered to be the founder of the Cynic philosophy, but much of his writings have been lost. What we do know of his work, which was said to have filled 10 volumes, comes from later philosophers and his students.
He was considered ”a man more intelligent than learned” and to have a considerable skill of wit and sarcasm. Even Plato is said to have taken many of Antisthenes’ writings and change them into his own words.

”As iron is eaten away by rust, so the envious are consumed by their own passion.”

”Wealth and poverty do not lie in a man’s estate, but in men’s souls.”

”States are doomed when they are unable to distinguish good men from bad.”

”We weed out the darnel from the corn and the unfit in war, but do not excuse evil men from the service of the state.”

”To all my friends without distinction I am ready to display my opulence: come one, come all; and whosoever likes to take a share is welcome to the wealth that lies within my soul.”

Confucius – 551-479 BC

Probably the most well-known of the Eastern philosophers, he was a descendant of Shang dynasty royalty and his given name was actually Kong Qui. After becoming a highly respected advisor and teacher he would be known as Kong Fuzi (Grand Master Kong), which was later Latinized as Confucius.

He came of age during a time of deteriorating Chinese principles and a general moral decline of the population. He seized the opportunity to teach those around him by reinforcing the societal values that were being lost. He came up with his own independent version of the “Golden Rule” of do unto other as you would have them do unto you, but furthered the principle. His version is translated as ”What one does not wish for oneself, one ought not to do to anyone else; what one recognizes as desirable for oneself, one ought to be willing to grant to others.”While the golden rule is a passive instruction to not harm others, his version adds the active component to help others.

He died thinking his teachings did not make any significant change to Chinese culture. Today his words are some of the most influential in all of Chinese history.

”Happiness does not consist in having what you want, but in wanting what you have.”

”All the darkness in the world can’t put out the light of one candle.”

”A great man is hard on himself; a small man is hard on others.”

”Happiness is not at the top of the mountain, but in the climb.”

”Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”

”Transport a handful of earth every day and you will make a mountain.”

”It doesn’t make a difference how gradually you go so long as you don’t stop.”

”Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

”The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.”

You may find much common ground between these ancient thinkers, an overall similarity of beliefs. It is no surprise that both Western and Eastern philosophy discovered the “Golden Rule” independently. It is because we are all human.

Do to others as you would want to be done to you. Help others if you are in a position to. Be content and live moderately, as too much of anything becomes a bad thing. Don’t worry about things you cannot change. Push yourself to become a better person, you will probably stumble but get up and keep on moving towards your goal.

But most of all: You do not know anything, and by knowing that you are wise.

So learn, never stop striving to become a better person, but know what you have already is plenty so help those that need it. You never know what outcomes your good deed will cause to happen in the distant future.

Because ”what we do in life ripples in eternity.” – Marcus Aurelius

This post originally appeared on my steemit blog.


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  1. Mrs. Picky Pincher

    This is quite neat. 🙂 Human struggles aren’t much different over time when you look at the words of these historical giants, hm?
    Mrs. Picky Pincher recently posted…What A Frugal Weekend!My Profile

    1. MrDD

      Human nature is still the same old beast it was a few thousands of years ago, and these philosophers spent a lifetime contemplating and discussing their observations. I think the quote from Confucious hits it pretty well “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”

  2. Mr Defined Sight

    Wow those are some great quotes. I was especially impressed by the thoughts of Marcus Aurelius. I think I need to take the time to educate myself on more of his work. Great post!
    Mr Defined Sight recently posted…Vacation Planning ComedyMy Profile

    1. MrDD

      After studying the ancient philosophies, I have found myself to be quite comfortable calling myself a stoic in the realm of Marcus. Or at least mostly one. I don’t claim to be the best at it.

  3. Tony

    ”Think of all the years passed by in which you said to yourself “I’ll do it tomorrow,” and how the gods have again and again granted you periods of grace of which you have not availed yourself. It is time to realize that you are a member of the Universe, that you are born of Nature itself, and to know that a limit has been set to your time. Use every moment wisely, to perceive your inner refulgence, or ’twill be gone and nevermore within your reach.”

    Uuuuh, I suddenly feel like I’m am procrastinating something. What a great quote to remind us that our time is truly limited and the only real commodity we have. This is why sitting on the couch feels like a waste of my life. I think I’ll smash out some projects this weekend and embrace the spirit of Marcus Aurelius! Thanks for the motivation.
    Tony recently posted…My $300 kitchen makeover.My Profile

    1. MrDD

      Gosh, I have been such a procrastinator in my life as well. Sometimes it feels like I am attached to a bungie cord and when I try to work towards the things I should be doing the closer I get to it the more force the bungie cord is exerting upon me. 😀

      That’s why I love quotes like this, it can give me the power to slice the bungie and get on with progress!

  4. Mustard Seed Money

    I love the quote ”Being happy is knowing how to be content with little.” This is something that I’ve been thinking a lot about recently. When I was younger I wanted a lot of material possessions to be happy. Now that I’m older I see that this is not what I really desire and am content with fewer things. Spending time with family is something that I said that I cherished for years but I feel like I am really enjoying the fruits of family these days. Especially now that I have a child 🙂
    Mustard Seed Money recently posted…Why You Probably Need More SleepMy Profile

    1. MrDD

      I love that the ‘secret’ to happiness was discovered so long ago yet hardly anyone in the world follows it. If only they took some time to think about it, they could see. But they are too busy chasing the latest thing to buy. I, too, have seen that spending time with my young child (and soon to be two young children!) is truly the most precious thing one can have.

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