Greek Ethical Thought from Homer to the Stoics

By Hilda D. Oakeley | Go to book overview
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565-490 B.C.

Theognis, a poet of stormy times and many reverses of fortune, does not write in a very lofty strain. He was much preoccupied by the prosperity of the unjust and misfortunes of the just. In the following lines he maintains that the evil deed brings retribution, though it may be on the descendants of the wrongdoer, not himself.

Elegies of Theognis, Revised Text by T. Hudson-Williams, M.A., 1910. Cf. also Poetae Minores Graeci, ed. T. Gaisford, Vol. i. ΙΕΟΓΝΔΟΣ ΓΝΩΜΑΙ.

Evil brings Retribution


Wealth which is the gift of heaven, justly acquired by man, and with pure hands, ever abides. But if wrongly and unduly with thoughts greedy of gain a man procure it or grasp by a false oath, for the moment indeed he seems to carry off some gain, but in the end evil is engendered. The mind of the Gods prevails. But the thoughts of men are deceived. For not on the offence itself falls the punishment of heaven though the doer himself atones for the evil, since a black fate he has forthwith hung over his dear children. The retribution did not overtake the other (ie. the doer), for there came relentless death, holding the doom before his eyes.

(Elsewhere Theognis protests against the law (conceived to prevail) that the innocent should suffer for the sins of their ancestors.)


Would, Father Zeus, that it were pleasing to the gods, and acceptable in their sight, that the insolence of the wicked should be noted and that he who recklessly works evil deeds


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Greek Ethical Thought from Homer to the Stoics


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