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Lessons from Publius Syrus

January 20, 2014 Leave a comment

Publius Syrus

Publius (Publilius) Syrus was a former Syrian slave who lived in the first century B.C. I just finished “The Moral Sayings of Publius Syrus: A Roman Slave,” a collection of over 1,000 of his maxims on life. Some will be very familiar to readers (“Familiarity breeds contempt,” “He who chases two hares will catch neither”), while many others are less widely known.

If you’re into Stoicism or have enjoyed reading Seneca, Marcus Aurelius or Baltasar Gracián, you’ll probably enjoy this book too. Here are some of my favorite sayings from Publius Syrus:


  • Consider what you ought to say and not what you think.

Education and learning: 

  • Better be ignorant of a matter than half know it.
  • The wise man corrects his own errors by observing those of others.
  • The subordinate perceives all the failings of his superior.


  • It is harder to judge between friends than enemies.
  • Fear the envy of your friends more than the snares of your enemies.


  • He who boasts of a favor bestowed would like it back again.
  • To be always giving is to encourage a forcible taking when you refuse to give.


  • We all seek to know whether we shall be rich, but no one whether we shall be good.


  • A wise man rules his passions, a fool obeys them.


  • Mighty rivers may easily be leaped at their source.


  • An hour sometimes restores the sum of many years losses.


  • A good reputation is more valuable than money.
  • Many consult their reputation, but few their conscience.


Five Books You Should Read Before You Turn 30 – Farnam Street

Ryan Holiday’s Amazon review

9 Mind-expanding Books of Philosophy That Are Actually Readable (A Guide to Practical Philosophy) by Ryan Holiday

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