THE SAYINGS OF PUBLILIUS SYRUS
Publilius Syrus, often referred to as Publius Syrus, was a Latin writer between 85-43 BC. At the age of 12, he was a slave and sent to Rome where he began work for a new master.
While with his new master, his wit and sensibility was exposed, bringing much joy and laughter to the master. Having never seen these gifts and talents in such a young man, Syrus’ master provided him a liberal education, something unheard of for a slave of the time. His master eventually freed him which supplied Syrus with great affection for his master and would never be forgotten.
Syrus would go on to craft mimes, short improvisatory dramas satirizing the people and the world of the time.
His works would be a key influence on Seneca who strove to develop a similar pious voice for his own work. He is quoted by Seneca in two works, On the Value of Advice and On the Philosopher’s Seclusion, both coming from his Epistulae Morales ad Lucilium, known today as the Letters from a Stoic.
This will be a multi-part series wherein we explore the aphorisms of Publilius Syrus. If you have read Seneca’s work before, carefully study how the Syrus aphorisms have influenced him. Regardless of whether they have a Stoic context or not, they are nonetheless enjoyable.
My favorite aphorisms are in bold.
The quotes are attributable to the D. Lyman translation.
Publilius Syrus # 1
As men, we are all equal in the presence of death.
Publilius Syrus # 2
The evil you do to others you may expect in return.
Publilius Syrus # 3
Allay the anger of your friend by kindness.
Publilius Syrus # 4
To dispute with a drunkard is to debate with an empty house.
Publilius Syrus # 5
Receive an injury rather than do one.
Publilius Syrus # 6
A trifling rumor may cause a great calamity.
Publilius Syrus # 7
To do two things at once is to do neither.
Publilius Syrus # 8
A hasty judgment is a first step to a recantation.
Publilius Syrus # 9
Suspicion cleaves to the dark side of things.
Publilius Syrus # 10
To love one’s wife with too much passion, is to be an adulterer.