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The Fragments of Heraclitus

From John Burnet, Early Greek Philosophy. 2nd Ed. London: Adam and Charles Black, 1908, 146-156.

(1) It is wise to hearken, not to me, but to my Word [Logos], and to confess that all things are one.

(2) Though this Word is true evermore, yet men are as unable to understand it when they hear it for the first time as before they have heard it at all. For, though all things come to pass in accordance with this Word, men seem as if they had no experience of them, when they make trial of words and deeds such as I set forth, dividing each thing according to its nature and showing how it truly is. But other men know not what they are doing when awake, even as they forget what they do in sleep.

(3) Fools when they do hear are like the deaf: of them does the saying bear witness that they are absent when present.

(4) Eyes and ears are bad witnesses to men if they have souls that understand not their language.

(5) The many do not take heed of such things as they meet with, nor do they mark them when they are taught, though they think they do.

(6) Knowing not how to listen nor how to speak.

(7) If you do not expect the unexpected, you will not find it; for it is hard to be sought out and difficult.

(8) Those who seek for gold dig up much earth and find a little.

(10) Nature loves to hide.

(11) The lord whose is the oracle at Delphi neither utters nor hides his meaning, but shows it by a sign.

(12) And the Sibyl, with raving lips uttering things mirthless, unbedizened, and unperfumed, reaches over a thousand years with her voice, thanks to the god in her.

(13) The things that can be seen, heard, and learned are what I prize the most.

(14) ... bringing untrustworthy witnesses in support of disputed points.

(15) The eyes are more exact witnesses than the ears.

(16) The learning of many things teacheth not understanding, else would it have taught Hesiod and Pythagoras, and again Xenophanes and Hekataius.

(17) Pythagoras, son of Mnesarchus, practiced inquiry beyond all other men, and choosing out these writings, claimed for his own wisdom what was but a knowledge of many things and an art of mischief.

(18) Of all whose discussions I have heard, there is not one who attains to understanding that wisdom is apart from all.

(19) Wisdom is one thing. It is to know the thought by which all things are steered through all things.

(20) This world (kosmos), which is the same for all, no one of gods or men has made; but it was ever, is now, and ever shall be an ever-living Fire, with measures kindling, and measures going out.

(21) The transformations of Fire are, first of all, sea; and half of the sea is earth, half whirlwind....

(22) All things are an exchange for Fire, and Fire for all things, even as wares for gold and gold for wares.

(23) It becomes liquid sea, and is measured by the same tale as before it became earth.

(24) Fire is want and surfeit.

(25) Fire lives the death of air, and air lives the death of fire; water lives the death of earth, earth that of water.

(26) Fire in its advance will judge and convict [overtake?] all things.

(27) How can one hide from that which never sets?

(28) It is the thunderbolt that steers the course of all things.

(29) The sun will not overstep his measures; if he does, the Erinyes, the handmaids of Justice, will find him out.

(30) The limit of East and West is the Bear; and opposite the Bear is the boundary of bright Zeus.

(31) If there were no sun it would be night, for all the other stars could do.

(32) The sun is new every day.

(34) ... the seasons that bring all things.

(35) Hesiod is most men's teacher. Men think he knew very many things, a man who did not know day or night! They are one.

(36) God is day and night, winter and summer, war and peace, surfeit and hunger; but he takes various shapes, just as fire, when it is mingled with spices, is named according to the savour of each.

(37) If all things were turned to smoke, the nostrils would distinguish them.

(38) Souls smell in Hades.

(39) Cold things become warm, and what is warm cools; what is wet dries, and the parched is moisted.

(40) It scatters and it gathers; it advances and retires.

(41, 42) You cannot step twice into the same rivers; for fresh waters are ever flowing in upon you.

(43) Homer was wrong in saying: "Would that strife might perish from among gods and men!" He did not see that he was praying for the destruction of the universe; for, if his prayer were heard, all things would pass away....

(44) War is the father of all and the king of all; and some he has made gods and some men, some bond and some free.

(45) Men do not know how what is at variance agrees with itself. It is an attunement of opposite tensions, like that of the bow and the lyre.

(46) It is the opposite which is good for us.

(47) The hidden attunement is better than the open.

(48) Let us not conjecture at random about the greatest things.

(49) Men that love wisdom must be acquainted with very many things indeed.

(50) The straight and the crooked path of the fuller's comb is one and the same.

(51) Asses would rather have straw than gold.

(51a) Oxen are happy when they find bitter vetches to eat.

(52) The sea is the purest and the impurest water. Fish can drink it, and it is good for them; to men it is undrinkable and destructive.

(53) Swine wash in the mire, and barnyard fowls in dust.

(54) ... to delight in the mire.

(55) Every beast is driven to pasture with blows.

(56) Same as 45.

(57) Good and ill are one.

(58) Physicians who cut, burn, stab, and rack the sick, demand a fee for it which they do not deserve to get.

(59) Couples are things whole and things not whole, what is drawn together and what is drawn asunder, the harmonious and the discordant. The one is made up of all things, and all things issue from the one.

(60) Men would not have known the name of justice if these things [unjust things?] were not.

(61) To God all things are fair and good and right, but men hold some things wrong and some right.

(62) We must know that war is common to all and strife is justice, and that all things come into being and pass away (?) through strife.

(64) All the things we see when awake are death, even as all we see in slumber are sleep.

(65) The wise is one only. It is unwilling and willing to be called by the name of Zeus.

(66) The bow is called life, but its work is death.

(67) Mortals are immortals and immortals are mortals, the one living the others' death and dying the others' life.

(68) For it is death to souls to become water, and death to water to become earth. But water comes from earth; and from water, soul.

(69) The way up and the way down is one and the same.

(70) In the circumference of a circle the beginning and end are common.

(71) You will not find the boundaries of soul by traveling in any direction, so deep is the measure of it.

(72) It is pleasure to souls to become moist.

(73) A man, when he gets drunk, is led by a beardless lad, tripping, knowing not where he steps, having his soul moist.

(74-76) The dry soul is the wisest and best.

(77) Man is kindled and put out like a light in the night-time.

(78) And it is the same thing in us that is quick and dead, awake and asleep, young and old; the former are shifted and become the latter, and the latter in turn are shifted and become the former.

(79) Time is a child playing draughts, the kingly power is a child's.

(80) I have sought for myself.

(81) We step and do not step into the same rivers; we are and are not.

(82) It is a weariness to labour for the same masters and be ruled by them.

(83) It rests by changing.

(84) Even the posset separates if it is not stirred.

(85) Corpses are more fit to be cast out than dung.

(86) When they are born, they wish to live and to meet with their dooms -- or rather to rest -- and they leave children behind them to meet with their dooms in turn.

(87-89) A man may be a grandfather in thirty years.

(90) Those who are asleep are fellow-workers...

(91a) Thought is common to all.

(91b) Those who speak with understanding must hold fast to what is common to all as a city holds fast to its law, and even more strongly. For all human laws are fed by the one divine law. It prevails as much as it will, and suffices for all things with something to spare.

(92) So we must follow the common, yet though my Word is common, the many live as if they had a wisdom of their own.

(93) They are estranged from that with which they have most constant intercourse.

(94) It is not meet to act and speak like men asleep.

(95) The waking have one common world, but the sleeping turn aside each into a world of his own.

(96) The way of man has no wisdom, but that of God has.

(97) Man is called a baby by God, even as a child by a man.

(98, 99) The wisest person is an ape compared to God, just as the most beautiful ape is ugly compared to man.

(100) The people must fight for its law as for its walls.

(101) Greater deaths win greater portions.

(102) Gods and men honour those who are slain in battle.

(103) Wantonness needs putting out, even more than a house on fire.

(104) It is not good for men to get all they wish to get. It is sickness that makes health pleasant; evil, good; hunger, plenty; weariness, rest.

(105-107) It is hard to fight with one's heart's desire. Whatever it wishes to get, it purchases at the cost of soul.

(108, 109) It is best to hide folly; but it is hard in times of relaxation, over our cups.

(110) And it is law, too, to obey the counsel of one.

(111) For what thought or wisdom have they? They follow the poets and take the crowd as their teacher, knowing not that there are many bad and few good. For even the best of them choose one thing above all others, immortal glory among mortals, while most of them are glutted like beasts.

(112) In Priene lived Bias, son of Teutamas, who is of more account than the rest. (He said, "Most men are bad.")

(113) One is ten thousand to me, if he be the best.

(114) The Ephesians would do well to hang themselves, every grown man of them, and leave the city to beardless lads; for they have cast out Hermodorus, the best person among them, saying, "We will have none who is best among us; if there be any such, let him be so elsewhere and among others."

(115) Dogs bark at every one they do not know.

(116) ... (The wise man) is not known because of men's want of belief.

(117) The fool is fluttered at every word.

(118) The most esteemed of them knows but fancies; yet of a truth justice shall overtake the artificers of lies and the false witnesses.

(119) Homer should be turned out of the lists and whipped, and Archilochus likewise.

(120) One day is like any other.

(121) Man's character is his fate.

(122) There awaits men when they die such things as they look not for nor dream of.

(123) ... that they rise up and become the wakeful guardians of the quick and dead.

(124) Night-walkers, Magians, priests of Bakchos and priestesses of the wine-vat, mystery-mongers....

(125) The mysteries practiced among men are unholy mysteries.

(126) And they pray to these images, as if one were to talk with a man's house, knowing not what gods or heroes are.

(127) For if it were not to Dionysus that they made a procession and sang the shameful phallic hymn, they would be acting most shamelessly. But Hades is the same as Dionysus in whose honor they go mad and keep the feast of the wine-vat.

(129, 130) They vainly purify themselves by defiling themselves with blood, just as if one who had stepped into the mud were to wash his feet in mud. Any man who marked him doing thus, would deem him mad.


John Burnet, Early Greek Philosophy. 2nd Ed. London: Adam and Charles Black, 1908, 146-156.

This text is part of the Internet Ancient History Sourcebook. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to ancient history. Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright. Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No permission is granted for commercial use.

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