My dear Kacvey,

Diogenes Laertius told that Pittacus was born circa 600 B.C., and a native of Mytelene.

In the war between Mytelene and Athens for the territory of Achileis he himself had the chief command on the one side, and Phrynon, who had won an Olympic victory in the pancratium, commanded the Athenians. Pittacus agreed to meet him in single combat; with a net which he concealed beneath his shield he entangled Phrynon, killed him, and recovered the territory.

Pittacus ruled Mytelene for 10 years, brought the constitution into order, and then laid down his office. Then he abdicated and retired to his land granted to him by the people of Mytelene.

A smith murdered his son, and when the people sent the murderer to Pittacus, he on learning the story, set the killer at liberty and declared that “It is better to pardon now than to repent later.” He also said that ” Mercy is better than vengeance.”

Some of Pittacus sayings are:

  • “It is hard to be good.”
  • “Truly to become a virtuous man is hard.”
  • “Even the gods do not fight against necessity.”
  • “Office shows the man.”

Once, when asked what is the best thing, he replied, “To do well the work in hand.”

When Croesus inquired what is the best rule, he answered , “The rule of the shifting wood” by which he meant the law.

When the Phoenician said that they must search for a good man, Pittacus rejoined, “If you seek too carefully, you will never find him.”

He answered various inquiries thus:

  • “What is agreeable?” “Time.”
  • “Obscure?” “The future.”
  • “Trustworthy?” “The earth.”
  • “Untrustworthy?” “The sea.”
  • “It is part of prudent men before difficulties arise, to provide against their arising; and of courageous men to deal with them when they have arisen.”
  • “Do not announce your plans beforehand; for, if they fail, you will be laughed at.”
  • “Never reproach anyone with a misfortune, for fear of Nemesis.”
  • “Duly restore what has been entrusted to you.”
  • “Speak no ill of a friend, nor even of an enemy.”
  • “Practise piety.”
  • “Love temperance.”
  • “Cherish truth, fidelity, skill, cleverness, sociability, carefulness.”

To Pittacus belongs this apothegm: “Know thine opportunity.”