Heraclitus of Ephesus

Select Fragments (c. 500 BC)

We must know that war is common to all and strife is justice, and that all things come into being through strife.

Homer was wrong in saying: "Would that strife might perish from among gods and humans!" 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.

War is the father of all and the king of all; and some he has made gods and some humans, some bond and some free.

A person's character is his fate.

Nature loves to hide

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

Eyes and ears are bad witnesses to people if they have souls that understand not their language.

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

The lord whose is the oracle at Delphi neither utters nor hides his meaning, but shows it by a sign. And the Sibyl, with raving lips uttering things mirthless, unadorned, and unperfumed, reaches over a thousand years with her voice, thanks to the god in her.

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

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

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

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

Fire is want and excess.

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

Fire in its advance will judge and convict all things.

The Sun will not overstep his measures; if he does, the Erinyes [Furies], the handmaids of Justice, will find him out.

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 taste of each.

You cannot step twice into the same rivers; for fresh waters are ever flowing in upon you.

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

People 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.

It is the opposite which is good for us.

The hidden attunement is better than the open.

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

Every beast is driven to pasture with blows.

Good and ill are one.

To God all things are fair and good and right, but people hold some things wrong and some right.

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

People set a light for themselves in the night-time, when they have died but are alive. The sleeper, whose vision has been put out, lights up from the dead; he that is awake lights up from the sleeping.

The Wise is one only. It is unwilling and willing to be called by the name of Zeus.

The bow is called life, but its work is death.

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

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.

The way up and the way down is one and the same.

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

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

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.

Time is a child playing checkers, the kingly power is a child's.

The universe rests by changing.

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.

Thought is common to all.

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.

It is not proper to act and speak like people asleep.

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

The way of humans has no wisdom, but that of God has.

The people must fight for its law as for its walls.

Greater deaths win greater destinies.

Gods and humans honor those who are slain in battle.

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

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

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

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

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

The Ephesians would do well to hang themselves, every grown person 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."

One day is like any other.

There awaits people when they die such things as they look not for nor dream of.

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 person who marked him doing thus, would deem him mad. And they pray to these images, as if one were to talk with a person's house, knowing not what gods or heroes [really] are.

Trans. John Burnet, Early Greek Philosophy (London, 1892), with slight modifications.


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