Ancient Quotes

64 Ancient Quotes About Love, Life, Reality & More

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While times may change, people and the joys and challenges they face in life have been the same throughout the centuries. Millennia pass by, but questions about love, happiness, life, war, success, and reality continue. 

To gain wisdom that crosses the ages, a growing number of people are reading ancient quotes that relate to their lives today.

Ancient quotes are those from the very beginnings of writing and recorded history. These reach back to times before the birth of Christ and are included in accounts and religious works, and epic poems. By reading ancient quotes, wisdom seekers learn the truths that span centuries.

Travel back in time to ponder these ancient quotes that will share knowledge, wisdom, and insight from ancient thinkers.

Ancient Quotes About Life

Living life mindfully is at the heart of these quotes from ancient philosophers.

  1. “Although you may spend your life killing, you will not exhaust all your foes. But if you quell your own anger, your real enemy will be slain.”
    Nagarjuna, Indian Buddhist thinker, 150-250 A.D.  
  2. “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.”
    Socrates, classical Greek philosopher, 470 or 469 B.C.-399 B.C.  
  3. “What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow. Our life is the creation of our mind.”
    Buddha, founder of Buddhism, 4
    th century B.C.
  4. “Watch a man in times of…adversity to discover what kind of man he is; for then at last words of truth are drawn from the depths of his heart, and the mask is torn off.”
    Titus Lucretius Carus, Roman poet and philosopher, born 94 B.C. 
  5. “It is a painful thing to look at your own trouble and know that you yourself and no one else has made it.”
    Sophocles, Greek philosopher, 497-406 B.C.
  6. “Apply yourself both now and in the next life. Without effort, you cannot be prosperous. Though the land be good, you cannot have an abundant crop without cultivation.”
    Plato, Greek philosopher, 424-348 B.C. ;
  7. “True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.”
    Socrates, classical Greek philosopher, 470 or 469 B.C.-399 B.C.
  8. “I am all that hath been, and is, and shall be and my veil no mortal has hitherto raised.” Plutarch, Greek philosopher, 46 B.C.-after 119 A.D.
  9. “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”
    Heraclitus, Greek philosopher, 535-475 B.C. ;
  10. “The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing.”
    Marcus Aurelius, emperor of Rome, 121-180 A.D.

Ancient Quotes About Happiness

Happiness, then and now, is in contentment rather than riches. Read these quotes about living a happy life.

  1. “Happiness resides not in possessions, and not in gold, happiness dwells in the soul.”  Democritus, Greek philosopher, 460-370 B.C.
  2. “The more man meditates upon good thoughts, the better will be his world and the world at large.”
    Confucius, Chinese politician and philosopher, 551-479 B.C.
  3. “The happy man is the one who has a healthy body, a wealthy soul and a well-educated nature.”
    Thales of Miletus, Greek philosopher, born 626 B.C.
  4. “True happiness is… to enjoy the present without anxious dependence on the future.”
    Seneca the Younger, Stoic philosopher, 4 B.C.-66 A.D.
  5. “Happiness and freedom begin with one principle. Some things are within your control, and some are not.”
    Epictetus, Stoic philosopher, 55-155 A.D.
  6. “Happy is the man who has broken the chains which hurt the mind and has given up worrying once and for all.
    Ovid, Roman poet, 43 B.C.- 17 or 18 A.D.
  7. “The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.”
    Seneca the Younger, Stoic philosopher, 4 B.C.-66 A.D.
  8. “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.”
    Lao-Tzu, Chinese philosopher and writer, born 571 B.C.
  9. “He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not but rejoices for those which he has.”
    Epictetus, Stoic philosopher, 55-155 A.D.

Ancient Quotes About Love

Love and relationships brought joy into the lives of the ancients, just as they do today. Here are some of our favorite love quotes from olden times.

  1.  
  1. “Friends show their love in times of trouble, not in happiness.”  Euripides, Greek playwright, 480-406 B.C.
  2. “One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.” Seneca the Younger, Stoic philosopher, 4 B.C.-66 A.D.
  3. “Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, bless them that curse you, and pray for them that despitefully use you.”  Jesus Christ, religious figure, 1st century
  4. “Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.” Aristotle, Greek philosopher, 384-322 B.C.
  5. “There is no duty more obligatory than the repayment of kindness.”  Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman lawyer and philosopher, 107-43 B.C.
  6. “Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He has given to you under the sun; for this is your reward,” Solomon, king of Israel, 990-931 B.C.
  7. “Every heart sings a song, incomplete, until another heart whispers back. Those who wish to sing always find a song. At the touch of a lover, everyone becomes a poet.” Plato, Greek philosopher, 424-348 B.C.
  8. “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” Lao-Tzu, Chinese philosopher and writer, born 571 B.C.
  9. “One word frees us of all the weight and pain in life, that word is Love.” Sophocles, Greek philosopher, 497-406 B.C.
  10. “Fortune and love favor the brave.” Ovid, Roman poet, 43 B.C.- 17 or 18 A.D.

Ancient Quotes About Success

Aspirations were often a focus of ancient thinkers, making success-oriented readers today so interested in these thoughts from antiquity.

  1. “Glory ought to be the consequence, not the motive of our actions.”  Pliny the Younger, Roman lawyer, author and magistrate, 61-113 A.D.
  2. “Lust for power is the most flagrant of all the passions.”  Tacitus, Roman historian and politician, 56-120 A.D.
  3. “Prefer a loss to a dishonest gain: the one brings pain for a moment, the other for all time.”  Chilon of Sparta, Greek sage, 6th century B.C.
  4. “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”  Aristotle, Greek philosopher, 384-322 B.C.
  5. “People in their handling of affairs often fail when they are about to succeed. If one remains as careful at the end as he was at the beginning, there will be no failure.” Lao-Tzu, Chinese philosopher and writer, born 571 B.C.
  6. “They can conquer who believe they can.”  Virgil, Roman poet, 70 B.C.-19 A.D.
  7. “Small opportunities are often the beginning of great enterprises.” Demosthenes, Greek statesman and orator, 484-422 B.C.
  8. “When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds.” Patanjali, Indian sage and author, 2nd century A.D.
  9. “All things will be produced in superior quantity and quality, and with greater ease, when each man works at a single occupation, in accordance with his natural gifts, and at the right moment, without meddling with anything else.”Plato, Greek philosopher, 424-348 B.C.
  10. “Whoever walks with the wise will become wise, but the companion of fools suffers harm.”  Solomon, king of Israel, 990-931 B.C.
  11. “Good character is not formed in a week or a month. It is created little by little, day by day. Protracted and patient effort is needed to develop good character.”  Heraclitus of Ephesus, Greek philosopher, 535-475 B.C.
  12.  “Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.” Marcus Aurelius, emperor of Rome, 121-180 A.D.
  13. “Do not say a little in many words, but a great deal in few.” Pythagoras, Greek mathematician and philosopher, 570-495 B.C.
  14. “Difficulties strengthen the mind as labor does the body.” Seneca the Younger, Stoic philosopher, 4 B.C.-66 A.D.
  15. “A room without books is like a body without a soul.” Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman lawyer and philosopher, 107-43 B.C.

Ancient Quotes About Reality

The ancients’ view of reality often focused on accepting conditions that they could not change. That philosophy is alive today, reducing worry and stress.

  1. “If a man’s mind becomes pure, his surroundings will also become pure.”  Buddha, founder of Buddhism, 4th century B.C.
  2. “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”  Lao-Tzu, Chinese philosopher and writer, born 571 B.C.
  3. “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”  Socrates, classical Greek philosopher, 470 or 469 B.C.-399 B.C.
  4. “No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one will. We ourselves must walk the path.”  Buddha, founder of Buddhism, 4th century B.C.
  5. “Nothing is ever said that has not been said before.”  Terence, Roman African playwright, 195-159 B.C.
  6. “Avarice and luxury, those evils which have been the ruin of every great state.”  Livy, Roman historian, 64 B.C.-12 A.D.
  7. “Better to be wise by the misfortunes of others than by your own.”  Aesop, Greek storyteller, 620-564 B.C.
  8. “In our play we reveal what kind of people we are.”  Ovid, Roman poet, 43 B.C.- 17 or 18 A.D.
  9. “Short is the joy that guilty pleasure brings.”  Euripides, Greek playwright, 480-406 B.C.
  10. “Without feelings of respect, what is there to distinguish men from beasts?”  Confucius, Chinese politician and philosopher, 551-479 B.C.
  11. “Men seek retreats for themselves – in the country, by the sea, in the hills – and you yourself are particularly prone to this yearning. But all this is quite unphilosophic, when it is open to you, at any time you want, to retreat into yourself. No retreat offers someone more quiet and relaxation than that into his own mind.” Marcus Aurelius, emperor of Rome, 121-180 A.D.
  12. “Time is the wisest counselor of all.” Pericles, Greek statesman and Athenian general, 495-429 B.C.
  13. “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” Lao-Tzu, Chinese philosopher and writer, born 571 B.C.

Ancient Quotes About War

Wars were a part of life in the ancient world, and unfortunately, wars and battles are still a reality for us in the modern world. Here are thoughts from ancient philosophers on the subject of war.

  1. “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.” Sun Tzu, Chinese general, military strategist, writer and philosopher, 544-496 B.C.
  2. “The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.” Thucydides, Greek historian and Athenian general, 460-400 B.C.
  3. “Only the dead have seen the end of war.” Plato, Greek philosopher, 424-348 B.C.
  4. “We make war so that we may live in peace.” Aristotle, Greek philosopher, 384-322 B.C.
  5. “No man is so foolish as to desire war and not peace; for in peace children take their parents to the grave, in war it is the parents who take the children to the grave.”  Herodotus, Greek writer, geographer and historian, 484-425 B.C.
  6. “The laws are silent when weapons speak.”Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman lawyer and philosopher, 107-43 B.C.
  7. “There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare.”  Sun Tzu, Chinese general, military strategist, writer and philosopher, 544-496 B.C.

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