Ancient Greek Words: Historian, Writer, & Politician

Critias (460 , 403 BC)

This Athenian-born orator and politician was a student of Socrates and later known as the uncle of Plato. In history, Critias earned a reputation as a leader of the Thirty Tyrants, who was regarded as one of the most violent of the bunch. Socrates’ associations with Critias did not put him in a good light with the Athenian public. However, the man could write a decent tragedy, elegy, and prose. He was so good that he was believed to have penned the “Sisyphus fragment,” which was originally linked to Euripides.

When taking a look at Athenian history, Critias was seen as a rather dark individual. After Athens fell to the Spartans, he was instrumental in the blacklisting of numerous citizens during his time with the Thirty Tyrants. At his say , the majority of his prisoners were executed and their wealth taken away. His personality was one that was full of torment. It is said that he was haunted by a great deal of complexes and filled with hatred towards others. One of his quotes is:

“Fortune always fights on the side of the prudent.”

Diogenes Laertius (3rd century AD)

As a biographer of Greek philosophers, Diogenes Laertius gained a reputation as a writer of great minds. It is believed that he received his surname from the town of Laerte in Cilicia (which is in Asia Minor). There isn’t much to tell about the circumstances of his life, but it is assumed that he lived after Sextus Empiricus (around 200 AD). We know this because he mentions this person in his writing. He lived before Stephanus of Byzantium (around 500 AD), as he quotes Diogenes Laertius. However, some of his quotes have survived, such as:

“Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.”

“All things are in common among friends.”

“The foundation of every state is the education of its youth.”

“He used to say that it was better to have one friend of great value than many friends who were good for nothing.”

Dionysius of Halicarnassus (60 BC , after 7 BC)

Dionysius was a Greek historian and teacher of rhetoric who lived during the same time of Caesar Augustus. Throughout his lifetime, he traveled to Rome after the civil wars ceased. There , he spent 22 years studying the Latin language and literature. During this time, he was able to gather the materials he needed to complete his history.

In the meantime, he gave out lessons in rhetoric and was quite popular amongst men of honor. His greatest work is called “Roman Antiquities,” which took a look at the history of Rome , starting with the mythical period to the start of the First Punic War. The books were divided into 20 sections. The first nine were completely finished, while the 10th and 11th were nearly complete. Only a few fragments of the remaining books are in existence. A quote to remember him by is:

“Let thy speech be better than silence, or be silent.”