The Greek axiom by Socrates, ΓΝΩΘΙ ΣΑΥΤΟΝ (“Know thyself”), inscribed on the Hiroshima Peace Bell, remains relevant today, 74 years after the first nuclear attack on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.
Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park, in the center of Hiroshima, Japan, serves as a somber memorial dedicated to the remembrance of the nuclear bombing the city suffered near the end of World War II.
It is a place which pays tribute to the direct and indirect casualties of the deadly attack by US aircraft on Hiroshima, which took 140,000 lives.
One of the three large brass bells in Memorial Park is called the “Peace Bell.” A donation of the Greek Embassy in Japan, it was dedicated on September 20, 1964.
There are three inscriptions on the bell, one of them in Greek. It is the famous Socrates dictum “ΓΝΩΘΙ ΣΑΥΤΟΝ,” an exhortation from the philosopher on the primacy of knowing oneself. The two inscriptions below the Greek are translations of the phrase in Japanese and Sanskrit, the former translated by a university lecturer and the latter by the Indian Ambassador to Japan.
Socrates’ timeless axiom, especially in the particular somber surroundings of the Memorial Park, provides endless food for thought.
Visitors are invited to reflect on the human condition, the state of the world both then and now, the cruelty of war and the reasons why it has proven so difficult to maintain peace throughout human history.
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