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The 147 Commandments Gods Gave to Ancient Greeks

Ruins of the Delphi sanctuary. Credit:Holger Uwe Schmitt/Wikimedia Commons
Ruins of the Delphi sanctuary where the commandments were written. Wikimedia Commons Holger Uwe Schmitt – Own work CC BY-SA 4.0

The 147 commandments gods gave to the Ancient Greeks were a number of maxims delivered by the oracles, with the most important ones given in Delphi.

The Ancient Greeks often turned to the gods for guidance on all aspects of life. Apollo was the messenger god, delivering oracles to the people.

While pedagogues were the ones to educate Ancient Greeks, the oracles provided godly advice for a better, ethical life.

Even though some oracles predicted future events in an ambiguous manner, they were mostly to educate Ancient Greeks to be ethical.

In a way, Delphi was like an advanced ethics school, delivering commandments to improve the lives of the Ancient Greeks. The commandments are also known as the Delphic commandments.

There were 147 commandments, the sum of the three digits being 12, as this was the number of gods on Olympus.

In analyzing those commandments, one can say they serve as a guide for a righteous life for the Ancient Greeks. Further inspection shows that these maxims may be relevant to this day.

The 147 Commandments or Delphic Maxims to Ancient Greeks

1. ΕΠΟΥ ΘΕΩ = Follow God

2. ΘΕΟΥΣ ΣΕΒΟΥ = Respect the gods

3. ΓΟΝΕΙΣ ΑΙΔΟΥ = Respect your parents

4. ΠΡΕΣΒΥΤΕΡΟΝ ΑΙΔΟΥ = Respect the elders

5. ΙΚΕΤΑΣ ΑΙΔΟΥ = Respect the ones that plead to you, the supplicants/beseechers

6. ΣΕΑΥΤΟΝ ΑΙΔΟΥ = Respect yourself

7. ΦΟΝΟΥ ΑΠΕΧΟΥ = Do not murder (Note: a distinction has to be made: kill, if you have to protect: your country, yourself in self-defense, or your family, BUT do not murder an innocent person)

8. ΟΡΚΩ ΜΗ ΧΡΩ = Do not vow (be reliable without the need to vow to the gods)

9. ΟΥΣ ΤΡΕΦΕΙΣ, ΑΓΑΠΑ = Nourish/feed the ones you love (your children and your family in general)

10. ΕΣΤΙΑΝ ΤΙΜΑ = Honor your house

11. ΓΑΜΟΥΣ ΚΡΑΤΕΙ = Respect and keep your marriage

12. ΓΑΜΕΙΝ ΜΕΛΛΟΝ ΚΑΙΡΟΝ ΓΝΩΘΙ = Get married at the right time (or: realize when your time comes to get married)

13. ΕΞ ΕΥΓΕΝΩΝ ΓΕΝΝΑ = Try to become kin (relative) with good (ethical) people

14. Ο ΜΕΛΛΕΙΣ ΔΟΣ = Give attention and love to the ones you care about

Be Fair and Just and Cultivate Yourself

15. ΗΤΤΩ ΥΠΕΡ ΔΙΚΑΙΟΥ = Fight for what is right, for what is good, for what is useful

16. ΦΡΟΝΕΙ ΘΝΗΤΑ = Think as a mortal (and not as a god) – Be humble

17. ΕΥ ΠΑΣΧΕ ΘΝΗΤΟΣ = Endure everything as a mortal

18. ΑΡΧΕ ΣΕΑΥΤΟΥ = Control Yourself (exercise self-control)

19. ΘΥΜΟΥ ΚΡΑΤΕΙ = Withhold your anger (so as to not do or say things that you will later regret)

20. ΟΜΙΛΕΙ ΠΡΑΩΣ = Speak with gentleness and kindness

21. ΗΔΟΝΗΣ ΚΡΑΤΕΙΝ = Be moderate (be moderate in terms of pleasures)

22. ΓΛΩΤΤΑΝ ΙΣΧΕ = Hold your tongue

23. ΓΛΥΤΤΗΣ ΑΡΧΕ = Exercise control over your tongue

24. ΜΗ ΘΡΑΣΥΝΟΥ = Do not be impudent

25. ΑΡΡΗΤΑ ΜΗ ΛΕΓΕ = Do not reveal secrets (do not reveal secrets that have been entrusted to you)

26. ΛΕΓΕ ΕΙΔΩΣ = To speak what you know

27. ΟΦΘΑΛΜΟΥ ΚΡΑΤΕΙ = Control what you see (avoid staring at evil or corrupt things)

28. ΠΙΝΩΝ ΑΡΜΟΖΕΣ = When drinking, be restrained

29. ΑΚΟΥΣΑΣ ΝΟΕΙ = Comprehend after you listen (some esoteric scholars propose to perceive things with the eyes of your mind)

30. ΦΡΟΝΗΣΙΝ ΑΣΚΕΙ = Cultivate your thoughts and mind (because thoughts give rise to feelings, and feelings are followed by actions; hence, cultivate good/pure thoughts)

31. ΜΕΛΕΤΕΙ ΤΟ ΠΑΝ = Study everything (research everything and remain open-minded)

32. ΒΟΥΛΕΥΟΥ ΧΡΟΝΩ = Think of useful thoughts/ideas

33. ΓΝΟΥΣ ΠΡΑΤΤΕ = To act with awareness/knowledge (to be aware of what you do and to know the consequences)

34. ΠΑΣΙ ΔΙΑΛΕΓΟΥ = To converse with all (In other words: be open to talk to everyone)

35. ΑΚΟΥΕ ΠΑΝΤΑ = Listen to everything and everyone

36. ΑΚΟΥΩΝ ΟΡΑ = When you hear, you see. An alternative translation would be “after/while you hear, also watch” or “observe what you have heard”

37. ΔΟΞΑΝ ΔΙΩΚΕ = Pursue honor/ be honorable.

38. ΔΟΞΑΝ ΜΗ ΛΕΙΠΕ = Do not underestimate honor/merit (in other words, never deprive yourself of the possibility of something better. Don’t be a person of low expectations.)

39. ΚΑΛΟΝ ΕΥ ΛΕΓΕ = Praise the good

40. ΕΥΛΟΓΕΙ ΠΑΝΤΑΣ = Say only good things about everyone (Praise everyone)

41. ΟΣΙΑ ΚΡΙΝΕ = Judge based on holiness (which means: your judgement should be based on virtue). An alternative translation would be “distinguish between what is divine and what is not”

Be Kind and Gentle

42. ΕΥΓΕΝΕΙΑΝ ΑΣΚΕΙ = Be kind (to exercise kindness and to have a kind soul)

43. ΦΙΛΟΦΡΟΝΕΙ ΠΑΣΙΝ = Treat everyone with kindness and love

44. ΕΥΠΡΟΣΗΓΟΡΟΣ ΓΙΝΟΥ = Be consolatory (Give comfort)

45. ΕΥΦΗΜΟΣ ΙΣΘΙ = Have a good reputation

46. ΕΥΦΗΜΙΑΝ ΑΣΚΕΙ = Make use of your good reputation (so as to affect circumstances for the greater good)

47. ΦΥΛΑΚΗΝ ΠΡΟΣΕΧΕ = Be vigilant

48. ΟΜΟΙΟΙΣ ΧΡΩ = Associate with the likes of you.

49. ΟΡΑ ΤΟ ΜΕΛΛΟΝ = Look at the future (in the sense of being provident about future circumstances)

50. ΥΒΡΙΝ ΜΙΣΕΙ = Hate hubris

51. ΕΥΧΟΥ ΔΥΝΑΤΑ = Wish loud (meaning: when you wish for something, do it with all of your soul’s strength)

52. ΧΡΗΣΜΟΥΣ ΘΑΥΜΑΣΕ = Respect the oracle (more accurately: respect the revelations given to you by the oracle; through whom god speaks to you

Apollo, God of Light, Eloquence, Poetry and the Fine Arts with Urania, Muse of Astronomy - by Charles Meynier (cropped). Public Domain
Apollo, God of Light, Eloquence, Poetry and the Fine Arts with Urania, Muse of Astronomy – by Charles Meynier (cropped). Public Domain

Help your Friends, Teach your Children Well

53. ΦΙΛΟΙΣ ΒΟΗΘΕΙ = Help your friends (meaning: to help your friends, or the ones you love when in need)

54. ΦΙΛΙΑΝ ΑΓΑΠΑ = Love friendship (more precisely: it refers to the bond of friendship)

55. ΦΙΛΟΙΣ ΕΥΝΟΕΙ = Favor your friends (in other terms: support your friends)

56. ΦΙΛΙΑΝ ΦΥΛΑΤΤΕ = Preserve (protect) your friendship

57. ΦΙΛΩ ΧΑΡΙΖΟΥ = Always be there for friends if they need you

58. ΝΕΩΤΕΡΟΝ ΔΙΔΑΣΚΕ = Teach (educate) the younger ones (aka to convey “the knowledge” to younger generations)

59. ΥΙΟΥΣ ΠΑΙΔΕΥΕ = Teach and educate your children

60. ΣΟΦΙΑΝ ΖΗΤΕΙ = Seek wisdom (be an acquaintance of wisdom)

61. ΜΑΝΘΑΝΩΝ ΜΗ ΚΑΜΝΕ = Never get tired of learning (in the sense of continuous self-education and continuous expansion of your knowledge and wisdom)

62. ΓΝΩΘΙ ΜΑΘΩΝ = Know after you learn (to know after you learn, aka after you have received your education; you are able to know after you have accumulated experiences)

63. ΣΟΦΟΙΣ ΧΡΩ = Associate with wise people and make use of their wisdom

64. ΦΙΛΟΣΟΦΟΣ ΓΙΝΟΥ = Become a philosopher (a friend of wisdom)

65. ΣΑΥΤΟΝ ΙΣΘΙ = Never lose yourself (in other words: always be yourself and do not pretend to be someone else)

66. ΓΝΩΘΙ ΣΑΥΤΟΝ = Know thyself (Know yourself; in other words, attain self-awareness)

67. ΠΑΙΔΕΙΑΣ ΑΝΤΕΧΟΥ = Stay focused on your education and endure its adversities

68. ΗΘΟΣ ΔΟΚΙΜΑΖΕ = Commend ethos (praise moral values)

69. ΤΕΧΝΗ ΧΡΩ = Exercise your craft or skills and make use of them

70. ΕΥΕΡΓΕΣΙΑΣ ΤΙΜΑ = Honor and acknowledge benedictions given to you

Be Virtuous and Just

71. ΑΓΑΘΟΥΣ ΤΙΜΑ = Honor the good people (honor the good deeds)

72. ΕΠΑΙΝΕΙ ΑΡΕΤΗΝ = Praise virtue

73. ΤΥΧΗΝ ΝΟΜΙΖΕ = Keep the future’s uncertainty in mind (and be prepared for it)

74. ΤΥΧΗ ΜΗ ΠΙΣΤΕΥΕ = Do not believe/trust in luck

75. ΤΥΧΗΝ ΣΤΕΡΓΕ = Accept (or Endure/Tolerate) your destiny/fate (meaning: accept the misfortunes of life)

76. ΕΓΓΥΗΝ ΦΕΥΓΕ = Avoid making guarantees for someone or something.

77. ΧΑΡΙΝ ΕΚΤΕΛΕΙ = Do favors for others

78. ΕΥΤΥΧΙΑΝ ΕΥΧΟΥ = Wish for happiness

79. ΟΝΕΙΔΟΣ ΕΧΘΑΙΡΕ = Refrain from making fun of others (scorn or mockery)

80. ΥΒΡΙΝ ΑΜΥΝΟΥ = Protect yourself from hubris

81. ΛΕΓΕ ΠΡΑΤΤΕ ΔΙΚΑΙΑ = Speak and act justly (all your actions should be just and fair)

82. ΚΡΙΝΕ ΔΙΚΑΙΑ = Judge fair (your judgement should be fair, objective, and just)

83. ΑΔΙΚΕΙΝ ΜΙΣΕΙ = Hate injustice and wrongdoings

84. ΚΡΙΤΗΝ ΓΝΩΘΙ = Know the person who’s judging you (know if that person and his criticism is worth considering or not)

85. ΑΔΩΡΟΔΟΚΗΤΟΣ ΔΙΚΑΖΕ = Judge without bribery (don’t become corrupt)

86. ΑΙΤΙΩ ΠΑΡΟΝΤΑ = Justify everything that occurs to you (be able to validate your circumstances)

87. ΥΙΟΙΣ ΜΗ ΚΑΤΑΘΑΡΡΕΙ = Do not discourage/depress your children

88. ΚΟΙΝΟΣ ΓΙΝΟΥ = Be social

89. ΑΠΟΚΡΙΝΟΥ ΕΝ ΚΑΙΡΩ = Respond in due time (at the appropriate time)

90. ΠΡΑΤΤΕ ΑΜΕΤΑΝΟΗΤΩΣ = Act in such a way that you will not have to regret it. Act with certainty (aka when you decide to act, act without doubts)

91. ΕΛΠΙΔΑ ΑΙΝΕΙ = Praise hope (meaning: do not lose hope)

92. ΤΩ ΒΙΩ ΜΑΧΟΥ = Fight for your life (in the sense of not giving up on life’s hardships)

93. ΑΤΥΧΟΥΝΤΙ ΣΥΝΑΧΘΟΥ = Sympathize for the unfortunate ones

Practical Commandments Gods Gave to Ancient Greeks

94. ΧΡΟΝΟΥ ΦΕΙΔΟΥ = Take advantage of time (do not waste time – be productive)

95. ΠΕΡΑΣ ΕΠΙΤΕΛΕΙ ΜΗ ΑΠΟΔΕΙΛΙΩΝ = Do not be hesitant to finish what you started  (when you start something, finish it with certainty)

96. ΕΠΙΤΕΛΕΙ ΣΥΝΤΟΜΩΣ = Do not postpone (or act without delaying)

97. ΚΑΙΡΟΝ ΠΡΟΣΔΕΧΟΥ = accept what comes with the passage of time

98. ΓΗΡΑΣ ΠΡΟΣΔΕΧΟΥ = Accept old age (accept the fact of growing old)

99. ΑΜΑΡΤΑΝΩΝ ΜΕΤΑΝΟΕΙ = Repent for your sins or wrongdoings

100. ΕΡΙΝ ΜΙΣΕΙ = Hate disputes (in the sense of not favoring disputes but peaceful solutions)

101. ΟΜΟΝΟΙΑΝ ΔΙΩΚΕ = Seek concord (peace, harmony, agreement)

102. ΒΙΑΣ ΜΗ ΕΧΟΥ = Avoid violence or practicing it

103. ΒΙΑΝ ΜΗΔΕΝ ΠΡΑΤΤΕΙΝ = Do not do things through violence (or by force)

Social Commandments

104. ΝΟΜΩ ΠΕΙΘΟΥ = Be lawful

105. ΤΟ ΚΡΑΤΟΥΝ ΦΟΒΟΥ = Respect the ruler/the state official or fear those in power. (can also mean: respect the government)

106. ΘΝΗΣΚΕ ΥΠΕΡ ΠΑΤΡΙΔΟΣ = Die for your country (fight and die if needed in order to protect your country)

107. ΕΧΘΡΟΥΣ ΑΜΥΝΟΥ = Protect yourself from your enemies

108. ΕΠΙ ΡΩΜΗ ΜΗ ΚΑΥΧΩ = Do not boast about your strength

109. ΜΗ ΑΡΧΕ ΥΒΡΙΖΕΙΝ = Do not be insolent, don’t insult others

110. ΛΑΒΩΝ ΑΠΟΔΟΣ = When you receive, give (when someone supports you, return the favor)

111. ΕΥΓΝΩΜΩΝ ΓΙΝΟΥ = Be grateful

112. ΠΡΟΝΟΙΑΝ ΤΙΜΑ = Be prescient. Alternatively, some sources translate it as “Appreciate the help that was provided to you, from whoever it may have been”

113. ΥΦΟΡΩ ΜΗΔΕΝΑ = Avoid being suspicious (of anyone)

114. ΑΛΛΟΤΡΙΩΝ ΑΠΕΧΟΥ = Keep away from what belongs to others.

115. ΨΕΓΕ ΜΗΔΕΝΑ = Do not blame, do not badmouth and do not criticize anyone

116. ΔΙΑΒΟΛΗΝ ΜΙΣEI = Hate the act of slander

117. ΦΘΟΝΕΙ ΜΗΔΕΝΙ = Do not envy nor be jealous of anyone

118. ΑΠΕΧΘΕΙΑΝ ΦΕΥΓΕ = Avoid any type of abomination (or evil)

119. ΕΧΘΡΑΣ ΔΙΑΛΥΕ = Dissolve any hostilities (in the sense of: whenever you witness hostilities, be the one to stop them, reconcile people)

120. ΚΑΚΙΑΝ ΜΙΣΕΙ = Don’t be malevolent

121. ΚΑΚΙΑΣ ΑΠΕΧΟΥ = Be free of evil (do not be evil) , don’t commit evil deeds.

122. ΔΟΛΟΝ ΦΟΒΟΥ = Be afraid of intrigues and deceptions (aka be careful and mindful of them)

123. ΑΠΟΝΤΙ ΜΗ ΜΑΧΟΥ = Do not badmouth, or criticize someone who is absent (since that person cannot defend himself while being absent)

Commandments to Ancient Greeks about Wealth

124. ΠΛΟΥΤΕΙ ΔΙΚΑΙΩΣ = Acquire wealth through just means

125. ΔΙΚΑΙΩΣ ΚΤΩ = Accumulate fortune through lawful means

126. ΠΟΝΕΙ ΜΕΤ’ ΕΥΚΛΕΙΑΣ = Your labor/hard work should be just/honorable

127. ΠΛΟΥΤΩ ΑΠΟΣΤΕΙ = Detach yourself from wealth (don’t be attached to material things and do not allow riches to corrupt you)

128. ΧΡΩ ΧΡΗΜΑΣΙ = Make use of your wealth/belongings

129. ΔΑΠΑΝΩΝ ΑΡΧΟΥ = Control your expenses (spend money wisely)

130. ΕΧΩΝ ΧΑΡΙΖΟΥ = When you have, you should give (make donations, give to others)

131. ΧΑΡΙΖΟΥ ΕΥΛΑΒΩΣ = Give away (donate) but wisely and rationally

132. ΚΤΩΜΕΝΟΣ ΗΔΟΥ = Enjoy what you have acquired (be satisfied with what you have obtained)

133. ΕΡΓΑΖΟΥ ΚΤΗΤΑ = You must work to obtain things worth acquiring

134. ΜΕΤΡΟΝ ΑΡΙΣΤΟΝ = Moderation is best

135. ΜΗΔΕΝ ΑΓΑΝ = Nothing in excess

136. ΕΥΣΕΒΕΙΑΝ ΦΥΛΑΤΤΕ = Be pious (devout, sincere, etc.)

137. ΑΙΣΧΥΝΗΝ ΣΕΒΟΥ = Respect shame, have a sense of shame

138. ΚΙΝΔΥΝΕΥΕ ΦΡΟΝIΜΩΣ = Venture into danger prudently (when you have to take risks, be prudent)

139. ΜΗ ΕΠΙ ΠΑΝΤΙ ΛΥΠΟΥ = Do not feel sorrow/sad for everything (this could lead to depression)

140. ΑΛΥΠΩΣ ΒΙΟΥ = Aim to live your life in a way that you won’t have regrets/sorrows

141. ΤΕΛΕΥΤΩΝ ΑΛΥΠΟΣ = Die without grief

142. ΙΔΙΑ ΦΥΛΑΤΤΕ = Protect what is yours

143. ΤΟ ΣΥΜΦΕΡΟΝ ΘΗΡΩ = Pursue what is best for you (what would make you happy)

144. ΣΕΑΥΤΟΝ ΕΥ ΠΟΙΕΙ = Do/Be good to yourself

145. ΠΡΟΓΟΝΟΥΣ ΣΤΕΦΑΝΟΥ = Respect (and honor) your forefathers

146. ΕΠΙ ΝΕΚΡΩ ΜΗ ΓΕΛΑ = Do not insult the dead (respect the dead)

147. ΕΠΑΓΓΕΛΟΥ ΜΗΔΕΝΙ = Do not order anyone/ Do not impose your authority on others. (do not intervene with anyone’s free will and do not force them to do things they do not want to do). An alternative translation would be ” do not promise to anyone”.

Modern bust of Plutarch at Chaeronea. Credit: Odysses/Wikipedia
Modern bust of Plutarch at Chaeronea. Credit: Odysses/Wikipedia User:Odysses – Cropped version of File: Plutarch of Chaeronea-03.jpg.

The Seven Sages

The 147 commandments were written on the walls of a small temple right before reaching the main Temple of Apollo and on columns placed around Apollo’s Temple. They are also referred to as the Delphic Commandments.

The 147 maxims were later attributed to the seven sages of Greece: Solon of Athens, Chilon of Sparta, Bias of Priene, Thales of Miletus, Pittacus of Mytilene, Cleobulus of Lindos, and Periander of Corinth.

The two most important commandments, ΓΝΩΘΙ ΣΑΥΤΟΝ, meaning “Know Thyself” and ΜΗΔΕΝ ΑΓΑΝ, meaning “Nothing in excess,” are written on the bottom left and bottom right respectively on the pediment of Apollo’s Temple.

However, there is a third line, ΕΝ ΔΕΛΦΟΙΣ Ε (meaning, “In Delphi E), situated at the top between the aforementioned two on the pediment. These form a triangle.

Roman era coin with the E on the Apollo Temple. Public Domain
Roman era coin with the E on the Apollo Temple. Public Domain

Plutarch (AD 46-AD 119), the great historian, who also served as priest at Delphi, wrote the extensive dialogue, “On the ‘E’ at Delphi.”

There are several interpretations of the E, including Thou Art (from the Greek EI), a respectful greeting to the god Apollo, or E, symbolizing the number 5, the fifth letter of the Greek alphabet in holy arithmology, which is connected to Apollo.


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