S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.


  • [An Athenian general and statesman, born about 402 B.C.; contributed to the victory of Naxos, 376; opposed Demosthenes on the question of war against Philip of Macedon, and was the leader of the conservative party; condemned on an unjust charge of treason, and put to death 317 B.C.]
  • Have I inadvertently let some bad thing slip from me?

  • When in a public debate his opinion happened to be received with universal applause.—PLUTARCH: Life. Gensonné, a leader of the Girondists, asked Vergniaud one day, why he appeared sad; and the great orator replied, “I had the misfortune yesterday to be praised by Marat” (Il m’arrive un grand malheur: hier Marat a dit du bien de moi).
  • Demosthenes, the leader of the democratic party, said on one occasion to Phocion, “The Athenians will certainly kill thee, some day or other:” to which Phocion replied, “They may kill me, if they are mad; but it will be you, if they are in their senses,” or, “when they return to their senses.”—PLUTARCH: Life.
  • The good have no need of an advocate.

  • When his friends found fault with him for appearing in behalf of a man who did not deserve it.—PLUTARCH: Life.
  • He would not suffer any sacrifices or rejoicings to be made on the receipt of the news of Philip’s death. “Nothing,” he said, “can show greater meanness of spirit than expressions of joy on the death of an enemy.”
  • The Senate asked Phocion’s opinion whether they should grant Alexander’s request for a supply of ships: “I am of opinion,” he replied, “that you should either have the sharpest sword, or keep upon good terms with those who have.”
  • When news was brought of the death of Alexander the Great, Demades advised the people to give no credit to it, “For,” said he, “if Alexander were dead, the whole world would smell the carcass;” but Phocion told them, “If Alexander is dead to-day, he will be so to-morrow and the day following: so we may deliberate in that event at our leisure, and take our measures with safety.”
  • And dost thou think it nothing for the Athenians to be buried in the sepulchres of their ancestors?

  • When Leosthenes sneeringly asked him what good he had done during the many years he had been general. Phocion compared the speeches of Leosthenes to cypress-trees: “They are tall and comely, but bear no fruit.”
  • Antipater wished him to do something inconsistent with his probity, but he refused in these terms: “Antipater cannot have me both for a friend and a flatterer.”
  • Seeing Theudippus, who was condemned to die with him lamenting the hard fortune which consigned him to an unjust death, Phocion asked him, “Dost thou not think it an honor to die with Phocion?”
  • When the hemlock gave out, and the jailer demanded money to buy more, Phocion commanded it to be given him, observing, “One cannot even die for nothing in Athens.”