Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Protagoras (circa 485 BC - 415 BC) was of the era when some of Greece's deepest thinkers were laying the groundwork for much of western philosophy and culture. Born in Thrace, he wrote On Truth and On the Gods, travelled widely across the Hellenic world lecturing on grammar, rhetoric and ethics. Pericles was his patron.

For all his fame and influence, none of his books have survived. Indeed, the only thing that has come down the millenia is a single fragment. But for all that, it is a ringing and intriguing statement of belief that has figured in the writings of many of our great philosophers and men of action. Pro or con regarding his most famous phrase, he remains relevant against all the odds. His one surviving fragment?

Man is the measure of all things; of things that are, that they are, and of things that are not, that they are not. Of the gods I know nothing, whether they exist or do not exist: nor what they are like in form.

Fate is disconcertingly capricious.

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