Maxim Monday: Σαυτον ισθι

Ah, the classic: Be/Know Yourself (Σαυτον ισθι). Everyone’s heard this at some point, right? Well, let’s take a look at the Greek, just for curiosity’s sake. (As usual, definitions are from my trusty Liddell and Scott Greek-English Lexicon, with occasional support from the Joint Association of Classical Teachers Greek Course, Reading Greek.)

  • Σαυτον: This is a contraction of σεαυτον, the reflexive second person pronoun: of thyself.
  • ισθι: This is the imperative of ειδω (know) or of ειμι συμ (be).

So, together we have be/know of thyself — looks like the translation is good!

I like this maxim, and have for a long time, especially now that I know the meanings of ισθι. It implies that you should both know and be yourself, which requires both self-knowledge and authenticity if you’re going to follow it. These are both things I value, so this maxim works for me!

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