Charondas, Proem

Category: ?

1 Introduction

The Proem is not written in Attic Greek, but in …

Where I translate ‘the deity’, the Greek has a singular (ho theós) with a plural (generic or collective) meaning. In other words, ‘the deity’ means the same thing as ‘the gods’ (not ‘God’ in a monotheistic sense).

2 Translation

Proem to the Laws of Charondas of Catana.

Those who plan or do anything must begin from the gods; for, as the proverb says, the deity is the best cause of all of them. Further, you must restrain yourself from bad deeds, and especially from consultation (about such actions) with the deity; for a god does not share in anything unjust. And each person must help themselves and be persuaded to take part and act only in accordance with what is regarded as just; for to concern oneself with too little, and likewise with too much, will appear to be very shabby and illiberal. For this reason, you must take care not to attempt anything too great and mighty, but in each matter, take on what is in proportion to your merit and ability, so that you will be esteemed (tímios) and respectable (semnós).

Let it be more respected (semnóteron) to die for the home city (patrís) than to live it and nobility behind in order to cling to life. For it is a better thing to die nobly than to live shamefully and disgracefully.

One must honor each of those who die not with tears or lamentation, but with good remembrance and a grave offering (epiphora) of the yearly harvest, so that there arise no excessive grief because of ingratitude toward the chthonic gods (or rather ‘ghosts’, daímones).

Let no one speak ill about anyone for(?) an unjust harm; for silence is holier than slander.

Let the citizen who controls their anger be regarded as better than the one who acts out because of it.

Let someone who exceeds the sacrifices and magistrates by private expense not be in good repute, but let them be reproached; for let nothing private be more magnificent and erspected than public matters.

Let someone who is devoted to wealth and possessions be looked down upon as being petty (‘of small soul’, mikrópsykhos), illiberal and enthralled to costly things and an extravagant lifestyle, and let them be regarded as worthless in their soul. For the magnanimous person (‘of great soul’, megalópsykhos) considers that belongs to them to belong to (all) people, and is not disturbed by the loss of any of them.

Let no one use shameful (aiskhrós) language, so that they may not divert their thought towards shameful actions, or fill their souls with shamelessness and pollutions (miásmata). For we call decent and pleasant things by their proper names and the names set down by custom (nómos),


Let it be shameful even to speak what is shameful.

Let each man love a woman (married to him) according to the customs (nómoi), and have children with her, and let him not have any other offspring; and let him not lawlessly (anómōs) destroy and violate what is honorable (tímion) by nature and by law (phýsei kaì nómōi). For nature has created reproduction for the sake of having children, not for the sake of licentiousness.

A wife must be moderate (sōphroneîn) and not have impious intercourse with other men, as retribution will arise from the gods (daímones), who will drive her out and cause enmities.

Let someone who marries his own stepmother in addition (to his wife) not be in good repute, but let him be reproached as the cause of domestic strife.

One must be true to what one has said, and someone who goes against it will be subject to a curse by the city.

The law enjoins that all citizens should know the Proem, and in the festivals, after the paeans, the host (histiátōr = att. hestiátōr) should proclaim what it enjoins, so that the precepts be instilled in each person.