17 Quotes From Ancient Philosophers That Are Surprisingly Relevant Today

There are some quotes that are thousands of years old, but that doesn’t stop them from still resonating with us in modern times. It shows that even though technologies and life have developed, our true nature has stayed the same. Here are 17 quotes from ancient philosophers that are still relevant.


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Seneca said, “The greatest wealth is a poverty of desires.” It reflects Seneca’s philosophy on desire and contentment. It shows that minimalism and mindfulness are the best ways to live. Psychology Today writes, “Seneca (circa 4 BCE—65 AD) was born in what is modern-day Córdoba, Spain. He was educated in Rome and became a Roman philosopher.”


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According to Plutarch, you should “know how to listen, and you will profit even from those who talk badly.” This is true now, in modern times, when the world is so noisy. You should always know when to listen, as it helps you learn about different environments and experiences.


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Socrates is famous for saying, “He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature.” You can apply this to modern-day times, as it reflects how unimportant material things are. It can also help us understand what we can and can’t control and how we should adapt to stress.


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Another Socrates quote is “An unexamined life is not worth living.” This quote represents the importance of self-reflecting on life. If you want to do this, then you can try journaling or being more mindful. According to The Greek Reporter, Socrates was “the first moral philosopher of Western ethical thought, referred to as ‘virtue ethics.’”


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“Man is a being in search of meaning” was a quote by Plato. It shows Plato’s philosophies on eternal ideas and the search for meaning. This isn’t something that’s changed in the past two thousand years and is very much present in the 21st century.


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Democritus said, “Nothing exists except atoms and empty space; everything else is opinion.” The philosopher is telling us not to take life and what other people say too seriously. The best things in life are humor and simplicity, especially when it comes to coping with life’s challenges.


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A popular quote from Confucius was, “By three methods we may learn wisdom: first by reflection, which is noblest; second by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bittersweet.” This quote reflects Confucius’s beliefs on benevolence, respect, and ethical living.

Lao Tzu

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Lao Tzu was an ancient Chinese philosopher and he once said, “Water is fluid, soft, and yielding, but water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield.” This quote helps to teach a person the power of flexibility and soft power. It contrasts the dominance of hard power that we see in geopolitics today.

Marcus Aurelius

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“The best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury.” This was a quote by Marcus Aurelius and tells us about his principles and resilience in the face of adversity. It’s a quote we can look to follow in modern times, as it tells us we should be unlike those who have hurt us.


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Leaders writes that Thucydides was an important historian and military general in Athens. This caused him to uncover deep truths about human nature. One of his most famous quotes is, “The secret to happiness is freedom… And the secret to freedom is courage.” This can reflect his military background, and even in today’s age, it teaches us to always be brave.


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Hippocrates is known to have said, “Wherever the art of medicine is loved, there is also a love of humanity.” This quote was the start of medical ethics, and it can still be applied to today’s doctors, nurses, and those in professions of care.


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According to Euclid, “the laws of nature are but the mathematical thoughts of God.” Euclid was an ancient Greek mathematician who was considered the father of geometry. This quote reflects his mathematical nature and is significant in understanding the structure of the world.


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“Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” Archimedes said this was a way to show the power of leverage and innovation to solve problems. It can also highlight all of the technological advances we’ve seen in today’s society and how innovation has well and truly changed the world.


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Pythagoras is known for saying, “There is geometry in the humming of the strings, there is music in the spacing of the spheres.” Pythagoras believed in the deep connection between mathematics, music, and the universe. It can also reflect the fact that we need harmony in various aspects of our lives.


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Plato said, “The physical world is not the real world; instead, ultimate reality exists beyond our sensory experiences.” History Skills writes, “Plato’s philosophy is often characterized by his theory of forms, which posits that the physical world is not the real world.” This is reflected in this quote, as he teaches us to understand reality and perception.


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“Freedom is the only worthy goal in life. It is won by disregarding things that lie beyond our control.” Epictetus said this as a way to understand that you will only find inner peace when you accept some things you can’t control. In modern times, it’s a quote that can help us manage stress and expectations.


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Heraclitus is known for saying, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” This quote shows us how a person is always changing, and there’s constant evolution in our lives and the world around us. It tells us that we should embrace the inevitability of life.

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