Bias of Priene

Hermaic pillar representing Bias of Priene, Vatican Museums

Bias (/ˈbəs/; Greek: Βίας ὁ Πριηνεύς; fl. 6th century BC) of Priene was a Greek sage. He is widely accepted as one of the Seven Sages of Greece and was renowned for his probity.


Bias was born at Priene and was the son of Teutamus.[1] He is said to have been distinguished for his skill as an advocate, and for his use of it in defence of the right.[2] In reference to which Demodicus of Alerius uttered the following saying – "If you are a judge, give a Prienian decision," and Hipponax said, "More powerful in pleading causes than Bias of Priene."[3]

He was always reckoned among the Seven Sages, and was mentioned by Dicaearchus as one of the Four to whom alone that title was universally given — the remaining three being Thales, Pittacus, and Solon.[4] Satyrus placed him at the head of the Seven Sages,[1] and even Heraclitus, who poured scorn on figures such as Hesiod and Pythagoras,[5] referred to Bias as "a man of more consideration than any."[6] One of the examples of his great goodness is the legend that says that Bias paid a ransom for some women who had been taken prisoner. After educating them as his own daughters, he sent them back to Messina, their homeland, and to their fathers.[1]

Bias is said to have died at a very advanced age while pleading a cause for his client. After he had finished speaking, he rested his head on his grandson. When the advocate on the opposite side had spoken, the judges decided in favor of Bias's client, by which time Bias had died.[2] The city gave him a magnificent funeral and inscribed on his tomb:[7]

Here Bias of Priene lies, whose name
Brought to his home and all Ionia fame.


It is said that Bias wrote a poem of 2000 lines on Ionia and the way to make it prosperous.[7]


Many sayings were attributed to him by Diogenes Laertius and by others:

Vatican bust

In April, 1819, Schopenhauer wrote in his Reisebuch [Travel Diary]: "In the Vatican [Hall of Philosophers] there is the bust of Bias with the inscription of πλεῖστοι ἄνθρωποι κακοί [most men are bad]. Indeed this must have been his maxim."[8]


  1. 1 2 3 Diogenes Laertius, i. 82
  2. 1 2 Diogenes Laertius, i. 84
  3. Diogenes Laertius, i. 84; Strabo xiv. 1. 12
  4. Diogenes Laertius, i. 41
  5. Diogenes Laertius, viii. 6, ix. 1
  6. Diogenes Laertius, i. 88
  7. 1 2 Diogenes Laertius, i. 85
  8. Manuscript Remains, Volume 3, "Reisebuch," § 30


Further reading

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bias of Priene.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 9/28/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.