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μὴ φῦναι τὸν ἅπ. νικᾷ λόγον, lit., “"Not to be born exceeds every possible estimate,"”—of the gain, as compared with the loss, of being born.

ἅπας λόγος is strictly, the whole range of possible appreciation: for the art. with “ἅπας” cp. Thuc. 6.16περὶ τῶν ἁπάντων ἀγωνίζεσθαι”, for the sum of their fortunes: ib. 6 “τὴν” “ἅπασαν δύναμιν τῆς Σικελίας”, the total power. Rate the gain of being born as high as you please; the gain of not being born is higher. Two other ways are possible:—(1) “"Not to be born excels the whole account,"”—i.e. excels all the other things (joys, sorrows, of life) that come into account. The drawback to this is the somewhat strained sense of λόγον. (2) “"Stands first on the whole reckoning,"” (“τὸν . λόγον” being cogn. acc., or acc. of respect)—i.e. when a balance is struck between the good and the evil of being born. This seems too cold and cautious for the context.

The form hints that Soph. was thinking of the verses of Theognis (425 ff.) which the schol. quotes, without naming that poet, as familiar (“τὸ λεγόμενον”):— “πάντων μὲν μὴ φῦναι ἐπιχθονίοισιν ἄριστον,
μηδ᾽ ἐσιδεῖν αὐγὰς ὀξέος ἠελίου,
φύντα δ᾽ ὅπως ὤκιστα πύλας Ἀΐδαο περῆσαι
καὶ κεῖσθαι πολλὴν γῆν ἐπιεσσάμενον

”. Diog. Laert. 10. 1. 126 quotes Epicurus as censuring these lines, and remarking that a man who really thought so ought to quit life,—“ἐν ἑτοίμῳ γὰρ αὐτῷ τοῦτ᾽ ἔστιν”. Cic. Tusc. 1. 48. 115Non nasci homini longe optimum esse, proximum autem quam primum mori”: where he translates the lines of Eur. (fr. 452) “ἐχρῆν γὰρ ἡμᾶς σύλλογον ποιουμένους
τὸν φύντα θρηνεῖν εἰς ὅσ᾽ ἔρχεται κακά:
τὸν δ᾽ αὖ θανόντα καὶ πόνων πεπαυμένον
χαίροντας εὐφημοῦντας ἐκπέμπειν δόμων

”. Alexis (Midd. Com., 350 B.C.) “Μανδραγοριζομένη” 1. 14 “οὐκοῦν τὸ πολλοῖς τῶν σοφῶν εἰρημένον,
τὸ μὴ γενέσθαι μὲν κράτιστόν ἐστ᾽ ἀεί,
ἐπὰν γένηται δ̓, ὡς τάχιστ᾽ ἔχειν τέλος


ἐπεὶ φανῇ, when he has been born, cp. 974: for subj., 395.

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350 BC (1)
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  • Commentary references from this page (3):
    • Thucydides, Histories, 6.16
    • Diogenes Laertius, Vitae philosophorum, 10.1
    • Cicero, Tusculanae Disputationes, 1.48
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