Ancient Greek wisdom for addressing today’s challenges in Science

Ancient Greek philosophy has eloquently condensed in a plethora of succinct phrases, known as ‘apophthegms’, concepts that modern scientists would need several pages of text to define, explain or elaborate on. Despite being thousands of years old, these quotes are remarkably pertinent to many aspects of modern life and constitute a solid conceptual framework for addressing today’s challenges and burning questions. Over the years, my collaborators and I have used illustrative examples of quotes by ancient Greek philosophers as introductory remarks or opening statements in a series of review articles, opinion papers or commentaries. Here I would like to share these quotes for your consideration in the hope that some of them may strike a familiar chord with you.

Kρέσσονές εἰσιν αἱ τῶν πεπαιδευμένων ἐλπίδες ἢ ὁ τῶν ἀμαθῶν πλοῦτος
The hopes of the educated are better than the wealth of the ignorant.
Democritus, 4th century BC

Mastellos DC, Lambris JD (2022). Recent developments in C3-targeted complement therapeutics. Semin. Immunol. [Online ahead of publication].
ἱστορίης ἀπόδεξις ἥδε, ὡς μήτε τὰ γενόμενα ἐξ ἀνθρώπων τῷ χρόνῳ ἐξίτηλα γένηται
This is a proof of the story, so that the deeds of men may not be effaced by time.
Herodotus, Histories

Mastellos DC, Ricklin D, Sfyroera G, Sahu A (2021). From discovery to approval: A brief history of the compstatin family of complement C3 inhibitors Clinical Immunoloy 235:108785.
σκαιὸν τὸ πλουτεῖν κἄλλο μηδὲν εἰδέναι
It is terrible to become rich and to know nothing else.

Mastellos DC, Blom AM, Connolly ES, Daha MR, Geisbrecht BV, Ghebrehiwet B, Gros P, Hajishengallis G, Holers VM, Huber-Lang M, Kinoshita T, Mollnes TE, Montgomery RA, Morgan BP, Nilsson B, Pio R, Ricklin D, Risitano AM, Taylor RP, Mantovani A, Ioannidis JP, Lambris JD. (2019). ‘Stealth’ corporate innovation: an emerging threat for therapeutic drug development. Nature immunology 20: 1409-1413.
Ἐς δὲ τὰ ἔσχατα νουσήματα αἱ ἔσχαται θεραπεῖαι ἐς ἀκριβείην, κράτισται
For extreme diseases, extremely targeted treatments are most efficacious.
Hippocrates of Kos, Aphorisms

Mastellos DC, Ricklin D, Lambris JD. (2019). Clinical promise of next-generation complement therapeutics. Nature Reviews. Drug Discovery 18: 707-729. 
δύο λόγους εἶναι περὶ παντὸς πράγματος ἀντικειμένους ἀλλήλοις
There are two sides to every question.

Reis ES, Mastellos DC, Hajishengallis G, Lambris JD. (2019). New insights into the immune functions of complement. Nature Reviews. Immunology 19: 503-516. 
Τὰ πάντα ῥεῖ, μηδέποτε κατὰ τ’ aὐτὸ μένειν
Everything changes and nothing stands still.
Heraclitus (c. 535-c. 475 BC)

Mastellos DC, Reis ES, Yancopoulou D, Risitano AM, Lambris JD. (2018). Expanding Complement Therapeutics for the Treatment of Paroxysmal Nocturnal Hemoglobinuria. Seminars in Hematology 55: 167-175. 
The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Hajishengallis G, Reis ES, Mastellos DC, Ricklin D, Lambris JD. (2017). Novel mechanisms and functions of complement. Nature Immunology 18: 1288-1298. 
μηδὲ δίκην δικάσηις, πρὶν ἄμφω μῦθον ἀκούσηις
Do not render judgment before you hear both sides.
Hesiod, in Hesiodus Fragments (c. 700 BC)

Mastellos DC, Reis ES, Ricklin D, Smith RJ, Lambris JD. (2017). Complement C3-Targeted Therapy: Replacing Long-Held Assertions with Evidence-Based Discovery. Trends in Immunology 38: 383-394.
Δύο γὰρ, ἐπιστήμη τε καὶ δόξα, ὧν τὸ μὲν ἐπίστασθαι ποιέει, τὸ δὲ ἀγνοεῖν
Science begets knowledge; mere opinion breeds ignorance.

Hajishengallis G, Mantovani A, Moretta A, Lambris JD. (2013). Aegean reflections on innate immunity. Nature Immunology 14: 1025-9.
ἐὰν μὴ ἔλπηται, ἀνέλπιστον οὐκ ἐξευρήσει, ἀνεξερεύνητον ἐὸν καὶ ἄπορον
If you do not expect the unexpected you will not find it, for it is not to be reached by search or trail.
Heraclitus of Ephesus (535–475 BC)

Mastellos DC, Lambris JD (2022). Lambris JD. (2013). Complement: More than killing. Seminars in Immunology 25: 1.
ἁρμονίη ἀφανὴς φανερῆς κρείττων
A hidden connection is stronger than an obvious one.
Heraclitus of Ephesus (535–475 BC)

Ricklin D, Hajishengallis G, Yang K, Lambris JD. (2010). Complement: a key system for immune surveillance and homeostasis. Nature Immunology 11: 785-97.

φύσις δὲ καθ’ Ἡράκλειτον κρύπτεσθαι φιλεῖ
Nature is fond of hiding herself.
Heraclitus of Ephesus (535–475 BC)

Mastellos D, Lambris JD. (2002). Complement: more than a ‘guard’ against invading pathogens? Trends in Immunology 23: 485-91.
τὰ πάντα ῥεῖ καὶ οὐδὲν μένει
Nothing endures but change.
Heraclitus of Ephesus (535–475 BC)

A guide to complement biology, pathology and therapeutic opportunity. Mastellos D, Hajishengallis G, Lambris JD. (2023). Nature Reviews Immunology [Online ahead of publication].