Our ancestors had plenty to say about the way we speak, act and interact with the world, and it might be surprising to discover that some of their opinions are still relevant today. Though, they do say wisdom comes with age.
Ancient philosophers, scientists and writers may have lived a long time ago, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t have some of the same issues we do today. They often argued about politics, became embarrassed when expressing their emotions and wanted nothing more than to find love and acceptance. Therefore, listening to the people who walked the earth before us isn’t always a bad idea. Although a lot has changed since B.C.E. appeared after the date, we’re still humans who want to do the best we can in life and love.
If you’re finding yourself unsatisfied with your life or needing inspiration to keep going, then delving deep into history can be incredibly rewarding. Ancient quotes about life and love sometimes just say things better than we can now in memes or even in modern art. Each quote seemed to be constructed so carefully that, even if you don’t understand it at first, you know it means something important.
They’re the sayings you want tattooed on your skin, embroidered on your pillow and framed on your wall. They rekindle your desire for love and romance or remind you that relationships aren’t always easy. They tell you that you’re growing as a person and that the world is growing, too. They quell your worries and shape your ideas. They’re so accurate that it hurts, but you can’t get enough.
Each ancient quote about life and love can teach you something about yourself and the world that will stay with you for a long time. Hopefully, you find some new favorite quotes in this list of 50 ancient quotes about life and love that you need to hear.
1. What you say, and how you say it, is important.
“Do not say a little in many words but a great deal in few.” — Pythagoras
2. You can never have enough books.
“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” — Marcus Tullius Cicero
3. Life doesn’t need a plan.
“If you do not change direction you may end up where you are heading.” — Lao Tzu
4. Everything is constantly changing.
“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” — Heraclitus
5. We don’t need money.
“The life of money-making is one undertaken under compulsion, and wealth is evidently not the good we are seeking; for it is merely useful and for the sake of something else.” —Aristotle
6. Your greatest enemy is yourself.
“Although you may spend your life killing, you will not exhaust all your foes. But if you quell your own anger, your real enemy will be slain.” — Nagarjuna
7. Facing yourself is the hardest thing you’ll have to do.
“He who conquers himself is the mightiest warrior.” ― Confucius
8. Independence isn’t a sign of maturity.
“Life is a process during which one initially gets less and less dependent, independent, and then more and more dependent.” ― Mokokoma Mokhonoana
9. Happiness comes when you stop wanting.
“Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” ― Lao Tzu
10. We make progress by collaborating.
“It is just that we should be grateful, not only to those with whose views we may agree, but also to those who have expressed more superficial views; for these also contributed something, by developing before us the powers of thought.” — Aristotle
11. No pain, no gain.
“Great deeds are usually wrought at great risks.” — Herodotus
12. You can’t expect success without effort.
“Apply yourself both now and in the next life. Without effort, you cannot be prosperous. Though the land be good, you cannot have an abundant crop without cultivation.” — Plato
13. Don’t limit yourself with expectations.
“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” — Lao Tzu
14. Prepare for the future by doing simple tasks today.
“Anticipate the difficult by managing the easy.” — Lao Tzu
15. Politics affect you, whether you like them or not.
“Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.” — Pericles
16. Being busy doesn’t mean you’re satisfied with your life.
“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” — Socrates
17. Don’t forget about emotional intelligence.
“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” — Aristotle
18. You are defined by your actions.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” — Aristotle
19. Friends listen and expect to be listened to.
“One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.” — Seneca
20. Don’t worry too much.
“True happiness is…[enjoying] the present without anxious dependence on the future.” — Seneca
21. Know when to listen (and when not to).
“Know how to listen and you will profit even from those who talk badly.” — Plutarch
22. All you can do is your best.
“Make the best use of what’s in your power and take the rest as it happens.” — Epictetus
23. Love makes you whole.
“Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.” — Aristotle
24. Never be a know-it-all.
“One thing I know, that I know nothing. This is the source of my wisdom.” — Socrates
25. Don’t lie — especially to yourself.
“The worst of all deceptions is self-deception.” — Plato
26. Nothing lasts forever.
“There is nothing permanent except change.” — Heraclitus
27. Focus on your body, soul and mind.
“The happy man is the one who has a healthy body, a wealthy soul and a well-educated nature.” — Thales
28. We are blessed by nature.
“As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons.” — Solomon
29. Don’t overthink your problems.
“If a man’s mind becomes pure, his surroundings will also become pure.” — Buddha
30. Be kind above all else.
“There is no duty more obligatory than the repayment of kindness.” — Cicero
31. Quality is greater than quantity.
“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” — Abraham Lincoln
32. Keep moving forward.
“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one that has opened for us.” — Alexander Graham Bell
33. Happiness is not the purpose of life.
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
34. Use the past as an example, not a model.
“You can never plan the future by the past.” — Edmund Burke
35. Life stops for no one.
“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.” — Robert Frost
36. Live your own life, not someone else’s.
“All teachings are mere references. The true experience is living your own life. Then, even the holiest of words are only words.” — Ming-Dao Deng
37. Motivation can help you overcome almost anything.
“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” — Friedrich Nietzsche
38. Love isn’t supposed to be sane.
“There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness.” — Friedrich Nietzsche
39. Our last love is the strongest.
“We always believe our first love is our last, and our last love our first.” — George W. Melville
40. Be happy for friends’ successes.
“Anybody can sympathise with the sufferings of a friend, but it requires a very fine nature to sympathise with a friend’s success.” — Oscar Wilde
41. True friends are there during the bad times.
“Friends show their love in times of trouble, not in happiness.” — Euripedes
42. We need love like we need food (maybe more).
“The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.” — Mother Teresa
43. Love should be cheerful and passionate.
“Love must be as much a light, as it is a flame.” — Henry David Thoreau
44. Love can be so much more than just love.
“We loved with a love that was more than love.” — Edgar Allan Poe
45. Love is blind.
“Love is like dew that falls on both nettles and lilies.” — Swedish Proverb
46. Love demands dedication.
“Love is staying up all night with a sick child — or a healthy .” — David Frost
47. Love makes little sense.
“People who are sensible about love are incapable of it.” — Douglas Yates
48. Love doesn’t ask you to change.
“Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds.” — William Shakespeare
49. Joy is synonymous with love.
“A joyful heart is the inevitable result of a heart burning with love.” — Mother Teresa
50. Everyone wants love.
“Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired.” — Robert Frost
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If you’re searching for the best quotes and memes to share with the people you love (or just want to feel inspired yourself) … look no further! From the sweetest love quotes, inspirational sayings, and hilarious friendship truths, we’ve got you covered.
Meaghan Summers is a writer who covers astrology, pop culture and relationship topics.