Riddles of the Greeks

By: Justin Zablocki (author, Zablocki Bros. LLC) on October 24th, 2013 12:00 AM.


Riddles of the Greeks


Ancient Greece was an ancient civilization that lasted from the 8th century BC to the seventh century AD. This civilization flourished and spread for centuries and was a mecca for intellectuals and artists. Most of our modern day philosophy, logic, mathematics, and literature is heavily based on ideas that were conceptualized by citizens of Ancient Greece. One niche aspect of study that these Greeks were enthused about and embraced is riddles. Many great Greeks loved, studied, and wrote riddles for a variety of reasons. Here are a some of these great men:

Homer: Homer was a great epic poet, one of the greatest Greek poets. Although not much is known about his life, two great works of his, The Iliad and The Odyssey, still live on. He used riddles in his poetry to prove his protagonists great intellectual abilities. One of his characters that is tested in this way, Odysseus, proves his brawn in many ways; but he must also prove himself mentally capable. One of the riddles used to do this:

Once he hears to his heart's content, sails on, a wiser man.
We know all the pains that the Greeks and Trojans once endured
on the spreading plain of Troy when the gods willed it so-
all that comes to pass on the fertile earth, we know it all!

He is given this riddle by the Sirens. They sing this song to attract sailors to their death. Death is the answer to this riddle, and also the end of the song. For more riddles from Homer visit Riddles of Homer.

Socrates: Socrates is often regarded as the first great Western philosopher. Similar to Homer, Socrates' life is not extremely well documented aside from second hand accounts of him written by Plato and other people of the time. In contrast to Homer, Socrates used riddles in his works as a way to create metaphors to explain complex topics in simple terms. One riddle related to Socrates:

Is anyone wiser than Socrates?

This was a question asked of an oracle who promptly answered no. Upon hearing this, Socrates thought it could not be true because he knows he is not the wisest man. But with this he realized that his wisdom came from the fact that he realized he was wrong at times. This was the answer to the riddle. For more riddles from Socrates visit Riddles of Socrates.

Plato: Plato was the student of Socrates and was also one of the first men to establish the basic tenants of Western philosophy. He used riddles in a very similar way to Socrates, but he also used them and recognized them as entertainment for people of all ages. One of these riddles goes as follows:

There is a story that a man and not a man
Saw and did not see a bird and not a bird
Perched on a branch and not a branch
And hit him and did not hit him with a rock and not a rock.

He might have not written this riddle, but he referred to it a couple of times in his works. The answer to this riddle goes as follows:

A eunuch who did not see well saw a bat perched on a reed and threw a pumice stone at him which missed.

For more riddles from Plato visit Riddles of Plato.

Aristotle: Aristotle, strangely enough, was a student of Plato. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle himself are often regarded as the start of a new Western way of thinking that would be become the root of modern thinking and philosophy. He loved riddles, he even collected them in a systematic way. He was the first person to write about riddles and their relationship to rhetoric. He had this to say about riddles:

Well-constructed riddles are attractive [because] a new idea is conveyed, ... The thought is startled, and ... does not fit in with the ideas you already have... The effect produced ... is a surprise.

For some riddles from Aristotle visit Riddles of Aristotle.

The Greeks loved their riddles and riddles were a very important aspect of their lives. Without televisions and without internet, they had riddles. For some riddles of your own visit the hard riddles page.

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