In the novel The Unfortunate Traveller, Thomas Nashe attributes a Latin quote to a certain Epicharmus (italics from the original):

The onely precept that a traveller hath most use of, and shall finde most ease in, is that of Epicharmus, Vigila, et memor sis ne quid credas: Beleeve nothing, trust no man, yet seeme thou swallowedst al, suspectedst none, but wert easie to be gulled by everie one.

The only Epicharmus I could find online is the Greek dramatist and philosopher Epicharmus of Kos (c. 550 - c. 460 BC), so if the quote really comes from him, it must be a later translation into Latin. I have not been able to find the Latin version online, but I also can't exclude the possibility that Nashe is pulling the reader's leg here. If Epicharmus is the real source, I assume Nashe got the quote from a Latin translation that was available in England in the sixteenth century.

  • Perhaps explore.bl.uk/primo_library/libweb/action/… of 1560? (Τα ἐκ των Ἐπιχαρμου ... γνωμικα. Ex Comoediis Epicharmi ... Sententiæ. Gr. & Lat.) Jun 29, 2019 at 18:06
  • @kimchilover That looks like a very plausible source. Hopefully, someone on this site can consult that volume in the British Library. I couldn't find a digital version online.
    – Tsundoku
    Jun 29, 2019 at 18:13

1 Answer 1


The original Greek quote can be found on page 144 (line 255) of Friedrich W. A. Mullach's Fragmenta philosophorum greacorum, a collection of fragments of ancient Greek philosophers published by Didot in Paris in 1860:

Νᾶφε καὶ μέμνασ’ ἁπιστεῖν

A Latin translation can also be found in Book Four of Iusti Lipsi Politicorum siue Ciuilis doctrinae libri sex (Justus Lipsius, 1589)) and goes as follows:

Vigila, & memor es nequid credas: (...).

The Unfortunate Traveller (published in 1594, i.e. a few years after Lipsius' work) has "sis" instead of "es". I don't know whether Thomas Nashe would have read Lipsius. @kimchi lover posted a comment with a link to Τα ἐκ των Ἐπιχαρμου ... γνωμικα. Ex Comoediis Epicharmi ... Sententiæ. Gr. & Lat., published in 1560, in the catalogue of the British Library. This looks like an older collection of fragments that Nashe may have consulted.

Note (21.07.2019): Some of Nashe's contemporaries, especially Robert Greene, invented quotes, but at least the Epicharmus quote is real. One thing to add is that the first edition (1594) spelled the name of the Greek playwright as "Epicharcus" and the second edition, published in the same year, corrected this to Epicharmus. It is not clear whether the incorrect spelling in the first edition originated from Nashe's manuscript or from a typesetter's mistake.


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