I am in search of a direct quote (as close as possible) from Heraclitus that expresses the idea that life is flux -or- everything changes. With the help of this website I have been told that Heraclitus has many quotes from people talking about him and his ideas, but very few quotes that are directly his. Ultimately I am looking for the quote to be translated into the correct (Koine or Attic) Greek.


1 Answer 1


One of the better-known and less-reliable sources of Heraclitus quotes is Plato's Cratylus, which is also a wonderfully amusing source of completely wrong etymologies. However, it's not clear if this part (402a) is meant to be a direct quote or a paraphrase:

Σ: Τὸν Ἡράκλειτόν μοι δοκῶ καθορᾶν παλαί' ἄττα σοφὰ λέγοντα, ἀτεχνῶς τὰ ἐπὶ Κρόνου καὶ Ῥέας, ἃ καὶ Ὅμηρος ἔλεγεν.

Ε: Πῶς τοῦτο λέγεις;

Σ: Λέγει που Ἡράκλειτος ὅτι πάντα χωρεῖ καὶ οὐδὲν μένει, καὶ ποταμοῦ ῥοῇ ἀπεικάζων τὰ ὄντα λέγει ὡς δὶς ἐς τὸν αὐτὸν ποταμὸν οὐκ ἂν ἐμβαίης.

S: I seem to remember Heraclitus saying some ancient wisdom, old as Cronus and Rhea, that Homer said too…

H: What does that mean?

S: See, Heraclitus says that everything is in motion and nothing stays fixed, and, comparing the universe to the flow of a river, he says that you cannot step into the same river twice.

Ancient Greek didn't have quotation marks, so Socrates could be quoting Heraclitus directly, or could be paraphrasing his teachings; the Greek would look the same either way. (I could just as well have translated that "Heraclitus says: 'everything flows…'").

The most famous version is simply:

πάντα ῥεῖ

Everything flows.

This version comes from Simplicius, in his commentary on Aristotle's Physica (1313.11). But again it's not clear if he's quoting or paraphrasing.

Maybe more accurately, here's a quote preserved via Cleanthes, via Arius Didymus, via Eusebius. This one is commonly claimed to be a direct quote, though I'm not sure what evidence there is for that:

ποταμοῖσι τοῖσιν αὐτοῖσιν ἐμβαίνουσιν ἕτερα καὶ ἕτερα ὕδατα ἐπιρρεῖ

Ever-different water flows over those who step in the same river.

And finally, this almost certainly isn't what you want, but Seneca makes a direct quote (translated into Latin), in his Moral Letters (58.23):

Hoc est quod ait Heraclitus: in idem flumen bis descendimus et non discendimus. manet enim idem fluminis nomen, aqua transmissa est.

This is what Heraclitus says: we both do and do not step twice into the same river. Because, you see, the name of the river stays the same, but the water keeps flowing.

(All translations mine; all Latin and Greek from the Loeb Classical Library.)

  • πάντα χωρεῖ καὶ οὐδὲν μένει this seems to be the best I have come across so far - are the characters and spelling in modern greek, or is this appropriate for the era? Again, @Draconis thank you
    – billbeemer
    Apr 11, 2019 at 17:51
  • Bravo. I was stuck on the Simplicius quotation which I eventual traced to Simplicius Commentary on Aristotle’s Physica 1313.11.
    – Hugh
    Apr 11, 2019 at 17:51
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    @Hugh Ah, nice! I didn't manage to find the line number; mind if I edit that into my answer? Otherwise, posting the Simplicius quote with context could make for another good answer!
    – Draconis
    Apr 11, 2019 at 17:52
  • @billbeemer The words and spelling are all ancient, though using lowercase letters is modern. (The usual convention is to add modern capitalization and punctuation to ancient texts to make them easier to read; Heraclitus wouldn't have been familiar with periods and commas, but they help a lot for modern-day readers.)
    – Draconis
    Apr 11, 2019 at 17:58
  • @Draconis - here is the google translate for the phrase in English all countries and none left -or- always lives and remains ....ahh the joys of technology. Thank you all again!
    – billbeemer
    Apr 11, 2019 at 18:07

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