Heraclitus, Fragment 104 (D 43)


“One must quench violence (hybris) quicker than a blazing fire.” (K, 104; cp. R, S, D 43)

The term hybris is translated variously as “violence” or “insolence.” Here Heraclitus is describing it as a destructive force, “a blazing fire.” As Kahn notes, this is one of the only fragments in which Heraclitus speaks purely negatively of fire.

The fragment has a structural similarity to Fragment 30 (D 114): “One must hold fast to what is shared by all, as a city holds to its law, and even more firmly,” a fragment that may well capture this one’s main sense. Adherence to law fortifies a city, preserving it from destruction from within. Violence — and even insolence — will also undermine the civil order, undermining the trust necessary for community life.

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