History Box Nr. 8
All Cretans Are Liars
"All Cretans Are
You have probably
heard this expression, and may well know at least one of its sources; there are in fact,
at least, three. The reason that I place this box here, is because the second of
these assertions, concerns Zeus' burial on Mount Juktas, which towers above the town of
Archanes. The following are in reverse chronological order:
1) Paul (St) 1st century AD:
The most oft-quoted
source of this phrase, is that of Paul (St) of Tarsus, in his epistle to Titus - later
bishop of Crete, and based at Gortyns - and dates to around the middle of the first
century AD. In these epistles, Paul (St) makes mention of "filthy lucre", before
getting down to the business of repeating the age-old "paradox" (see number 3,
below) in chapter one, verse 12. of the epistle: 'One of them
a prophet of their own, said: "The Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, slothful
bellies"', and by way of confirmation, in the following verse: 'This
testimony is true. Wherefore, rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith:'
Always the forgiving kind, was Paul (St).
2) Callimachus (poet) 3rd C. BC:
The second of
these sources, was written by Callimachus in his 'Hymn to Zeus', in the third century BC,
and here we get to Mount Juktas, slightly west of Archanes, which was believed, by the
Cretans, to be the tomb of Zeus. From a distance, the face of the mountain, does appear to
take on the look of a man's (or god's) profile. Callimachus wasn't having with this. Gods
don't die, they are immortal, so "all Cretans are liars".
3)Epimenides (Smart Alec) 6th Century
If you thought that
the Cretans were having their names taken in vain, they only have themselves to blame!
With an ironic twist, that would have been wasted on Paul (St), we have the earliest
source of this expression. Epimenides 'Cretan Paradox', was written in the 6th century BC, and has even been used in an
episode of Star Trek (first series). to confuse the chips out of a malign robot! Described
as a "mathematical riddle", it's more of a contradiction in terms. "All
Cretans are liars", said the Cretan Epimenides; if this is true,
then Epimenides is not lying, and therefore not all Cretans are liars; however, if
Epimenides is a liar, then by saying that "all Cretans are liars", he is in turn
issuing a false statement, so not all Cretans are liars, only some, including him! For
further mind-boggling thoughts on the "paradox", visit Steven Blatt's page.
Stelios Jackson 2004