BIAS OF PRIENE (GreekΒιας)—one of the so-called seven Greek sages, lived in the sixth century BC.
According to tradition he was first of the seven sages. With Thales of Miletus, Pittacus of Mitylene, Solon the Athenian, Cleobulus of Lindos, Myson of Chen, and Chilon of Sparta he belonged to the group of thinkers who began a stage of philosophical thought that was largely free of prejudices and was based on a desire to find the ultimate causes of observed phenomena. We know little about his life and work. He was the son of Teutames. The sources available give different information about his social origin. Some (Duris) said that he was a was a hired labourer. Others (Phanodicus) said that he was a very wealthy man, and as evidence of this he was said to have redeemed Messenian girls from slavery, raised them, and send them back to their parents with a dowry. He often appeared in court and was renowned as an excellent speaker, but he only took took on duties to prove just causes. As Diogenes Laertius wrote, Bias died in court during a trial in which he had successfully defended one of the accused. A magnificent funeral paid for by the state was held for him, and on the grave was inscribed: “Here Bias of Prience lies, whose name brought to his home and all Ionia fame”.
Bias wrote a poem, which has not been preserved to our time, consisting of around two thousand verses in which he presented his views on ethical questions, legislation, and anthropology. He expressed in it the view that most people are evil, and therefore they too should be subject to strong law codified by the authority of the state. He also thought that monarchs should observe the laws of the state that they themselves enacted, for law should be binding on all men. Monarchs should unite their subjects to themselves primarily by persuasion, not by force. They should ascribe their merits and their renown for the use of common sense, piety, temperance, fortitude and action not to themselves, but to the gods.
W. Kornatowski, Rozwój pojęć o państwie w starożytnej Grecji [Development of concepts of the state in ancient Greece], To 1950, 134–137; DLaert I 4–I 5; Reale I 228–229.