Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts

Meaning of “Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts”

The phrase “beware of Greeks bearing gifts” means we should never trust our enemies even if they bring gifts for us. In other words, we should always be on alert. Especially, anyone who is acting too kind and sweeter than usual or giving you presents when it’s not a special occasion. They might have an ulterior motive.

Origin of “Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts”

The phrase “beware of Greeks bearing gifts” is stated to allude to the story of the Greeks who tricked their way to Troy through a wooden horse. It has been referred to in Aeneid in Book-II. It is stated in the book addressing the Trojans that they should not trust the horse specifically when it is a gift and from the Greeks. The phrase is stated to have been resurrected during the 90s and has become popular via the internet. Therefore, it is now widely used in everyday conversation.

Examples in Literature

Example #1

Timeo Danaos Et Dona Ferentes (Beware Of Greeks Bearing Gifts) by Vladimir Marku

Greece today, hatching tricks in your hay bales
Proud of your wooden horse, never to forget
Fraud is your virtue, and a knife on the back
However, Helens ridden are by Paris
Switched you have your style, o insidious
No more horses stuffed with soldiers
You build cathedrals, put up memorials, rob graveyards
Buy acres of sea, invent Greeks, open banks, grab properties
The trophy for the traitors, and national carcasses
The power is, at the head of our country
Hold on, too early to joy and celebrate
Your Fifth Column, the horse to replace
We are the Pelasgians, Etruscans, Dardans, Illyrians, Albanians
Together are going to make Arbëria, again.

You slither like snakes, you sneak like hyenas
Eyes blazing Laocoon, spear in hand
Not going to throw it onto the horse this time
He’s going to thrust it into the horseman.

This poem is about the character of the Grecian people in a disparaging way. The poet is saying that now Greeks have become more agile and cheekier. According to him, they slither like snakes and “sneak like hyenas”. However, this time there will be no treachery like their popular horse trick. The phrase has been explained through this warning to the Greeks based on the Trojan War story. The poet has also given the original Greek phrase as the title of the poem with translation in parenthesis, which makes the meanings clear.

Example #2

Willy Declines His Hard-Earned Promotion by Louis Daniel Brodsky

After all this time on the road,
Willy’s learned one thing
Even the most sublime wisdom can’t  impose
On those unwilling to listen to their own heartbeat:
To change horses in midstream
And not beware of Greeks bearing gifts

The above lines tell us that despite the best advice and wisdom, a person learns only through experience. If a person changes horses midstream and is not aware of his enemies, he learns the lessons quickly. The poet wants to state that it is the best way to learn to stay unaware of the Greeks bearing gifts.

Example #3

Greeks Bearing Gifts by Philip Kerr

This is a fascinating story of Bernie Gunther, who takes up the job of a claim adjuster of former soldiers for a German insurance company. He soon comes to know that one of his clients, whose claim he is going to investigate, has already been received it but not himself. Another person in his guise has already got it declaring him a dead soldier. He joins hands with a Greek lieutenant to unearth the truth, but they found themselves mired much more profoundly in this Grecian saga. The meanings of this phrase used in the title become evident due to the intrigues in Greece.

Example #4

Greeks Bearing Gifts: The Public Use of Private Relationships in the Greek by Lynette G. Mitchell

In the Greek world, and especially in interstate relations, philoi and philia were important. But the question of who one’s were and how one should respond to them was not always so obvious. Beware of Greeks bearing gifts? Let the Greeks themselves beware.

Lynette Mitchell has beautifully summed up the meanings of this phrase, referring to interstate relations of Greek with the other states. He is of the view that the Greeks should be now beware of the meanings of this phrase or such other proverbs if they are to form cordial relationships with the world.

Examples in Sentences

Example #1: “Simon has been giving apple pie to Joseph every day. He must be reminded to beware of Greeks bearing gifts.”

Example #2: “John is always on the alert because he doesn’t trust his neighbors. So he is just thinking to beware of the Greeks bearing gifts.”

Example #3: “The teacher said ‘beware of Greeks bearing gifts’ before he started explaining the new lesson.”

Example #4: “Everyone should be aware of Greeks bearing gifts. Some gifts might even have a bomb.”

Example #5: “Emma is like the Greek bearing gifts. She is always too kind, but her brother said she’s pretending.”