Did Greco-Romans often quote variations of “eyes are more reliable witnesses than ears”?

  • Question

    A box is diagonally divided. In the top left is a man plugging his ears with his fingers, on the bottom right is an eyeball with a check mark over it.

    Did peoples in the Greco-Roman world (including Jews) quote variations of the saying that “eyes are more trustworthy than ears”?

  • Historians

    • Richard Bauckham: “the primacy of sight among the senses was a feature of the ancient Greek theory of cognition” [Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (Eerdmans, 2006), 523.]
    • Samuel Byrskog: “[t]hey related to the past visually” [Story as History—History as Story (Coronet, 2000), 64.]
“Yes, after all…
  • Examples abound

    • Heraclitus: “Eyes are surer witnesses than ears,” [Quoted by Polybius in Histories 12.27:1]
    • Herodotus: [On Candaules to Gyges re his wife's alleged beauty] “Well, a man always believes his eyes better than his ears” [Histories 1.8]
    • Polybius: “To see an operation with one's own eyes is not like merely hearing a description of it. It is, indeed, quite another thing; and the confidence which such vivid experience gives is always greatly advantageous” [Histories 20.12.8]
    • Polybius: “he [Timaeus] entirely refrained from looking at things with his own eyes, and devoted himself to learning by hearsay [My insert: from documents]. [Histories 12.27]
    • Seneca the Younger: “I shall therefore send to you the actual books… shall mark certain passages, so that you can turn at once to those which I approve and admire. Of course, however, the living voice and the intimacy of a common life will help you more than the written word. You must go to the scene of action, first, because men put more faith in their eyes than in their ears” [Moral Letters to Lucilius; Ad Lucilium Epistulae Morales 6.5]
    • Philo: “to all those who are willing, after a careful examination and investigation, using their eyes in preference to their ears as a trustworthy witness” [De Confusione Linguarum 57]
  • Dio Chrysostom said it is a popular saying

    Dio Chrysostom was a famous Greek historian of the Roman Empire. He wrote in the 1st century that...

    • Dio Chrysostom: “the popular saying that the ‘eyes are more trustworthy than the ears’ is perhaps true,” [Discourses 12:71]

    This is relevant because he was in more than a position to know whether this was true or not, and it would be an odd lie (e.g. he'd risk being shamed).