APOPHTHEGMA is ‘short statement’, ‘utterance’, ‘witty words’, ‘apt response’.

Aphorisms, sentences, proverbs, and bonmots are always <apophthegmata>, while the latters only bear a vague similarity to anecdotes and epigrams.

Since ancient times, the role of aphorisms is very important in the framework of a sustained philosophical training (<askesis>). These short sentences are used to transmit principles and ‘rules of conduct’ from the master to the disciple. They are useful for students wishing to retain in memory some instructions ready for recalling at the right time. In our culture, proverbs carry out, more or less, the same function and, in fact, we still make large use of them in order to convey moral concepts in very short and simple formulas.

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It may be convenient here to mention the word <hypomnema> (plural <hypomnemata>), also spelledĀ hupomnema. It is a Greek word for reminder, note, public record, commentary, anecdotal record, draft, copy.

The theory of anamnesis by Platon (Plato) is also a recognition of writing as ‘artificial memory’. He devices the hypomnesic principles for his pupils to follow in the Academy. According to Michel Foucault, “the hypomnemata constituted a material memory of things read, heard, or thought. So they were a treasure for rereading and later meditation. Also they were raw material for the writing of more systematic treatises. These works were rich of arguments and means by which to struggle against some defect (such as anger, envy, gossip, flattery). Or to overcome some difficult circumstance (a mourning, an exile, downfall, disgrace)“.

In conclusion <apophthegma> is ‘short statement’ (oral) and <hypomnema> is short note (written).