fear the Greeks bearing gifts

The saying is often used allusively. The original Latin version is also quoted: VIRGIL Aeneid II. 49 timeo Danaos, et dona ferentes, I fear the Greeks, even when bringing gifts (said by Laocoön as a warning to the Trojans not to admit the wooden horse); thus 1777 S. JOHNSON Letter 3 May (1952) II. 515 Tell Mrs. Boswell that I shall taste her marmalade cautiously at first. Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes. Beware, says the Italian proverb, of a reconciled enemy.

1873 TROLLOPE Phineas Redux I. xxxiii. The right honourable gentleman had prided himself on his generosity as a Greek. He would remind the right honourable gentleman that presents from Greeks had ever been considered dangerous.

1929 Times 26 Oct. 13 Mr. Moses..must now be reflecting on the wisdom of the advice to ‘fear the Greeks even when they bring gifts’.

1943 E. S. GARDNER Case of Drowsy Mosquito vi. ‘It wasn’t a trap, I tell you.’ Nell Sims said..‘Fear the Greeks when they bear olive branches.’

1980 J. GERSON Assassination Run iv. Fear the Greeks bearing gifts was the maxim to be drummed into every novice in the department.


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  • beware the Greeks bearing gifts — ► beware (or fear) the Greeks bearing gifts proverb if a rival or enemy shows one generosity or kindness, one should be suspicious of their motives. [ORIGIN: with allusion to the warning given by Laocoön to the Trojans in Virgil s Aeneid, against …   English terms dictionary

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