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Which is The True Meaning of The Greek Inscription on Jim Morrison’s Gravestone?

James Douglas (Jim) Morrison is buried in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in eastern Paris. Since the early 90s, a flat stone placed on his grave by his father George Stephen which bears the Greek inscription (transcribed here into Roman lettering) “KATA TON DAIMONA EAYTOY”. But which is the true meaning of the phrase?

Jim Morrison’s grave became one of the city’s most visited tourist attractions almost immediately after his death. The shield which placed initially by French officials on the grave, was stolen in 1973. In 1981, a bust created by the Croatian sculptor Mladen Mikulin was placed along with a new grave stone. Cemetery vandals defaced the bust, which finally been stolen (once again) in 1988. In 1990, Morrison’s father visited his son’s grave and placed the flat stone which remains until today on Jim Morrison’s tomb.

Any attempt to translate the Greek inscription which is written on the gravestone literally, will lead us in a completely wrong path. “According to his own daimon”, sounds as a decent translation, but such a straight approach could easily make us turn in a wrong direction.

Stoicism:

The name derives from the word “stoa” which means portico. Porticoes in ancient times were used as a promenade or meeting place. Zeno of Citium founded this philosophy in an Athens’s portico, in the early third century BC, which soon became popular throughout Greece and the Roman Empire. That until 529 AD, when Justinian I, ordered all the schools of philosophy to close as he perceived their pagan character to be at odds with his Christian faith. Except Zeno, the Greek philosopher Cleanthes, and later Roman thinkers such as Cato the Younger, Seneca the Younger, Marcus Aurelius, and Epictetus, are associated with Stoicism.

Stoics believe that developing self-control by mastering passions and emotions; it is possible to find equilibrium in oneself and in the world. Some basic tenets of Stoicism are:

  • “Every soul has Free Will to act and that the action of the soul is opinion.”
  • “Spiritual growth comes from seeking the good.”
  • “The Cardinal Virtues are Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance.”
  • “The path to personal happiness and inner peace is through the extinguishing of all desire to have or to affect things beyond ones control and through living for the present without hope for or fear of the future; beyond the power of opinion.”
  • “Everyone has an individual connection to All.”
  • “One to live in accord with worldly and human nature.”
  • “It is irrational to want that which is not God’s will, so attune thyself with thy inner Nature and live happily.”
  • “Live according to YOUR own Nature.”

Finally, according to Epictetus’s philosophy: “……Each man has within him a guardian spirit, a god within him, who never sleeps; so that even in darkness and solitude we are never alone, because God is within, our guardian spirit.” The spirit on which Epictetus refers, is obviously similar to what Christians call our guardian angel. (If we study deeper Stoicism and Christianity have many common aspects on many fields, but this is not the main subject of the article.)

Daimon in ancient Greek means spirit, rather than daimon and contains no negative or pejorative qualities. It derives from the word “daiein” (=to distribute). In ancient times, deities who distributed the fate and believed to be life changers were called daimones (daimons). The protector deity that lived inside the man from his birth till death, and took care of the personal evolution and prosperity (something like the guardian angel) was called “daimon eaytoy”.

Now we can understand the true meaning of the phrase “KATA TON DAIMONA EAYTOY” as “KATA” means according. According to what conscience suggests being right, and maybe not caring about what others might say; or in other words we might say “True to his own spirit”. An idea Stoics embraced, and most probably Jim Morrison’s relatives wanted to convey through his gravestone: Throughout his short life, James acted obeying to his personal God and not to the society rules.

(All images by the author)

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User Comments
  1. deep blue

    On August 22, 2009 at 5:27 pm


    Nice article for pondering.

  2. Joie Schmidt

    On August 22, 2009 at 5:56 pm


    Deeply thoughtful and unique work.

    Blessings.

    Sincerely,

    -Liane Schmidt.

  3. Lauren Axelrod

    On August 22, 2009 at 11:31 pm


    Interesting topic. Jim was known for diving headfirst into different theologies, so it doesn’t surprise me that an inscription like this would be nearby.

  4. AngelaDavid

    On August 23, 2009 at 2:37 am


    Certainly enjoyed reading your article. Well written. I will remember it. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Francois Hagnere

    On August 23, 2009 at 4:31 am


    This is a brilliant article, my friend. Congratulations. I totally agree with you on the translation and interpretation. Naturally, daimon has not at all a negative meaning. I hope many will read this.
    Thank you so much for this great article.
    Best wishes always,
    François

  6. Katien

    On August 23, 2009 at 6:46 am


    Very interesting article. Why is it daimona rather than daimon?

  7. kate smedley

    On August 23, 2009 at 7:35 am


    Very interesting article Chris, I didn’t know much about the Stoics – fascinating stuff, thank you for sharing.

  8. Ruby Hawk

    On August 23, 2009 at 11:23 am


    Very interesting, I have learned a few things I didn’t know by reading your article. Well done.

  9. lindalulu

    On August 23, 2009 at 3:10 pm


    Very unique and thoughtful nice…

  10. clay hurtubise

    On November 21, 2009 at 11:19 pm


    Nice piece and good choice of pics as well.
    Thanks,
    Clay

  11. S A JOHNSON

    On December 11, 2009 at 10:44 pm


    Nice article

  12. gaby7

    On December 25, 2009 at 10:09 am


    Very interesting work here. Thanks!

  13. Aileen Tecson

    On September 1, 2010 at 9:06 pm


    interesting. I learn a lot from this article!

  14. Andre Alcantara

    On April 8, 2012 at 6:16 am


    Katien: “Why is it daimona rather than daimon?”

    Because is accusative, the direct object of 3rd declination:
    nominative: daimon (subject)
    accusative: daimona (direct object)
    genitive: daimonos (possessive)
    dative: daimoni (indirect object)

    katà daímona = by chance (Liddell and Scott’s); comme il plaît aux dieux, à la volonté des dieux, au hasard (Bailly).

  15. ACE

    On October 29, 2012 at 5:08 pm


    I survived the storm ! Rest In Peace Jim and may God Bless You ……….

  16. mateo

    On January 9, 2013 at 7:18 pm


    he is dead and burning in hell. he was true to his spirit or his demon. do thy own wilt. yep hes burning

  17. Rick Hall

    On February 8, 2013 at 8:50 pm


    A well written and thoughtful article. Thank you for writing it. I now feel more connected to the past. It’s nice to know my own small thoughts were once pondered by giants of philosophy.

  18. Rick Hall

    On February 8, 2013 at 8:51 pm


    A well written and thoughtful article. Thank you for writing it. I now feel more connected to the past. It\’s nice to know my own small thoughts were once pondered by giants of philosophy.

  19. Rick

    On February 8, 2013 at 8:52 pm


    A well written and thoughtful article. Thank you for writing it. I now feel more connected to the past. It\\\\\\\’s nice to know my own small thoughts were once pondered by giants of philosophy.

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