Saturday, November 18, 2006

Latin Via Proverbs 10

Group 10 continues with proverbs containing both first and second declension nouns and adjectives, but no verbs except for present tense forms of "to be."

I hope these notes will help you tackle this group of proverbs in Latin Via Proverbs. Please note: to read the proverbs in Latin, you need to acquire a copy of the book from! What I am providing here in the blog are notes to help people who are making their way through the book either in a Latin class or on their own.

Group 10

123. He is the son of a white hen. (This was a proverbial expression in ancient Rome for a lucky person. This saying made it way into Erasmus's Adagia, 1.1.78.)

124. Money is the queen of the world. (Because "money" is a feminine noun in Latin, she is the "queen" of the world, not the "king.")

125. Money is the sinew of war. (By metaphorical extension, the "sinew" is the force behind something, the thing that gives it power and force. If you cut someone's sinews, after all, they are "hamstrung.")

126. Music is a gift of God. (Notice the the Latin word it itself Greek in origin: "music" is the art of the Muses, the Greek sister goddesses who presided over all the arts, not just music.)

127. A book is the soul's medicine. (Be careful with the word liber. Here it is the noun liber, meaning "book," as in the English word "library" - it is not the adjective liber, meaning "free," as in the English word "liberty.")

128. Eyes are like the windows of the soul. (If you are curious, I have a collection of Latin proverbs about "eyes" at the .)

129. Experience is the teacher of fools. (In other words: wise people can anticipate the danger and avoid it, while fools rush in, and learn bitterly from bad experiences. Notice that since the Latin experientia is a feminine noun, the word for a female teacher, magistra, is used here.)

130. Anger is the beginning of insanity. (Cicero, in his Tusculan Disputations, attributes this saying to the archaic Roman poet Ennius.)

131. The greatest remedy for anger is delay. (In other words: take a deep breath, and count to 10! This saying shows up in Seneca's treatise on anger, De Ira.)

132. False are the tears of the crocodile. (Crocodiles were supposed to moan and weep so that passers by might stop to see if there was a person who needed help. Then the crocodiles would pounce and devour their victims, while continuing to weep. Hence, crocodile tears are a perfect expression of hypocrisy. Notice the Latin diminutive form, lacrimulae. Latin dimunitives are notoriously difficult to translate into English.)

133. The fortunes of war are slippery. (The Latin uses the singular fortuna, meaning luck, or Fortune, the goddess of luck. I thought it sounded better with the plural in English. The idea is that like the tide which flows in and out, the tide of battle can also quickly turn from victory to defeat, or vice versa.)

134. Doubt is the beginning of wisdom. (This is a saying attributed to the French philosopher Descartes.)

135. The sum of all the sums is eternity. (This phrase goes back to the Latin philosopher-poet Lucretius, where the saying reads: summarum summa est aeterna, "the sum of all the sums is eternal." Notice that in this variant version of the saying, the adjective aeterna has been placed with the neuter form, aeternum, used substantively to mean "eternity," as in the Latin phrase in aeternum, "forever.")

136. Life is blessed people's joy and wretched people's sorrow. (This is a phrase adapted from the medieval question-and-answer Dialogue of Pippin and Alcuin.)

This blog post is part of an evolving online guide for users of the book Latin Via Proverbs.

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