Monday, January 15, 2007

Latin Via Proverbs 27

This group features third declension nouns, along with first and second declension nouns and adjectives. In addition, each saying contains a prepositional phrase with ex, plus the ablative case.

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 27

361. Man is from soil. (Of course the English loses the play on words which is essential to the Latin! It doesn't really work in English to say "humans are from humus," especially since people would probably think instead of "hummus," made from garbanzo beans! Even so, the word "soil" has mostly negative connotations in English, unfortunately - soil and dirt make you "soiled" and "dirty." You can see this notion in Isidore's Etymologies: Homo dictus, quia ex humo est factus, sicut et in Genesi dicitur: Et creavit Deus hominem de humo terrae, "A person is called person because he was made from the earth, just as it says in Genesis: And God created man from the ground of the earth.")

362. From effort, sweetness. (Although there is not a verb in the Latin, you can supply a verb if you want in English, something like "From effort comes sweetness." This is the motto of the city Americana in Sao Paulo, Brazil.)

363. You know Hercules by his foot. (Since Hercules is in the accusative case, you pretty much have to include a verb in English, so that Hercules can be the object of the verb! In Latin, the fact that Herculem is in the accusative conveys the idea of the missing verb. The idea is that you don't need to see all of Hercules to recognize him: you can know the whole by the part. Hercules must have had quite a foot! According to Aulus Gellius, Pythagoras estimated the height of Hercules by a supposed record of the size of his foot.)

364. You know the lion by his claws. (Since the lion is in the accusative case, you pretty much have to include a verb in English, so that the lion can be the object of the verb! In Latin, the fact that leonem is in the accusative conveys the idea of the missing verb. Erasmus, in his Adagia 1.9.34, supplies the verb aestimare, "to appraise," meaning that you judge the lion by his claws.)

365. Truth out of the mouth of babes. (This saying is based on a passage from the Biblical Book of Psalms: Ex ore infantium et lactantium, "Out of the mouths of babes and nurselings.")

366. From a small seed a great harvest. (There are many Latin sayings based on this same idea of a great thing from a small beginning. Compare the Biblical parable of the mustard seed, in Mark 4: Sicut granum sinapis quod cum seminatum fuerit in terra minus est omnibus seminibus quae sunt in terra et cum seminatum fuerit ascendit et fit maius omnibus holeribus et facit ramos magnos ita ut possint sub umbra eius aves caeli habitare, "It is as a grain of mustard seed: which when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that are in the earth, and when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches, so that the birds of the air may dwell under the shadow thereof.")

367. From a friend, an enemy; from an ally, an opponent. (You can find this saying in Seneca. Notice the etymology of the Latin word inimicus, who is an "un-friend," in-amicus.)

368. Gold from manure. (For a rather mean-spirited application of this idea, see the epigram of John Owen: aurum Vergilius de stercore colligit Enni, "Vergil gathered gold from the manure of Ennius.")

369. A pearl from manure. (You can see a similar motif at work in the Aesop's fable about the rooster on his dunghill, who really only wants something to eat - no precious jewels or gems!)

370. Far from the eyes, far from the mind. (In other words: out of sight, out of mind.)

371. From the heart, not just from the mouth. (In other words, with real feeling, just just words. The Latin word tantum, very often means "only" or "just," as you can see here.)

372. Envy is the pain in the soul that comes from other people's good fortune. (You can find this saying in Publilius Syrus.)

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

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