Saturday, July 31, 2010


The notes here are taken from the actual Scala, so be warned that references to the "previous" proverb refer to its order in the Scala, not its order here. You can read more about the word at the Verbosum blog: LEX.

Lex mala, lex nulla. ~ Note: This saying supposes that there is a higher law, a perfect natural justice - and flawed human laws that fall short of that standard are no law at all. This particular formulation of the notion is attributed to the medieval theologian and philosopher, Thomas Aquinas.

Habet et bellum suas leges. ~ Note: This saying shows up in the English verse emblems of Whitney.

A Deo rex, a rege lex. ~ Note: This proverb plays upon the sound similarities between "rex" and "lex" to assert a natural relationship between them, based on the principle of absolute monarchy.

Novus rex, nova lex. ~ Note: This is one of the sayings collected by Wegeler, 774. The proverb depends on sound play that is impossible to capture in the English - and it's also a good way to remember the gender of the noun lex, feminine: nova.

Rex est lex. ~ Note: The words are supposed to have been pronounced by King Charles I of England: Rex est lex viva, animata et loquens.

Legem non habentes, ipsi sibi sunt lex. ~ Note: The words are from Paul's letter to the Romans, 2.

Plus legibus arma valent. ~ Note: The word "legibus" is in the ablative case, and expresses the comparison in just the same way that "quam leges" could also be used to express the comparison: Weapons have greater power than the laws. Ovid expresses this complaint about the "barbarians" he lives with in his exile (Ex Ponto 4): hic, ubi barbarus hostis / ut fera plus valeant legibus arma facit, "here where my barbarian host, like a wild animal, makes it so that weapons are stronger than laws."

Quid leges sine moribus? ~ Note: The question word "quid" here means "what" in the sense of "what good is there in" or "what is the point of." The saying is adapted from Horace, Satires 3: quid leges sine moribus vanae proficiunt?

Ibi valet populus, ubi valent leges. ~ Note: Notice the correlative use of "ibi... ubi..." - where (when) the laws are strong, there (then) the people are strong.

Rex est lex vivens. ~ Note: Like the previous proverb, this one plays on the words "rex" and "lex" (making it hard to render the proverb successfully into English!).

Legis manus longa. ~ Note: Compare the previous proverb - now you have longa manus, singular.

Amor legem non habet. ~ Note: Compare the earlier saying about love not knowing how to stay within bounds: Nescit amor habere modum.

Ex malis moribus fiunt bonae leges. ~ Note: As you can see by comparing this proverb to the previous proverb, the world of proverbs is full of contradictions. That is not surprising, of course, since human life itself is full of contradictions and paradoxes, such as the paradox expressed here - that good laws might come from bad habits.

Aurum lex sequitur. ~ Note: You can find this and other sayings about bribery in this Wikipedia article.

Lumen Dei, lex diei. ~ Note: This is a sundial inscription which plays nicely with the genitives "dei" and "diei" - I'm not sure how to capture that in English!

Dura lex, sed lex. ~ Note: While the previous proverb was about bad laws, this is something different: a law can be harsh or difficult without necessarily being consider a bad law. However harsh, it is still the law.

Durum est, sed ita lex scripta est. ~ Note: Compare the saying you saw earlier: Dura lex, sed lex.

Patere legem, quam ipse tuleris. ~ Note: This is one of the sayings included in the monostichs attributed to the so-called "Cato."

Cedant arma legibus. ~ Note: Note the use of the subjunctive here, cedant: "Let weapons yield to the laws."

Arma nesciunt leges. ~ Note: This is "nescire" in the sense of not recognizing, not acknowledging, ignoring something.

Mos regit legem. ~ Note: This legal principle was used, for example, to justify the practice of slavery in the American South, where slavery was a long-standing social practice, making a "mos" in Latin, even if the laws of the colonies had not formally legalized the various institutions that made slavery possible.

Mors servat legem: tollit cum paupere regem. ~ Note: This is one of the sayings collected by Wegeler, 636.

Patere quam ipse fecisti legem. ~ Note: The form patere is an imperative singular, from the deponent verb patior: patere legem, "abide by the law," quam ipse fecisti, "which you yourself have made."

Leges moribus serviunt. ~ Note: This expresses the same idea as in the previous proverb, but vice-versa. You can say that the custom rules the law, or, as here, that the laws obey the customs. Note the use of the dative complement with the verb servire.

Ex malis moribus bonae leges natae sunt. ~ Note: This is a variation on a proverb you saw earlier: Ex malis moribus fiunt bonae leges.

Nascimur omnes hac lege, ut moriamur. ~ Note: This comes from a Renaissance Latin poem, Zodiacus, by Marcellus Palingenius. The full statement is "Nascimur omnes hac lege, ut moriamur ab ortu / exitus ipse fluit."

Aequum et bonum est lex legum. ~ Note: You can find this phrase in Black's Law Dictionary.

Legem servare est regnare. ~ Note: This proverb plays with the paradox that obeying the law is actually a form of empowerment, so to keep to the law (legem servare) makes you a ruler (regnare).

Lex videt iratum; iratus legem non videt. ~ Note: This is one of the sayings collected by Publilius Syrus.

Regio quaeque suis utitur legibus. ~ Note: Note how the ablative complement, suis legibus, wraps around its verb: utitur.

Vis legibus est inimica. ~ Note: Here the word vis is the feminine noun, "force, violence;" hence the feminine form, inimica: violence is an enemy to law. (The Latin use of "leges" to mean the law as a whole can be rendered in English with the singular "law.")

Necessitas dat legem, non ipsa accipit. ~ Note: This is another one of the sayings collected by Publilius Syrus.

Necessitas vincit legem. ~ Note: In the previous saying, necessity accepted no law - now she conquers it!

Necessitas omnem legem frangit. ~ Note: Here not only does necessity conquer the law - she breaks every one of them: omnem legem frangit.

Necessitas caret lege. ~ Note: Here necessity is lacks any law or limit; compare the saying you saw earlier: Amor legem non habet.

Necessitas non habet legem. ~ Note: Compare the English saying, "Necessity knows no law."

Dormiunt aliquando leges, numquam moriuntur. ~ Note: This is a variation on the previous saying, this time with leges instead of ius.

Salus publica suprema lex esto. ~ Note: Yet another variation on the same idea, this time with the adjective publica: let public well-being be the highest law (esto is third-person imperative).

Salus rei publicae suprema lex. ~ Note: Instead of populus or patria, now you have the well-being of the "res publica" as the highest law.

Salus populi suprema lex esto. ~ Note: Here you have a future imperative, esto, with a third-person subject: salus. This is the motto of the state of Missouri. You can also find the idea expressed in terms of the state, patria: Salus patriae summa lex.

Inventa lege, inventa est fraus legis. ~ Note: This saying begins with an ablative absolute: inventa lege. The idea is that as soon as a law is decreed, people will find a way to get around it!

Consuetudo volentes ducit, lex nolentes trahit. ~ Note: Note the parallel structure: consuetudo/lex, volentes/nolentes, ducit/trahit.

Corruptissima res publica plurimae leges. ~ Note: This is the form of the expression in Tacitus's Annals, 3.

Quo volunt reges, vadunt leges. ~ Note: Here the relative pronoun quo is directional: (Eo), quo volunt reges, vadunt leges, "The laws go where the kings want" (for the laws to go).

Pro lege, rege, grege. ~ Note: The charm of this saying is in the play on words in Latin, which is impossible capture in English.

Qualis grex, talis lex. ~ Note: For this saying, you have two new words, which work together as a correlative pair: talis...qualis..., something that works much like the English "as... so..." For example, here is one way to render this saying into English: "As the flock, so the law" (although, of course, you lose the play on words which is so important to the Latin saying).

Silent enim leges inter arma. ~ Note: You can read about the history and usage of this saying at Wikipedia.

Leges silent inter arma. ~ Note: For a history of the use of this saying, see the Wikipedia article.

Magistratus lex est loquens. ~ Note: This is included by André Rouillé in his anthology of Cicero's notable sententiae.

Legum copia, iustitiae inopia. ~ Note: There is a rhyming paradox here: copia-inopia; the words may rhyme, but they are opposite in meaning, which is just the sort of paradox of which proverbs are so fond.

Pessima res publica, plurimae leges. ~ Note: Note the nice alliteration: pessimae / plurimae.

Vincuntur nummis leges. ~ Note: This provides an example of one of the victories of money: it can overcome the laws! Compare the saying you saw earlier: Aurum lex sequitur.

Etiam sine lege poena est conscientia. ~ Note: This is another one of the sayings collected by Publilius Syrus.

Bonae leges ex malis moribus procreantur. ~ Note: This is one of the sayings Erasmus included in his Adagia, 1.10.61; it is included by Polydorus in his Adagia, A52.

Ut pax servetur, legis moderamen habetur. ~ Note: This is one of the sayings collected by Wegeler, 1416.

Exlex qui vivit, merito sine lege peribit. ~ Note: This is one of the sayings collected by Wegeler, 393.

Nil aliud lex est, quam quod net aranea rete: rumpitur a validis, invalidosque tenet. ~ Note: This is a verse couplet: Nil aliud lex est, quam quod net aranea rete: / rumpitur a validis, invalidosque tenet.

Qui rei publicae praesunt, legum similes sint, quae ad puniendum non iracundia, sed aequitate ducuntur. ~ Note: This is included by André Rouillé in his anthology of Cicero's notable sententiae.

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