September 29, 2006

Si rota defuerit, tu pede carpe viam

In English: If your wheel's broken, you better make your way on foot.

I chose this proverb today after watching a great movie tonight, Apollo 13. When their spacecraft suffered catastrophic failure on their mission to the moon, these astronauts and all the technicians back on Earth found a way to make it work, cobbling together an air filter out of spare parts, hooking up batteries backwards to squeeze out every bit of juice to bring the astronauts back home safely. Although they certainly couldn't make their way back on foot from outer space, all the people involved in this operation exemplified the meaning of this proverb.

There's an old Aesop's fable that makes the same point by means of a story:
An ox-driver was bringing his wagon from town and it fell into a steep ditch. The man should have pitched in and helped, but instead he stood there and did nothing, praying to Heracles, who was the only one of the gods whom he really honoured and revered. The god appeared to the man and said, "Grab hold of the wheels and goad the oxen: pray to the gods only when you're making some effort on your own behalf; otherwise, your prayers are wasted!"
In other words: God helps those who help themselves! You might pray to the god to fix your wheel, but be prepared to listen to that booming voice instead advise you: "If your wheel's broken, you better make your way on foot." And while we're at it, we might thank God for giving us feet to go with!

And here is today's proverb read out loud:

3441. Si rota defuerit, tu pede carpe viam.

The number here is the number for this proverb in Latin Via Proverbs: 4000 Proverbs, Mottoes and Sayings for Students of Latin.

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2 comments:

Gabriele Foresti said...

that's not a proverb but a sentence included in "ars amatori" by Ovidio, a great latin author

Laura Gibbs said...

Actually, poets often used proverbs in their writing, Horace especially. Didactic poetry is especially likely to include proverbs! :-)