December 09, 2006

Mitior columba

In English: More peaceful than a dove.

After the vicious wolves of yesterday's proverb, I thought this nice saying about the peaceful dove would be a good follow-up. For the Romans, as for us still today, the dove is a creature who represents meekness and mildness. So if you say that someone is more peaceful than a dove, then that person is very peaceful indeed!

Earlier this year, I posted another proverb about doves in Latin: Dat veniam corvis, vexat censura columbas, "The censor forgives the crows and harasses the doves." This is one of those Realpolitik proverbs, where the dove's vaunted meekness becomes an occasion for suffering at the hands of the authorities.

The poor meek doves also come to a bad end in the Aesopic fable about the doves and the kite. Because the doves are not able to mount their own defense against the hawk, they enlist the aid of the kite. This is a serious mistake, of course. No sooner do they put themselves at the mercy of the kite, that bird then begins to gobble the doves up one by one. You can read an annotated Latin version of this fable at, along with an audio reading at

Things do not always go badly for the dove, however. In the Aesop's fable about the dove and the ant, an ant was about to take a drink of water at a stream, and slipped into the waves. The dove saw what happened and threw a leafy branch down to the ant, thus rescuing it. Later on, when a bird-catcher was about to snare the bird in a trap, the ant crept up and bit the bird-catcher, who dropped the snare, allowing the dove to get away. In this case, the good-hearted nature of the dove is well-rewarded - not a very common event in the world of Aesop's fables, which usually focus on the punishment of a mistake, rather than on rewards for good deeds.

So here is today's saying read out loud:

609. Mitior columba.

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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