December 02, 2006

Sto in extrema tegula

In English: I'm standing on the last roof tile.

I thought this would be a good follow-up to yesterday's proverb, about standing on the ancient ways. Today's proverb is about a much more precarious situation, when someone finds themselves, as you might say in English, "at the end of their rope." The image is of being up on a roof, Latin tectum, which is covered with roof tiles, tegulae. You are backing up, step by step, until you have reached the last tile, and there is no more room to maneuver. The next step you take will plunge you over the edge of the roof.

The words tectum, "roof," and tegula, "roof-tile," are from the same root, teg-, as in the verb, tegere, "to cover." Although Isidore of Seville is sometimes rather fanciful in his Etymologies, this is one that he did get right: Tegulae vocatae quod tegant aedes, "They are called roof-tiles, tegulae, because they cover, tegant, the house."

You can see the Latin word tegula in the famous passage from the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 5:
et ecce viri portantes in lecto hominem qui erat paralyticus et quaerebant eum inferre et ponere ante eum et non invenientes qua parte illum inferrent prae turba ascenderunt supra tectum per tegulas submiserunt illum cum lecto in medium ante Iesum, quorum fidem ut vidit dixit homo remittuntur tibi peccata tua,

"And behold, men brought in a bed a man who had the palsy: and they sought means to bring him in and to lay him before him. And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in, because of the multitude, they went up upon the roof and let him down through the tiles with his bed into the midst before Jesus. Whose faith when he saw, he said: Man, thy sins are forgiven thee."
That's a good example of someone with no room to maneuver who manages to turn the roof to good use, making it a kind of unexpected door to salvation!

So, hoping that you are not standing on the last tile, here is today's proverb read out loud:



1031. Sto in extrema tegula.

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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