January 29, 2007

Scientia potentia

In English: Knowledge is power.

I thought this would be a good follow-up to yesterday's proverb, ex luna scientia. The syntax for today's proverb is even simpler than in the proverb from yesterday - just two nominative nouns, with an implied verb "is." It's the kind of proverb you could do on the first day of a Latin class, and that's why I made it the first proverb in the Latin Via Proverbs book!

The parallel form of these words is also a good way to start to explore some basics of Latin word formation. Both of these nouns are formed from Latin verbs, scientia is from the verb scire, "to know," and potentia is from posse, "to be able" (the pot- root of the stem is not visible in the infinitive, but you can find it popping up here and there throughout the conjugated forms of the verb!). There are all kinds of Latin nouns created with this -entia suffix. You can start out by looking at compounds of the words in today's proverb: con-scientia, for example, and im-potentia. These both have good English cognates: conscience and impotence. You can then look at some other Latin -entia words that have well-known English cognates: absentia, abstinentia, benevolentia, diligentia, eloquentia, indulgentia, innocentia, intellegentia, patientia and providentia.

The saying itself, scientia potentia, was a motto of Francis Bacon, the great philosopher who played a leading role in the scientific revolution. Born in 1561, he was knighted in 1603 and became Lord High Chancellor of England in 1617. He is the author of many great works in Latin, and there are even people who have promoted the idea that Francis Bacon was the author of Shakespeare's plays. If you want to take a look at his Latin works, you can find the Historia Regni Henrici Septimi Regis Angliae, the Sermones Fideles, and the Novum Organum at The Latin Library online, along with many English translations of Bacon's works online.

So, to add to your audio knowledge and power, here is today's proverb read out loud:

1. Scientia potentia.

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

If you are reading this via RSS: The Flash audio content is not syndicated via RSS; please visit the Latin Audio Proverbs blog to listen to the audio. You can also hear a variant on this saying, scientia potestas est, read aloud at a Polish website: Wladyslawa Kopalinskiego Slownik wyraz?w obcych i zwrot?w obcojezycznych (weblink).
Keep up with the latest posts... Subscribe by Email. I also post a daily round-up of all the Bestiaria Latina blogs: fables, proverbs, crosswords, and audio.

1 comment:

CoolCat said...

We actually *did* do this proverb on the first day of our Latin class! It's not only simple grammar, but an appropriate message, too: as you start on your journey of learning Latin, the knowledge you gather will be power!
Vale,
CoolCat