February 28, 2007

Eventus stultorum magister est

In English: The outcome is the teacher of fools.

This is a saying very similar to yesterday's proverb: experientia magistra stultorum, "experience is the teacher of fools."

Of course, yesterday we were dealing with experientia, a feminine noun, so she was the school-mistress, the magistra of fools. Today, we have eventus, a masculine noun, so he is the school-master, the magister of fools.

You can see this saying illustrated in Boissard's Emblematum Liber of 1593:
Haec decuit primae tentare in flore iuventae,
Cum tibi tot palmas detulit alta Croton.
Quae doceat sero, turpi discenda pudore,
Stultorum eventus multa magister habet.

These things it was appropriate to attempt in the flower of first youth, when the tall city of Croton gave to you so many palms of victory. The outcome, teacher of fools, has many things to teach later on, things which are to be learned with shameful disgrace.
The example is based on Milo of Croton, the famous athlete of ancient Greece, who did not realize that he could only accomplish great athletic feats in his youth, before his prowess faded in old age. Instead of anticipating this change, he had to learn his lesson from the actual results, eventus, of aging.

For an ancient citation, you can find this sentiment expressed in Livy, where there is a contrast between eventus on the one hand, and ratio, "reason," on the other: Nec eventus modo hoc docet—stultorum iste magister est—sed eadem ratio, quae fuit futuraque donec res eaedem manebunt, immutabilis est, "And it is not only the outcome which teaches this - that school-master of fools - but reason itself, which was and will be unchanging so long as the same conditions will hold."

So, with a salute to the power of reason, here is today's proverb about those forced to make do without reason!

550. Eventus stultorum magister est.

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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