February 12, 2007

Fortuna est rotunda

In English: Fortune is round.

Carrying on with the theme of proverbs about Fortune, today we learn that Fortuna is round - in Latin, rotunda. This does not mean that Fortune is "rotund" in the English sense of being fat! Instead, it helps to think about the etymology of the Latin word for "round," because the word rotundus is related to the word for that very round thing, a "wheel," rota.

So, when you translate this into English, it might be more accurate to say "Fortune goes around," in the sense of being round in the way that a wheel is round, going up and down. It is the going up and down of Fortune that is the dominant idea here, which is expressed visually in the icon of the "Wheel of Fortune." As the wheel goes up, your fortunes rise... but what goes up, must come down, and so as Fortune's wheel rises for some, it is at the same time going down for others, plunging them into the depths of misfortune.

While looking up the wikipedia article on the history of the "Wheel of Fortune," I found this lovely piece of a poem from the medieval Carmina Burana (notice the wonderful medieval rhyme scheme):
Fortunae rota volvitur;
descendo minoratus;
alter in altum tollitur;
nimis exaltatus
rex sedet in vertice
caveat ruinam!
nam sub axe legimus
Hecubam reginam.

The wheel of Fortune turns; I go down, diminished; another is raised on high; raised up far too high, the king sits at the top: let him beware of ruin! for at the bottom axis of the wheel we read "Queen Hecuba"
Queen Hecuba of Troy is that great emblem of the reversal of fortune, watching the utter destruction of her royal family and the devastation of her city at the end of the Trojan War.

So, hoping that the wheel of your Fortune is not spinning too terribly fast, here is today's proverb read out loud:

3. Fortuna est rotunda.

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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7 comments:

predicas cristianas said...

when you translate this into English, it might be more accurate to say "Fortune goes around," in the sense of being round , You are right !

mensajes claro said...

You are right !

mensajes claro said...

Of course he is right.

Raven said...

If "fortuna caeca est" means "Fortune is blind", than can you say "fortuna rotunda est for "fortune is round?

I know in Latin word order is fluid and so I was wondering if fortuna est rotunda is the only way it was said by Romans.

Laura Gibbs said...

There are literally no rules for word order in Latin, which is really great because it allows you to give expressive emphasis based on what comes first in the sentence, and what comes at the end (those are the positions with the most emphasis in any word or phrase); often the verb goes at the end:
Fortuna rotunda est.
You can even leave the verb out!
Fortuna rotunda.

And if you really want to emphasize rotunda, it would go first - like if you were changing the direction of a conversation, where Person B disagrees with Person A:
Person A: Fortuna caeca est.
Person B: ROTUNDA Fortuna est!

(We don't have a lot of ways to emphasize things in English with word order because our word order is really rigid - but we can use all-caps to add emphasis to something, or an exclamation mark!)

philip said...

Sorry I am a flat earther on this one like the ancients.With a little planning we can iron out the bumps and potholes of fortune.

Laura Gibbs said...

Ha ha, or else we can put Lady Fortune on a diet so she is less round. :-)