February 17, 2007

Invidia gloriae comes

In English: Envy is a companion to glory.

I thought that this would be a good follow-up to yesterday's proverb about the relationship between Fortuna and gloria. As yesterday's proverb told us, Fortune, or more precisely a reversal of Fortune, is the butcher of glory. In today's proverb, we learn about another danger to glory: invidia, or "envy." When you experience glory, the envy of others always accompanies that glory.

You can find this sentiment expressed by Cornlius Nepos in his life of Chabrias: Est enim hoc commune vitium in magnis liberisque civitatibus, ut invidia gloriae comes sit et libenter de his detrahant, quos eminere videant altius, "There is this general flaw in great and free states, such that envy is the companion of glory and they freely disparage those whom they see raised up higher than others."

Returning to yesterday's proverb again, you can see both of these ideas - Fortune and envy - linked in Pliny's account of the Roman triumph. At the moment of his great glory, the Roman general had two things to fear: a reversal of Fortune and the envy of others. Pliny explains that the Roman general had two charms which were able to ward off these dangers. One was a verbal charm, and the other charm was an amulet of the god Fascinus, which was a charm against the evil eye of envy:
quamquam religione cum tutatur et fascinus, imperatorum quoque, non solum infantium, custos, qui deus inter sacra Romana a Vestalibus colitur, et currus triumphantium, sub his pendens, defendit medicus invidiae, iubetque eosdem respicere similis medicina linguae, ut sit exorata a tergo Fortuna gloriae carnifex.

Fascinus is the guardian not only of infants but also of generals; in Roman religion, he is worshipped as a god by the Vestals; as a remedy against envy, Fascinus hangs under the chariots of generals and protects them, and a similar verbal remedy urges them to look back in order to conjure away Fortune, the butcher of glory, from following behind him.
The prescence of the Fascinus indicates that the dangers of envy are lurking. As today's proverb tells us, envy is the companion of glory - but it is a dangerous companion, one that an amulet of Fascinus is able to ward off. If you would like to read more about the god Fascinus and his "fascinating" powers, visit this Bestiaria Latina blog post, where you will also find some images of ancient Fascinus amulets.

So, hoping that you find this all fascinating in a good way, here is today's proverb read out loud:

255. Invidia gloriae comes.

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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