February 10, 2007

Victrix fortunae sapientia

In English: Wisdom is the conqueror of fortune.

After yesterday's proverb about patience being the victrix of evils, I thought I would do another victrix proverb today. Yesterday's saying was in praise of patience, patientia, and today's proverb is in praise of wisdom, sapientia. Specifically, the saying tells us that wisdom is so strong that it (or perhaps I should say "she"!) is able to overcome the force of luck herself, the Roman goddess Fortuna.

Now, as a teacher and perpetual student, I definitely am a believer in sapientia, working hard to achieve some wisdom and to help my students do the same. At the same time, the powers of the goddess Fortuna are pretty awesome. Is wisdom really powerful enough to defeat Fortune, to be the victrix in a battle between the two of them? The idea must be that if Luck does not look kindly on you and condemns you to some dire situation, then Wisdom can give you the means you need to overcome your unlucky circumstances.

The Latin phrase is found in one of Juvenal's satires, and there is a very similar saying in Seneca: Sapiens quidem vincit virtute fortunam, "the wise man indeed can overcome luck by means of his excellence."

There is a whole range of Latin proverbs reflecting on the relative powers of sapientia and of fortuna, so I'll share some of those proverbs in the coming days, comparing them to today's optimistic endorsement of the victorious powers of wisdom.

Meanwhile, here is today's proverb read out loud:

284. Victrix fortunae sapientia.

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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