April 01, 2007

Non gladio, sed gratia

In English: Not with the sword, but with kindness.

I chose this saying as a follow-up to yesterday's proverb, non nova sed nove, not because of a similarity of meaning, but because of their similar structure: non... sed.... In today's proverb, the structure can be more specifically described as non [ablative] sed [ablative].

This makes it a great candidate to use in creating your own Latin sayings and proverbs, while practicing the forms of the ablative at the same time. For example, I could create a simple saying that has a meaning similar to today's motto: non minis sed melle, "not with threats but with honey." Notice the alliteration minis...melle, which is part of why I selected those two words in particular. So far as I know the saying non minis non melle is not a classical Latin saying - but it could have been one!

The saying non gladio, sed gratia is a family motto and, like many mottoes, does not include a verb, although you can imagine all kinds of verbs that would fit here: "do not confront your enemies with the sword, but with kindness," "you will enjoy more success not with the sword, but with kindness," etc.

You can find a fuller form of this notion in a sentiment expressed in the Roman writer Quintus Curtius Rufus, non est diuturna possessio in quam gladio ducimus; beneficiorum gratia sempiterna, "the possession which we acquire with the sword is not enduring; that which we acquire through gratitude for good deeds is eternal."

So, hoping you are experiencing kindness today instead of the sword, here is today's proverb read out loud:

117. Non gladio, sed gratia.

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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