June 05, 2007

Sicut oves in medio luporum

In English: Like sheep in the midst of wolves.

After yesterday's proverb about the sheep and the wolves, I thought this would be a good follow-up. Today's saying is adapted from the Gospel of Matthew, when Jesus is giving instructions to his disciples: Ecce ego mitto vos sicut oves in medio luporum, "Behold: I dispatch you like sheep in the midst of wolves."

Obviously, this is a dangerous situation! So Jesus explains how the disciples will need to behave: estote ergo prudentes sicut serpentes et simplices sicut columbae , "therefore, be wary as serpents and trusting as doves."

Quite by accident, the fable from Abstemius that I posted yesterday in the Latin Via Fables blog is about the simplicitas of the dove - although in that story, things do not turn out so well for the dove! Here is Abstemius's story:
Columba interrogata a pica, quid eam induceret ut in eodem semper loco nidificaret, cum eius pulli inde semper surriperentur. Simplicitas, respondit. Haec indicat fabula facile esse viros probos saepe decipi.

A dove was asked by a mappie what led her to always make her nest in the same place, when her chicks were always snatched away from her there. My simplicity leads me to do this, replied the dove. This fable shows that it is an easy thing for honest people to be duped.
Clearly, this fable, like so many of the fables of Abstemius, is engaged in a pointed dialogue with the Christian virtue of simplicitas.

Still, it's worth remembering that Jesus also told the disciples not just to be simple as doves but also "wary," prudentes as serpents. If you are a sheep going out into the midst of wolves, you might need to get in touch with your "inner serpent," in addition to practicing the simplicity that is proverbially associated with both sheep and with doves.

So, hoping you did not find yourself in the midst of wolves today, here is today's proverb read out loud:

390. Sicut oves in medio luporum.

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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