July 12, 2007

Amicorum sunt communia omnia

In English: Friends have all things in common.

Continuing on with the theme of friendship in proverbs, today's proverb gives some specific advice about how friendship works. For friends, all things are shared, communia omnia. I guess that makes Roman friendship a kind of classical communism! :-)

You can find this sentiment expressed in Cicero's De Officiis, where he notes that this is a saying among the Greeks. Cicero also cites these wonderful lines from Ennius about how things are to be shared:
Homo, qui erranti comiter monstrat viam,
Quasi lumen de suo lumine accendat, facit.
Nihilo minus ipsi lucet, cum illi accenderit.

When a man in a friendly fashion shows the way to someone who is lost, it is as if he lit that man's lamp with his own: his light shines no less brightly for having lit the other man's lamp.
That is a lovely way to express how there is nothing lost when things are truly shared!

The saying amicorum communia omnia became a popular Latin saying through the ages and has a place of prominent in Erasmus's Adagia, where it is the first saying of the entire collection!

Not surprisingly, it also shows up in the early modern emblem tradition. You can take a look at this French emblem book online (first published in print in 1593) to see a depiction of the saying in visual form. On the pedestal you can find an inscription which expands on the theme of the emblem: amicitiam tueri non possumus, nisi aeque amicos ac nosmet ipsos diligamus, "we cannot protect friendship, unless we love our friends equally as we love ourselves."

So, hoping you are enjoying all the equanimity of true friendship with your own friends, here is today's proverb read out loud:

500. Amicorum sunt communia omnia.

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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