July 19, 2007

Fortuna amicos parat, inopia amicos probat

In English: Prosperity obtains friends, poverty puts them to the test.

This is another one of those proverbs about friendship. Like yesterday's saying, it points to the pitfalls that a friendship might face. Although it's easy to be friends when things are going well, a friendship is tested when the going gets tough. In yesterday's proverb, a friendship was tested by danger. Today's proverb points to the way that material want can put friendship to the test.

The Latin word Fortune which is featured in this proverb is notoriously difficult to translate into English. Fortuna is, perhaps first and foremost, a goddess, Lady Luck, with her "wheel of fortune" spinning up and down.

Latin fortuna is also "chance" or "luck" itself, as you can see in the related word, forte, "by chance, as luck would have it."

Finally, fortuna is also the material prosperity that good luck brings, hence our English word "fortune" meaning wealth (although someone who is "fortunate" is simply someone who is lucky, not necessarily someone who is rich).

So, the goddess Fortuna might give you friends, or you could consider yourself lucky to have friends, or you could simply attract friends because you are rich. The second part of the proverb makes it clear that this sense of being rich is what is really at stake here, since inopia, poverty, is the opposite of that sense of fortuna, in-opia, being without ops, material resources. For that matter, Ops was also regarded as a female divinity by the Romans, a goddess of plenty and abundance, the wife of Saturn (read more at wikipedia).

So, given the emphasis on the contrast between Fortuna and inopia in this proverb, I've chosen the words "prosperity" and "poverty" for the English translation - although it's always a shame to have to translate Latin Fortuna into English, since it's hard to find a single English word that can convey all the nuances of this great Latin word!

So, hoping you are enjoying good fortune of all kinds today, here is today's proverb read out loud:

1100. Fortuna amicos parat, inopia amicos probat.

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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