August 13, 2007

Di lanatos pedes habent

In English: The gods have woollen feet.

Here is one more proverb about feet in Latin, pedes, following up on the proverbs about feet from last week.

This proverb, which you can find in Petronius, expresses with a striking adjective, lanatos, "woollen, covered with wool," a profound truth about the gods and their actions: they creep up on you quietly, and you do not hear them coming!

The idea, of course, is that the gods come after you when they are exacting divine vengeance; it's not just a friendly visit! This version of the saying makes the purpose of the gods' visit very clear: Di irati laneos pedes habent, "The gods, when they are angry, have feet of wool."

There's a nice variant on this saying which tells us a bit more about the gods, giving us even more reason to worry: Deus habet laneos pedes, plumbeas manus, "the god has feet of wool, hands of lead." So, divine justice can sneak up on you quiet, but then once it grips you, it does so with a heavy hand indeed!

Now, even if you are not prepared to give credence to this anthropomorphic form of divine justice, there is still a message in these proverbs for us mere mortals. If you are out to get somebody, don't go rumbling all in a rage. Put on your woollen socks, and then begin your approach...

So, here is today's proverb read out loud... but not too loud! Quietly now...

1464. Di lanatos pedes habent.

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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