November 09, 2008

Invidus a propria roditur invidia

In English: The envious man is gnawed by his own envy.

There are many sayings in Latin about how envious people are their own worst enemies, as in this saying, where the envious man is being "gnawed" (Latin roditur, as in the word "rodent," the creature who gnaws) by his own feelings of envy. The envious man is unhappy precisely because of the happiness that he sees the others around him enjoying, as in this Latin definition of envy: Invidia dolor animi est ex alienis commodis, "Envy is a sickness of the soul which comes from other people's rewards."

There is an Aesop's fable about the perversity of the envious man which tells what happened when the gods granted the wishes of both an envious man and a greedy man, how they used their wishes to their own destruction. Here is the story as told by Joseph Jacobs:
Two neighbours came before Jupiter and prayed him to grant their hearts' desire. Now the one was full of avarice, and the other eaten up with envy. So to punish them both, Jupiter granted that each might have whatever he wished for himself, but only on condition that his neighbour had twice as much. The Avaricious man prayed to have a room full of gold. No sooner said than done; but all his joy was turned to grief when he found that his neighbour had two rooms full of the precious metal. Then came the turn of the Envious man, who could not bear to think that his neighbour had any joy at all. So he prayed that he might have one of his own eyes put out, by which means his companion would become totally blind.
Although this is one of the fables that is included in Barlow's Aesop (you can see the wonderful illustration online), I decided not to include it in the book, since this is definitely a rather twisted and weird fable - very wise, but painful to imagine! The pairing of the Greedy Man and the Envious Man is quite appropriate, of course, since they are two sides of the same coin, and here - instead of winning a boon from the gods - they both suffer a fearful punishment!

So, hoping you are feeling generous today and untouched by envy, here are today's proverbs read out loud:

3022. Invidus a propria roditur invidia

372. Invidia dolor animi est ex alienis commodis

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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