October 31, 2009

Lupus pilum mutat, non mentem

In English: A wolf can change his coat but not his character.

In that last post, the wolf was the hero of the story, but that is not always the case, as you can see in today's saying, which warns us instead to beware of the wolf! It may not always look like a wolf, but it will certainly act like a wolf, which could put us in serious danger.

In a literal sense, the wolf might try to change his coat by replacing it with that of a sheep, as in the proverbial "wolf in sheep's clothing," as we saw earlier with the saying that warned us: Pelle sub agnina latitat mens saepe lupina, "Beneath the lamb's skin often lurks a wolf's mind."

The wolf is also famous for trying to change in other ways, such as deciding to become a monk, or deciding to become a vegetarian, or offering to be a midwife to the sow, or making an alliance with the sheep, or even pretending to be a shepherd himself. In all of these situations, the wolf may not look like the typical wolf, but we should always watch out, as these outward changes do not mean that there is any change in the inward wolf, as you can see in Odo of Cheriton's story about the wolf here called Isengrimus here, his name in the medieval beast epic tradition:
Contigit quod quidam Paterfamilias habuit XII Oues. Voluit peregrinari et commendavit Oves suas Ysemgrino, id est Lupo, compatri suo. Et compater iuravit quod bene conservaret eas. Profectus est statim. Ysemgrinus interim cogitavit de Ovibus et uno die comedit de una, altera die de alia, ita quod vix tres invenit Paterfamilias, quando reversus est. Quaerebat a compatre quid factum fuerit de aliis Ovibus. Respondit Ysemgrimus quod mors ex temperalitate venit super eas. Et dixit Paterfamilias: Da mihi pelles; et inventa sunt vestigia dentium Lupi. Et ait Paterfamilias: Reus es mortis; et fecit Lupum suspendi.

It happened that a certain man had twelve sheep. He wanted to go on a journey, and he entrusted the sheep to Isengrimus, that is, to the wolf, his associate. And his associate swore that he would take good care of them. The man departed immediately. Isengrimus meanwhile got to thinking about the sheep and one day he ate one sheep, and the next day he ate another sheep, and so on until the man found scarcely three sheep when he returned home. He asked his associate what had happened to the other sheep. Isengrimus answered that death had come upon them unseasonably. And the man said: Give me their skins, and the traces of the Wolf's teeth could be seen there. And the man said: You are guilty of a capital crime, and he had the wolf hanged.
So, the wolf pays the price in the end for his misdeeds, but it is the man who is the biggest loser: he foolishly trusted his sheep to the care of the wolf and lost his flock as result, when he really should have known better. If only he had paid attention to today's saying!

So, hoping you have managed to avoid all wolves, real and metaphorical, in your vicinity, here is today's proverb read out loud:

Lupus pilum mutat, non mentem.

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Aesop's Fables in Latin now available at Amazon.com.

Infra tuam pelliculam te contine

In English: Keep yourself within your own skin.

I thought that since yesterday's saying was about a diminutive (edentulus), I would choose another saying with a diminutive today: pellicula, which means "skin" or "hide," which is a diminutive form of the noun pellis.

Using the metaphor of skin, the proverb advises you to stick to your limits, to be yourself, to not overreach yourself. Of course, when it comes to your skin, this is easy: there is nothing you can do that will take you out of your own skin; literally speaking, going beyond your own skin is a physical impossibility. Metaphorically, of course, we are tempted to go beyond our own skin all the time - living beyond our means, pretending to be something we are not, striving for some goal which is far beyond our reach. This proverb instead urges us to be content with our limits, and stick to who we are.

You can find this saying stated in two different ways: intra tuam pelliculuam, and infra tuam pelliculam. The word intra means "within, inside" while the word infra means "underneath, on the under side." Of course, they both convey the same idea, albeit from different metaphorical vantage points, and you can also find the preposition in used also, as in this similar proverb: p. In propria pelle quiesce, "Be at peace in your own skin." Ovid has an interesting variant where he replaces the word "skin" with "Fortune" - intra Fortunam debet quisque manere suam, "each person should remain within his own Fortune."

The word pellicula, meanwhile, might be familiar to those of you who are Spanish speakers, as pelĂ­cula, the word for "film," in the sense of moving film, or a movie. In Italian, pellicola refers to photographic film. In English, however, the word "film" comes via the Germanic filminjan, meaning "skin, membrane," from Germanic fell, meaning "hide" - a word that is cognate with Latin pellis, but not derived from it.

So, hoping that you are feeling happy within, beneath or in your own skin at the moment, here are today's proverbs read out loud:

2379. Infra tuam pelliculam te contine.

2463. In propria pelle quiesce.

The number here is the number for this proverb in Latin Via Proverbs: 4000 Proverbs, Mottoes and Sayings for Students of Latin.

If you are reading this via RSS: The audio content is not syndicated via RSS; please visit the Latin Audio Proverbs blog to listen to the audio.
For more Latin proverbs, fables and commentary, visit the Bestiaria Latina blog, or you can sign up to receive the latest posts by email.
Aesop's Fables in Latin now available at Amazon.com.

July 17, 2009

Proverbs in the Aesop's Fables book

I'm in the process of providing audio and, eventually, little essays for all the proverbs used in Aesop's Fables in Latin, which is now available at Amazon.com. Please use this reference list to see if an essay is available for a proverb you have questions about - and if that proverb doesn't have an essay yet, then let a comment here with your question, and I'll be sure to do that essay next! :-)

p. 4. Noli irritare leones. (essay + audio) - Don't annoy the lions.
p. 5. Multum, non multa. (essay + audio) - Much, not many.
p. 8. Invidus a propria roditur invidia. (essay + audio) - The envious man is gnawed by his own envy.
p. 9. Invidia dolor animi est ex alienis commodis. (essay + audio) - Envy is a sickness of the soul from other people's advantages.
p. 10. Parva leves capiunt animos. (audio) - Unimportant things capture frivolous minds.
p. 10. Parturiunt montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. (essay + audio) - The mountains give birth; a silly mouse will be born.
p. 12. Ad omnia trepidat, licet vel mus movet. (essay + audio) - He shudders at everything, even if so much as a mouse moves.
p. 13. Mons parturibat, deinde murem prodidit. (essay + audio) - The mountain was giving birth; it finally brought forth a mouse.
p. 14. Ex parvo satis. (audio) - From little, plenty.
p. 14. Crescentem sequitur cura pecuniam. (essay + audio) - Worry follows growing wealth.
p. 20. Ex granis acervus. (essay + audio) - From grains, a heap.
p. 21. Omnium rerum principia parva sunt. (audio) - The beginnings of all things are small.
p. 22. Avis a cantu dignoscitur. (audio) - A bird is known by its song.
p. 22. Est avis in dextra melior quam quattuor extra. (essay + audio) - A bird inside the hand is better than four outside.
p. 24. Nutrit et accipiter pullos suos. (essay + audio) - Even a hawk nourishes its chicks.
p. 25. Ne ad pugnam vocet aquilam luscinia. (essay + audio) - The nightingale should not challenge the eagle to a fight.
p. 26. Sine pennis volare haud facile est. (audio) - Without wings, flying is not easy.
p. 26. Homo ad laborem natus est et avis ad volatum. (essay + audio) - A man is born to work and a bird born to fly.
p. 34. Pardus maculas non deponit. (essay+ audio) - The leopard does not set aside his spots.
p. 34. Non formosus erat, sed erat facundus Ulixes. (essay + audio) - Ulysses was not handsome, but he was good with words.
p. 36. Forma bonum fragile est. (audio) - Beauty is a fragile thing.
p. 37. Quaelibet vulpes caudam suam laudat. (essay + audio) - Every fox praises its tail.
p. 38. Parva securi prosternitur quercus. (audio) - The oak is laid low by the little axe.
p. 38. Qui leviter credit, deceptus saepe redit. (essay + audio) - He who is quick to believe often ends up deceived.
p. 40. Nihil inimicius quam sibi ipse. (audio) - There is no more harmful thing to a person than himself.
p. 41. Serum est cavendi tempus in mediis malis. (audio) - In the midst of troubles, it's too late to be cautious.
p. 44. Sine labore non erit panis in ore. (essay + audio) - Without work there will be no bread in your mouth.
p. 45. Ora et labora, deus adest sine mora. (essay + audio) - Work and pray; god will aid you without delay.
p. 48. Lupus in fabula. (essay + audio) - The wolf in the conversation.
p. 49. Lupus non curat numerum ovium. (essay + audio) - The wolf does not care about the counting of the sheep.
p. 50. Ovium nullus usus, si pastor absit. (audio) - It's not good having sheep if the shepherd is absent.
p. 50. Vae miseris ovibus, iudex lupus est. (audio) - Alas for the poor sheep: the judge is a wolf.
p. 54. Fuge magna. (audio) - Flee from great things.
p. 54. Suam quisque pellem portat. (essay + audio) - Each person carries his own skin.
p. 56. Infra tuam pelliculam te contine. (essay + audio) - Keep yourself within your own skin.
p. 60. Latet anguis in herba. (audio) - A snake is lurking in the grass.
p. 61. Sibi parat malum, qui alteri parat. (audio) - The person who prepares evil for someone else is preparing it for himself.
p. 64. Ignavis semper feriae sunt. (audio) - Lazy people are always on holiday.
p. 65. Cicada cicadae cara, formicae formica. (essay + audio) - One grasshopper is dear to another, and ant to ant.
p. 72. Suo ipsius laqueo captus est. (audio) - He's been caught by his own snare.
p. 73. Adiuvat accipitrem impetus, columbam fuga. (audio) - Attack works for the hawk, retreat for the dove.
p. 82. Asinus stramen mavult quam aurum. (essay + audio) - A donkey prefers straw to gold.
p. 82. Non faciunt meliorem equum aurei freni. (essay + audio) - Golden reins don't make a better horse.
p. 84. In quo nascetur asinus corio morietur. (essay + audio) - The donkey will die in the skin in which he's born.
p. 86. Alter alterius auxilio eget. (audio) - One person needs the help of another.
p. 86. Facta plus valent quam dicta. (audio) - Deeds are worth more than words.
p. 88. Auxilium peto, non consilium. (audio) - I'm looking for help, not advice.
p. 92. Mors lupi, agnis vita. (audio) - The death of the wolf is life for the lambs.
p. 97. Bos iugo ducendo natus. (audio) - The ox is born for guiding the yoke.
p. 98. Grave est fidem fallere. (audio) - It is a serious business to break faith.
p. 98. Simulans amicum inimicus inimicissimus. (audio) - The enemy who pretends to be a friend is the most inimical.
p. 100. Semel malus, semper malus. (essay + audio) - Once wicked, always wicked.
p. 101. Falsum in uno, falsum in toto. (essay + audio) - False in one thing, false in the whole thing.
p. 102. Nulli nimium credite. (audio) - Don't trust anyone too much.
p. 102. Lupus pilum mutat, non mentem. (essay + audio) - A wolf can change his coat but not his character.
p. 104. Homo homini lupus. (essay + audio) - Man is a wolf to man.
p. 105. Furem fur cognoscit, et lupum lupus. (audio) - A thief knows a thief, and a wolf knows a wolf.
p. 108. A deo est omnis medela. (essay + audio) - All healing is from god.
p. 109. Homo proponit, sed deus disponit. (audio) - Man proposes, but god disposes.
p. 112. Canis mordens non latrat. (audio) - A dog who bites does not bark.
p. 113. Cave tibi a cane muto et aqua silenti. (audio) - You need to watch out for a silent dog and quiet water.
p. 117. Edentulus vescentium dentibus invidet. (essay + audio) - The poor toothless person envies the teeth of the diners.
p. 120. Bonis nocet qui malis parcet. (audio) - He who spares the bad people is hurting the good people.
p. 122. Hodie mihi, cras tibi. (audio) - Today it's me; tomorrow, it's you.
p. 122. Ex amico fit inimicus, hostis ex socio. (audio) - A friend becomes an enemy, an ally becomes a foe.
p. 125. Ut tibi, sic alteri. (audio) - As for yourself, so for another.
p. 126. Estote simplices sicut columbae. (audio) - Be simple as doves.
p. 126. Sub nomine pacis bellum latet. (audio) - War is hiding under the name of peace.
p. 128. Novus rex, nova lex. (audio) - New king, new law.
p. 132. Timor mortis morte peior. (audio) - Fear of death is worse than death.
p. 133. Nemo est tam senex qui se annum non putet posse vivere. (audio) - No one is so old that he doesn't think he could live a year longer.
p. 134. Absente domino, res male geritur. (audio) - When the boss is gone, business goes badly.
p. 134. Stercus optimum vestigium domini. (essay + audio) - The master's footstep is the best fertilizer.
p. 138. Serpens eiiciendus e domo. (audio) - A snake should be cast out of the house.
p. 138. Nihil homine ingrato peius. (audio) - Nothing is worse than an ungrateful man.
p. 141. In sinu colubrum habet. (audio) - He's got a snake in his bosom.
p. 150. Neminem pecunia divitem fecit. (essay + audio) - Money has never made anyone wealthy.
p. 150. Gallus in sterquilinio suo plurimum potest. (essay + audio) - The rooster can do plenty in his own dungheap.
p. 154. Iam testudo volat. (audio) - Now the turtle's flying.
p. 154. Aquilam testudo vincit. (audio) - The turtle's beating the eagle.
p. 161. In propria pelle quiesce. (essay + audio) - Be at peace in your own skin.
p. 173. Gratia gratiam parit. (essay + audio) - One kindness gives birth to another.
p. 182. Leo fortissimus bestiarum. (audio) - The lion is the strongest of the beasts.
p. 182. Leonina societas periculorum plena. (audio) - Being in the company of the lion is full of danger.
p. 184. Alienis malis discimus. (essay + audio) - We learn from other people's problems.
p. 185. Felix quem faciunt aliena pericula cautum. (audio) - Happy is the man who learns caution from other people's risks.
p. 186. Dolo illuditur dolus. (audio) - Fraud is tricked by fraud.
p. 186. Oportet vulpinari cum vulpibus. (audio) - You've got to play the fox with the foxes.
p. 194. Cavendo tutus eris. (audio) - By being cautious you will be safe.
p. 194. Est sapientis providere. (audio) - A wise man looks ahead.
p. 196. Sapiens a se ipso pendet. (audio) - A wise man depends on his own self.
p. 198. Si satis est, multum est. (essay + audio) - If it's enough, it's a lot.
p. 198. Vivis piscibus aqua, mortuis vinum. (essay + audio) - Water for the living fish, wine for the dead ones.
p. 206. Fortuna belli fluxa. (audio) - War's fortunes fluctuate.
p. 206. Malo ad campanam quam ad tubae surgere clangorem. (audio) - I prefer to rise to the clanging of the church-bell rather than the war-trumpet.
p. 210. Agnos lupi vorant. (essay + audio) - Wolves gobble the lambs.
p. 210. Regnant qualibet urbe lupi. (essay + audio) - Wolves reign in every city.
p. 218. Dives est qui nihil cupit. (audio) - Rich is the man who desires nothing.
p. 218. Avarus ipse miseriae causa est suae. (audio) - The greedy man is the cause of his own misery.
p. 222. Cupiditati nihil satis est. (audio) - Nothing is enough for desire.
p. 222. Avarus aurum deum habet. (audio) - The greedy man has gold as a god.
p. 230. Flecti, non frangi. (audio) - To bend, not to break.
p. 230. Nec invideamus altius stantibus. (audio) - Let us not envy our higher-ups.
p. 234. Sciens cavebo. (audio) - Being aware, I will take care.
p. 234. Sero in periculis est consilium quaerere. (audio) - It's too late to get advice in the midst of dangers.
p. 250. Cum vulpe habens commercium, dolos cave. (audio) - If you are doing business with a fox, watch out for tricks.
p. 250. Quod est venturum, sapiens quasi praesens cavet. (audio) - The wise man is wary of what is to come as if it were already here.
p. 254. Personam, non faciem, gerit. (audio) - He's wearing a mask, not a face.
p. 254. Calidum et frigidum ex eodem ore efflat. (essay + audio) - He's blowing hot and cold from the same mouth.
p. 262. Vis unita fortior. (audio) - Strength, united, is stronger.
p. 262. Si vis regnare, divide. (audio) - If you want to rule, divide.
p. 266. Quid leoni cum mure? (audio) - What's lion got to do with a mouse?
p. 266. Amicus certus in re incerta cernitur. (audio) - A sure friend is seen in an unsure situation.
p. 274. Semper metuendo sapiens evitat malum. (audio) - By always being afraid, the wise man avoids evil.
p. 274. Dum stertit cattus, nunquam sibi currit in os mus. (essay + audio) - When the cat's snring, no mouse ever runs into its mouth.
p. 278. Lupus hiat. (audio) - The wolf is gaping.
p. 278. Quae volumus, et credimus libenter. (audio) - What we gladly want, we gladly believe as well.
p. 286. Ars varia vulpi. (essay + audio) - The fox has many a trick.
p. 286. Scit multa vulpes, magnum echinus unicum. (audio) - The fox knows many things; the hedgehog knows one big thing.
p. 290. Quid leone fortius? (audio) - What thing is stronger than a lion?
p. 290. Nunquam est fidelis cum potente societas. (essay + audio) - The company of the powerful man is never to be trusted.
p. 302. Hospitium verendum. (audio) - Hospitality is a sacred duty.
p. 302. Post tres dies piscis vilescit et hospes. (essay + audio) - After three days the fish stinks, as does the houseguest.
p. 306. Quid libertate pretiosius? (audio) - What thing is more valuable than freedom?
p. 306. Nemo nisi sapiens liber est. (essay + audio) - No man is free, except the wise man.
p. 314. Medice, cura te ipsum! (audio) - Physician, cure yourself!
p. 315. Medico male est, si nemini male est. (audio) - It's bad news for the doctor if no one's feeling bad.
p. 315. Morborum medicus omnium mors ultimus. (audio) - Death is the lst doctor of all diseases.
p. 320. Libertas optima rerum. (audio) - Freedom is the best of things.
p. 320. Liber inops servo divite felicior. (audio) - A free man without wealth is happier than a rich servant.
p. 324. Omnes homines aut liberi sunt aut servi. (audio) - All men are either free, or slaves.

Aesop's Fables in Latin now available at Amazon.com.

March 30, 2009

Ad omnia trepidat, licet vel mus movet

In English: He trembles at everything, even if so much as a mouse moves.

Today's saying describes someone who is scared of absolutely everything, even something as small as a mouse. It's something like the English saying about somebody "being scared of his own shadow," which is to say, someone who is scared of something insubstantial that cannot do him any harm at all. The scurrying of mouse makes a perceptible sound so that it is something you would notice - but only somebody who is really trembling with fear is going to shudder at the movement of that mouse.

The idea behind this proverb is a very simple one, and easy for us to grasp. Yet the Latin here can really trip students up, since we are in the realm here of "little" Latin words, words like licet and vel, which do not have a simple formulaic English translation that can be applied in all cases. These little words are, indeed, like the mouse of today's proverb: it is the scurrying of these little Latin words that can strike fear into the heart of the Latin student. But no need: the words are here to convey meaning, not to do you any harm. So, let's take a look at both of these little words, licet and vel.

The word licet can be a real conundrum for Latin students. Sometimes licet can be a verb which is used impersonally to express permission or license to do something, as in one of my favorite Latin proverbs, Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi, "What is permitted to Jupiter is not permitted to the ox." Here licet is being used as the main verb in each clause, with a dative complement.

Sometimes, however, licet is used, not as a verb, but as an adverb. In particular, it can be used as a conjunction, expressing the idea that (even if) something is permitted, (nevertheless) something else. For a specific example, here's a line from Seneca: Vita brevis est, licet supra mille annos exeat, "Life is short, even if it were to extend more than a thousand years." Notice that in English we render this licet with the conjunctive adverbial phrase "even if." You can tell that licet is not really functioning as a verb in this sentence, because there is another finite verb right there in the same clause: exeat. So, exeat is the verb, and licet is serving as an adverb. That is the same case in today's proverb: Ad omnia trepidat, licet vel mus movet, where movet is the verb, and licet is playing the role of an adverb (the fact that the verb used here is indicative, rather than subjunctive, shows that the saying is probably post-classical in origin).

What then about the vel? This is a word that students are often taught to automatically render with the English word "or" - a word which obviously will not work here: the sentence, "He trembles at everything, even if or a mouse moves," simply does not make sense.

If you think about the etymology of Latin vel, you can find a good clue for how to proceed here. Like licet, the adverbial vel also comes from a verbal root: volo. The word vel is, in fact, an old imperative form of the verb volo: "want!" So, historically, the way to understand the meaning of the Latin word vel is something very much like our English idiom, "if you please," where some kind of alternative is expressed in terms of the subjective wishes of the recipient of the message: "(or if) you like."

The problem, of course, is that the use of the English idiom "if you like" is a bit heavy-handed for translating the Latin vel. So, what you have to do whenever you face a Latin vel, is to try a range of English translations - the simple "or" might suffice, but if it does not, as in the case of today's proverb, you need to be prepared to search through a wider range of English idioms. I opted for "so much as a mouse" in today's translation, hoping to capture some more of the charm of the Latin alliteration in mus movet. As always, translation is an art - imperfect at best - where being able to convey the "spirit" of the original sometimes requires a bit of creativity with the "letter" of the original - if you please! :-)

So, hoping you will not tremble at the mouse-like little words of Latin that you find scurrying about in today's proverb, here it is read out loud:

1537. Ad omnia trepidat, licet vel mus movet.

The number here is the number for this proverb in Latin Via Proverbs: 4000 Proverbs, Mottoes and Sayings for Students of Latin.

If you are reading this via RSS: The audio content is not syndicated via RSS; please visit the Latin Audio Proverbs blog to listen to the audio.
For more Latin proverbs, fables and commentary, visit the Bestiaria Latina blog, or you can sign up to receive the latest posts by email.
Aesop's Fables in Latin now available at Amazon.com.

March 26, 2009

March 26: Aesop's Fables at Amazon SALE

Hi everybody, I hope it is okay to send this note around about my Aesop's Fables in Latin book at Amazon - somehow it has become part of an Amazon promotion, and I don't know how long it will last, but it is 40% off at the moment, listed for just $20: Aesop's Fables in Latin - Amazon Promotion.

To learn about the contents of the book, sample pages, supplementary materials (including audio), you can find lots of material at the Aesopus Ning.

March 17, 2009

Agnos lupi vorant

In English: The wolves devour the lambs.

This proverb is based on the metaphorical opposition between the wolf and the lamb: the (rapacious, powerful, ruthless) wolves devour the (innocent, meek, powerless) lambs. Because the image of the wolf and the image of the lamb are so powerfully expressive and unambiguous, the proverb is able to speak to us in code, giving us a maxim we can apply to the human world at large. The word "wolf" has even given us a verb of its own in English: to "wolf" your food means to eat it in haste, to gobble or devour it.

What is worth nothing about the Latin phrase Agnos lupi vorant is not so much the words themselves (which are used in a very familiar metaphor), but the word order. In particular, we should note that the the word agnos is in the first position. This gives the word a special emphasis in the sentence. The other emphatic position in the sentence is the final word, vorant. So, by means of the word order, the Latin chooses to give special emphasis to the words agnos and vorant, with the least emphasis being given to the word lupi.

When it comes to the English translation, we are really in trouble as a result, since in English word order is not a matter of style, but a matter of grammar. The subject comes first in an English sentence, and is then followed by the verb which is followed by the object: S-V-O. So, in English we translate the statement, "The wolves eat the lambs," giving the first position the wolves, the word which was least emphatic in the Latin word order.

So, as always in translating, you are faced with a real dilemma. Do you just stick to the grammar? There is no grammar of Latin word order (only style), but in English there is a strict grammar of word order, and the only grammaticaly sentence you can make with these words is, "The wolves devour the lambs." If you wanted to convey the style of the Latin word order, you'd have to use a round-about expression, something like: "It's the lambs whom the wolves devour." Such a long and complicated sentence puts the lambs before the subject and the verb, but the length and complexity of the resulting sentence has not created a stylistic difference that is far removed from the simplicity of the Latin.

As always, then, my recommendation is just not to translate into English. Enjoy the Latin on its own terms for its own sake! Latin puts the word agnos first, as if to say in English, "Oh my gosh: the LAMBS...! The wolves are devouring the lambs." Latin also puts some emphasis on vorant, being in the final position, as if to say in English: "Oh my gosh: the LAMBS...! The wolves are devouring the lambs - not just eating them, DEVOURING them." This is a paraphrase which manages to suggest in English what the Latin is able to convey through the word order. Of course, it would not qualify as a translation for the purposes of an AP Latin exam - but it is what you need to have in mind if you want to have a sense in English of just what the Latin sentence is saying, and how it is choosing to say it.

So, thinking about those poor little lambs, being devoured in the emphatic first position, here is today's proverb read out loud:

1071. Agnos lupi vorant.

The number here is the number for this proverb in Latin Via Proverbs: 4000 Proverbs, Mottoes and Sayings for Students of Latin.

If you are reading this via RSS: The audio content is not syndicated via RSS; please visit the Latin Audio Proverbs blog to listen to the audio.
For more Latin proverbs, fables and commentary, visit the Bestiaria Latina blog, or you can sign up to receive the latest posts by email.
Aesop's Fables in Latin now available at Amazon.com.

A deo est omnis medela

In English: All healing is from God.

Today's proverb comes from the book of the Bible which is called Ecclesiasticus in the Vulgate, not to be confused with the book of Ecclesiastes!

The word Ecclesiastes is a Greek noun adopted into Latin, meaning a member of the assembly (traditional Greek usage) or a member of the "church" (Christian usage gave the Greek word "ekklesia" a new sense related to the assembly of believers). When the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, was prepared, the book of the Hebrew Bible called Qohelet was rendered in Greek as Ecclesiastes. Then, in the Vulgate Bible, the Greek name of the book was transliterated into Roman characters, rather than being translated into an actual Latin word. Jerome had argued that the book should be called Concionator (a translation of the Latin word), but Jerome's suggestion met with no success and the word concionator failed to become part of the Christian Latin vocabulary.

What, then, about Ecclesiasticus? This is a non-canonical book of the Bible, but it has a special status among those non-canonical books, as reflected in the name itself. The Latin word ecclesiasticus is an adjective, meaning "belonging to the church (ecclesia)," and it was a name bestowed on this book of the Bible by the early Latin Fathers of the Church in acknowledgment of the fact that passages from this book were widely known and also used in church worship services. So, even though the book is not part of the Bible, it came to be called "the church book," Ecclesiasticus, among the Latin fathers, and was even included in the canon of Epiphanius.

Before it acquired the name Ecclesiasticus, however, this book was known by another name: The Wisdom of Ben-Sira, or The Wisdom of the Son of Sira. In Greek, it was called simply Sirach (the final "ch" being added to the name to indicate its Hebrew origin, even though the "ch" is not part of the Hebrew spelling of the name). The early Latin versions of the book followed this same convention, calling the book Sirach.

Yet who was the "Son of Sira"? In some versions of the title, his name is given as the Hebrew name Yeshua, which is Jesus in Latin, so the book has this title in the Vulgate: Liber Iesu filii Sirach, which is to say, The Book of Jesus, the son of Sirach.

Confusing enough? You will indeed find this book referred to by all manner of titles in English, sometimes based on the Hebrew or Greek or Latin. So: Ecclesiasticus, Ben Sira, Sira, Sirach, Ben Sirach (a rather bizarre amalgam of Hebrew and Greek!), Siracides (a Greek neologism meaning "son of Sirac"), Wisdom of Ben Sira, and Wisdom of Jesus son of Sira.

What is really important, of course, is what an AMAZING book this is. Given my own interest in proverbs and wisdom literature, this is one of my own favorite books of the Bible. If you have never read through this book of the Bible, it is definitely worth your attention. There is a parallel edition of Sirach at Sacred Texts with Greek, Latin, and English (the book was originally written in Hebrew, but a complete Hebrew text has not survived, although major portions of the Hebrew text have been recovered from the famous Cairo Geniza). You can also read more about the background of the book in this Wikipedia article, and also in this article from the Catholic Encyclopedia online.

So, as a sample of the "wisdom of the son of Sira," here is today's proverb read out loud:

505. A deo est omnis medela

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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For more Latin proverbs, fables and commentary, visit the Bestiaria Latina blog, or you can sign up to receive the latest posts by email.
Aesop's Fables in Latin now available at Amazon.com.

Calidum et frigidum ex eodem ore efflat

In English: He blows hot and cold from the same mouth.

Yes, I'm back blogging here again. I finally figured out how to salvage the old posts from this blog and to start adding new ones again (details here if you are curious). To get back into the swing of things, I'm going to work my way through the proverbs that are included in the Aesop's Fables in Latin book that just came out - it's got around 130 proverbs interspersed with the fables (list of proverbs here).

The one I picked out for today about blowing hot and cold out of the same mouth can be found in Erasmus's Adagia (1.8.30) and goes with the Aesop's fable of the satyr who found a man frozen in the snow. Here's one version of that story in Latin:
Satyrus Viatorem, nive obrutum atque algore enectum, misertus ducit in antrum suum. Refocillantem manus anhelitu oris percontatur causam; “Ut calefiant,” inquit. Postea, cum accumberent, sufflat Viator in polentam. Quod cur ita faceret interrogatus “Ut frigescat,” inquit. Tunc continuo Satyrus Viatorem eiiciens: “Nolo (inquit) in meo ut sis antro, cui tam diversum est os.”
The Satyr took pity on a traveller who was overwhelmed by snow and laid low by ice, and led the man into his cave. As the man warmed his hands by blowing on them with his mouth, the satyr asked why he did this, and the man said, "To warm them." Then when they sat down to dinner, the traveller blew on his porridge. Asked why he did this, he said, "To cool it." Then straightaway the Satyr threw the traveller out, saying, "I don't want you to be in my cave, since your mouth goes this way and that way."
When the satyr thinks that the man can blow hot and cold from the same mouth, it terrifies him. Yet it is also worth noting a quite different use of the same metaphorical materials in the Bible, from the Book of Revelation. In Chapter 3, this is the message to be addressed to the church in Laodicea:
Scio opera tua: quia neque frigidus es, neque calidus: utinam frigidus esses, aut calidus: sed quia tepidus es, et nec frigidus, nec calidus, incipiam te evomere ex ore meo.

I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
So, you can see there are perils in both directions - you need to beware of people who blow both hot and cold... and also to beware of people so tepid that they don't blow one way or the other.

1286. Calidum et frigidum ex eodem ore efflat.

The number here is the number for this proverb in Latin Via Proverbs: 4000 Proverbs, Mottoes and Sayings for Students of Latin.

If you are reading this via RSS: The audio content is not syndicated via RSS; please visit the Latin Audio Proverbs blog to listen to the audio.
For more Latin proverbs, fables and commentary, visit the Bestiaria Latina blog, or you can sign up to receive the latest posts by email.
Aesop's Fables in Latin now available at Amazon.com.