February 08, 2011

Minerva auxiliante, manum etiam admove

Recording also available at iPadio using this link.

Today's saying is Minerva auxiliante, manum etiam admove. In English: "With Athena as your helper, move your arm, too!"

This is one of many Latin proverbs that go back to an Aesop's fable. The story goes that an Athenian gentleman was traveling on a ship, and the ship foundered in a storm. While the other passengers started swimming for shore, the Athenian instead prayed to the goddess Athena (whose Latin name is Minerva), asking her to rescue him. Another man swam by and shouted at the Athenian, who by now was practically submerged in the waves, "Athena's help is all well and good, but you better start moving your arms, too!" Or, as we say in English, "God helps them that help themselves." This is an especially good proverb for students, since Minerva is the goddess of wisdom, as well as being the patron goddess of Athens. So, it's great if the goddess can help you out, Minerva auxiliante, but you need to set your own hand to the task as well: manum etiam admove.

In terms of Latin grammar, you get a nice ablative absolute to start this saying off: Minerva auxiliante. For another example of an ablative absolute, see this previous post: Hodie vivendum, omissa praeteritorum cura. As these two examples show, the ablative absolute has a lot of stylistic flexibility: you can put it at the beginning of a sentence or at the end, or in the middle if you want, based on where it fits best into the overall message of the sentence.

For those of you who are fans of macrons, here is the Latin written with macrons:

Minervā auxiliante, manum etiam admovē.


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