Best Quotes, Words of Wisdom and Sayings in Latin

Most texts and materials on this site have to do with the Latin language, including its perception in popular culture: movies, tattoos, inscriptions, engravings, bits of ancient philosophy, online Latin resources and company names. There is also information about learning Latin and Greek: textbooks, dictionaries, DVDs and software that can be used in a homeschooling environment.


Deus ex machina

 
Thursday, July 31, 2008, 17:16 - Best Latin Quotes, Words of Wisdom, Proverbs and Sayings
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Deus ex machina
God from a machine


"A Literary Manual of Foreign Quotations, Ancient and Modern" by John Devoe Belton interprets the phrase in this fashion: "A god out of a machine. This expression indicates the intervention of a person who solves a difficulty or hastens the denouement at a critical juncture."

This is perhaps one of the most famous Latin phrases employed as a term of literary criticism. Funny thing about it is that the exact phrase "deus ex machina" cannot be found in a single work of either Classical or Medieval Latin. Instead, the source of the expression is Greek: ἀπὸ μηχανῆς θεός. This most certainly was a term used by Greek theorists (including Plato and Aristotle). Apparently, Renaissance Latin translations of their works made such an impression that the term was retained henceforth. Oddly enough, the Latin term is now sometimes used in English translations of Greek authors (the quote is once again from Belton):

In Plato's Cratylus, 425, Socrates says (Jowett's translation): "That objects should be limited, and find an expression in letters and syllables, may appear ridiculous, Hermogenes, but this cannot be helped there is no better principle to which we can look for the truth of first names. Deprived of this, we must have recourse to a Deus ex machina, like the tragic poets, who have their gods suspended in the air; and we must get out of the difficulty in their fashion by saying that the gods gave the first names, and therefore they are right."

Vox populi - vox Dei

 
Vox populi - vox Dei
The voice of the people (is) the voice of God


Reading the Wikipedia article about the meaning of the phrase "vox populi (vox dei)" one may experience some confusion regarding the origin of the expression:

Often quoted as, Vox populi, vox dei, "The voice of the people is the voice of God", is an old proverb often erroneously attributed to William of Malmesbury in the twelfth century.[1]

Another early reference to the expression is in a letter from Alcuin to Charlemagne in 798, although it is believed to have been in earlier use.[2] The full quotation from Alcuin reads:

Nec audiendi qui solent dicere, Vox populi, vox Dei, quum tumultuositas vulgi semper insaniae proxima sit.[3]

English translation:

And those people should not be listened to who keep saying the voice of the people is the voice of God, since the riotousness of the crowd is always very close to madness.[4]


Indeed, further medieval references can be cited, such as Peter Damian:

Tunc denique probatum est uerum esse quod dicitur: Vox populi uox Dei.
And then if finally proved to be true they, as they say: The voice of the people is the voice of God.


But Let us now look at Isaiah 66:6, using Jerome's Latin translation:

vox populi de civitate vox de templo vox Domini reddentis retributionem inimicis suis

The voice of the people from the town, the voice from the temple, the voice of the Lord who renders recompense to His enemies.


What's interesting, you will not find the word people in the Septuagint and, as far as I can tell, in the Hebrew text. Cf. KJV:

A voice of noise from the city, a voice from the temple, a voice of the LORD that rendereth recompence to his enemies.

Whatever the reason for textual discrepancies, we have an innovation in the Latin translation (although, I am sure, Jerome had some textual basis for his reading). Thus, for the first time we have within the same context the idea of the people's voice and the idea of the voice of God. Apparently, sometime after the Vulgate became widely used these two ideas produced the well-known proverb. It is funny that the origin of the phrase is completely erroneous and accidental, but it is still regarded as holding some veracity and an independent value of a morally obliging statement!


Sad Quotes in Latin

 
Monday, July 14, 2008, 15:38 - Best Latin Quotes, Words of Wisdom, Proverbs and Sayings
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Here is a little collection of sad quotes and phrases in Latin. They range in their mood from confused annoyance to mild depression.

A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi - A precipice in front, wolves behind (between a rock and a hard place)

Abiit nemine salutato - He went away without bidding anyone farewell

Abyssus abyssum invocat - Hell calls hell; one mistep leads to another

Accensa domo proximi, tua quoque periclitatur - When the house of your neighbor is in flames, your own is in danger

Acclinis falsis animus meliora recusat - The mind intent upon false appearances refuses to admit better things (Horace)

Acerrima proximorum odia - The hatred of those most nearly connected is the bitterest of all (Tacit)

Acta est fabula, plaudite! - The play is over, applaud! (Said to have been emperor Augustus' last words)

More sad phrases and locutions in Latin

Latin Quotes About Life (and inevitably about death...)

 
Due to increased demand, here is a fairly representable selection of Latin quotes about life. Naturally, the ancients rarely thought of life without brining death into the equasion.


Ad vitam paramus - We are preparing for life
Amor est vitae essentia - Love is the essence of life. (Robert B. Mackay)
Ampliat aetatis spatium sibi vir bonus; hoc est vivere bis vita posse priore frui The good man extends the period of his life; it is to live twice, to enjoy with satisfaction the retrospect of our past life. (Martial)
Aqua vitae - Water of life
Ars longa, vita brevis - Art (work) is long, but life is short
Avarus, nisi cum poritur, nil recte facit A miser, until he dies, does nothing right
Bis vivit qui bene vivit - He lives twice who lives well
Brevis ipsa vita est sed malis fit longior - Our life is short but is made longer by misfortunes. (Publilius Syrus)
Conveniens vitae mors fuit ista suae That was a death conformable to his life. (Ovid)
Credula vitam spes fovet et melius cras fore semper dicit - Credulous hope supports our life, and always says that tomorrow will be better. (Tibullus)
Cum dubia et fragilis sit nobis vita tributa, in morte alterius spem to tibi ponere noli Seeing that life has been given us precarious and full of uncertainty, fix not your hopes on the death of another. (Cato)
Curriculum vitae - The course of one's life
Dum inter homines sumus, colamus humanitatem - As long as we are among humans, let us be humane. (Seneca)
Dum spiramus tuebimur - While we breathe, we shall defend
Dum spiro, spero - While I breathe, I hope. (Cicero)
Dum tempus habemus, operemur bonum - While we have the time, let us do good
Dum vita est spes est - While life is, hope is. / While there is life there is hope
Dum vivimus, vivamus - While we live, let us live (Epicurean philosophy)
Fama semper vivat - May his/her fame last forever
Historia est vitae magistra - The history is the tutor of life
Integer vitae scelerisque purus - Blameless of life and free from crime
Luctor et emergo - I struggle but I'll survive
Memento vivere - A reminder of life (literally remember that you have to live)
Nec possum tecum vivere, nec sine te - I am able to live / I can live neither with you, nor without you. (Martial)
Non ignara mali, miseris succurrere disco - No stranger to misfortune [myself, F.] I learn to relieve the sufferings [of others
Non scholae sed vitae discimus - We do not learn for school, but for life. (Seneca)
Primum viveri deinde philosophari - Live before you philosophize, or Leap before you look
Quod differtur, non aufertur - That which is postponed is not dropped. Inevitable is yet to happen. (Sir Thomas More)
Quod incepimus conficiemus - What we have begun we shall finish
Tamdiu discendum est, quamdiu vivas - We should learn as long as we may live. (We live and learn.) (Seneca Philosophus)
Victoria et pro victoria vita Victory, and for victory life
Victoria, et per victoriam vita Victory, and through victory life
Vita mutatur, non tollitur - Life is changed, not taken away
Vita non est vivere sed valere vita est - Life is more than merely staying alive
Vita sine libris mors est - Life without books is death
Vita turpis ne morti quidem honestae colum relinquit A life of shame leaves no room even for an honorable death. (Cicero)
Vitam impendere vero - To risk one's life for the truth
Vitam regit fortuna, non sapientia - Fortune, not wisdom, rules lives. (Cicero)
Viva enim mortuorum in memoria vivorum est posita The life of the dead is retained in the memory of the living. (Cicero)
Vivat, crescat, floreat! - May he/she/it live, grow, and flourish!
Vive hodie - Live today (not tomorrow)
Vive ut vivas - Live that you may live
Vivere commune est, sed non commune mereri - Everybody lives; not everybody deserves to
Vivere disce, cogita mori - Learn to live; Remember death. (sundial inscription)
Vivos voco, mortuos plango- I call the living, I mourn the dead. (church bell inscription)
Vixit - He/she has lived


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