Lesson-Jumping, Fire-Prodding and Urchin-Friends: Three Proverbs Beginning with Epsilon

In the last week’s habit, another three proverbs from the Byzantine Suda.

” “To learn pottery on a wine-jar”: A proverb concerning students who jump beyond their first lessons, grasping at greater things. This is for those who miss out on their first lessons because they are eager for the last.”

A proverbial saying in reference to those going beyond their first lessons and clutching at greater things. That is, disregarding their first lessons and striving for the final ones.


Ἐν πίθῳ τὴν κεραμίαν μανθάνειν: παροιμία ἐπὶ τῶν τὰς πρώτας μὲν μαθήσεις ὑπερβαινόντων, ἁπτομένων δὲ τῶν μειζόνων. τουτέστι τῶν παριέντων τὰς πρώτας μαθήσεις καὶ ἐφιεμένων τῶν τελευταίων.


“Let everyone take a turn prodding the fire.” A Proverb used when people don’t take an equal responsibility for a common effort. Also: Let the man who gives more, take more in turn.”

Ἐν τῷ μέρει τις καὶ τὸ πῦρ σκαλευσάτω: παροιμία ἐπὶ τῶν εἰς κοινὸν μὴ τὰ ἴσα παρεχομένων. πλείονα δῶρα δοὺς καὶ ἀντιλαβὼν ἐν τῷ μέρει.


“Ekhinos: Sea-urchin.  There is also this proverb: “[Not before] two sea urchins would become friends—one from the sea, and one from land.” A saying about dissimilar things.”

ἐχῖνος:… καὶ παροιμία· πρίν κε δύο ἐχῖνοι ἐς φιλίαν ἔλθοιεν, ὁ μὲν ἐκ πελάγους, ὁ δὲ ἐκ χέρσου· ἐπὶ τῶν ἀνομοίων.

Sea vase
But could the urchins learn pottery?

One thought on “Lesson-Jumping, Fire-Prodding and Urchin-Friends: Three Proverbs Beginning with Epsilon

  1. Ekhinos also means hedgehog (which used to be called “urchin” as well). Thus, the proverb makes much more sense — after all, sea urchins aren’t exactly able to survive for long on land.

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