But What Does the Fool Say?

Erasmus, Adagia I.i.98:

“‘The fool says foolish things.”

Euripides, in his Bacchae, writes Μῶρα γὰρ μῶρος λέγει, that is the speech of the fool is foolish* [lit: for the fool says foolish things]. With just as many words, our prophet Esaias has produced the same sentiment. Seneca, in his letters to Lucilius, says that this became a proverb among the Greeks: ‘People’s speech was just as their life.’ It is not sufficiently clear of what sort this was, unless because a certain poem of this sort survives, celebrated by the Greeks:

Ἀνδρὸς χαρακτὴρ ἐκ λόγου γνωρίζεται,

that is,

a person’s character is revealed by their speech.

Democritus the philosopher (quoted in Diogenes Laertius) used to say that speech was εἴδωλον τοῦ βίου , that is, a miniature portrait of life, and was just like a certain shadow. Nothing more true than this could be said, because in no mirror is the figure of the body reflected better or more brightly refulgent than the image of the heart is represented in speech. Humans are distinguished by their speech not otherwise than bronze vessels are distinguished by the sound of their ring.”

*Note: The first rendering in Italics is the translation of Erasmus’ Latin translation of the Greek, and not a translation of the Greek itself; this is provided in the following brackets.


Stultus stulta loquitur. xcviii

Euripides in Bacchis, Μῶρα γὰρ μῶρος λέγει, id est Nam stulta stulti oratio est. Totidem verbis propheta noster Esaias eam sententiam extulit. Seneca ad Lucilium Apud Graecos, inquit, in proverbium cessit : Talis hominibus fuit oratio, qualis vita. Hoc cujusmodi fuerit parum liquet, nisi quod tale quoddam carmen extat, Graecis celebratum :

Ἀνδρὸς χαρακτὴρ ἐκ λόγου γνωρίζεται,

id est
Hominis figura oratione agnoscitur.

Democritus philosophus apud Laertium orationem εἴδωλον τοῦ βίου, id est vitae simulachrum, quandamque velut umbram esse dicebat. Qua quidem sententia nihil dici poterat verius. Nam nullo in speculo melius, expressiusque relucet figura corporis, quam in oratione pectoris imago repraesentatur. Neque secius homines ex sermone quam aerea vasa tinnitu dignoscuntur.

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