Sailing in the Port

Erasmus, Adagia 46 – “To Sail in the Port”

Related to the proverb above is the allegory: Ἐν λιμένι πλεῖν, that is, to sail in the port, by which we mean that we are already out of danger. This is because those who are still sailing in the middle of the waves are sailing at the pleasure of the winds and tides. On the other hand, those who are already within the bounds of the port have no business with the waves and winds. Thus, in the most clichéd metaphor, we call the person in whose guardianship we rest ‘a port’. And those who bring themselves to a peaceful and safe mode of life are said to have taken themselves to the port. Terence writes in his Andria:

Now it happens at his peril, but I sail in the port.

Vergil puts it a little differently in the seventh book of the Aeneid:

Now rest has been imparted to me, and I am entirely in the safety of the port.

Jacob Phillip Hackert – Port of Livorno


Affinis est huic allegoria: Ἐν λιμένι πλεῖν, id est In portu nauigare, qua significamus nos iam a periculo abesse. Propterea quod qui mediis adhuc in fluctibus nauigant, hi ventorum et aestus arbitrio nauigant. Contra qui iam intra portum sunt, nihil habent negotii cum vndis ac ventis. Vnde vulgatissima metaphora hominem, in cuius praesidio conquiescimus, portum appellamus. Et qui sese ad tranquillam tutamque aliquam vitae rationem traducunt, in portum se recipere dicuntur. Terentius in Andria:


Nunc huius periculo fit: Ego in portu nauigo.


Maro paulo diuersius in Aeneidos libro septimo:


Nunc mihi parta quies, omnisque in limine portus.

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