Erasmus, Adagia 48 – You Miss the Road Entirely
Τῇ πάσῃ ὁδῷ ἀφαμαρτάνεσθαι, that is, You stray from the road entirely. This is a proverb directed against those who go wildly astray. Terence has the phrase tota erras via in his Eunuch. It it taken from the image of wayfarers, who are sometimes accustomed to wander from the road, yet nevertheless come to their destination, though with some loss. Occasionally they wander in such a way that they are turned far astray and direct themselves somewhere else. Thus, people who stray from the truth are said to go off the rails [exorbitare].
Aristotle writes in his Ethics: They hardly stray from the whole road. Similarly, he writes in the first book of his Naturalia that those philosophers, investigators of natural causes, went off the rails and wandered from the truth as if they had been driven from the road. This is taken from Aristophanes’ Wealth: : Ἢ τῆς ὁδοῦ τὸ παράπαν ἡμαρτήκαμεν;, that is, Have we wandered off the road entirely? To be sure, even today they say that those people are on the road who take up something correctly, but we say that they are off the road if they approach a matter in some unsuitable fashion.
These are pretty much proverbial, and pretty frequently used metaphors among the learned: ‘To drive one from the road’; ‘to bring back to the road’; ‘to show one the road’; ‘to make the road’; ‘to lay out the road’; ‘to open the road’; ‘to close off the road’; ‘to block the road’. Cicero, in his first Philippic: If you think that, you are totally ignorant of the whole road to glory. Even this apophthegm is justly celebrated: They run well, but it’s off the road, Καλῶς μὲν τρέχουσιν, ἀλλ᾽ ἐκτὸς τῆς ὁδοῦ.
TOTA ERRAS VIA 48
Τῇ πάσῃ ὁδῷ ἀφαμαρτάνεσθαι, id est Tota aberrare via. Prouerbium est in eos, qui vehementer aberrant. Terentius in Eunucho: Tota erras via. Translatum a viatoribus, qui nonnunquam ita solent aberrare a via, vt non sine dispendio quidem, tamen quo tendebant, perueniant; nonnunquam sic aberrant, vt longe diuertant et in diuersum tendant. Vnde et exorbitare dicuntur, qui a vero aberrant. Aristoteles in Ethicis: Haud tota aberrant via. Idem Naturalium libro i. scribit priscos illos philosophos, naturalium causarum scrutatores, exorbitasse ac velut e via depulsos prorsus aberrasse a vero. Sumptum est ex Aristophanis Pluto: Ἢ τῆς ὁδοῦ τὸ παράπαν ἡμαρτήκαμεν; id est Viane tota prorsus exerrauimus ? Quinetiam hodie dictitant eos in via esse, qui recto consilio quippiam instituunt, extra viam, qui qua non oportet ratione rem aggrediuntur. Sunt ferme prouerbiales et illae metaphorae doctis vsitatissimae: ‘Depellere a via’, ‘reducere in viam’, ‘monstrare viam’, ‘facere viam’, ‘sternere viam’, ‘aperire viam’, ‘praecludere viam’, ‘intercludere viam’. Cicero in prima Philippica: Quod si putas, totam ignoras viam gloriae. Celebre habetur et illud apophthegma, Bene currunt, sed extra viam: Καλῶς μὲν τρέχουσιν, ἀλλ᾽ ἐκτὸς τῆς ὁδοῦ.