With Minerva Unwilling

Erasmus, Adages 1.42:

“With Minerva Unwilling”

This phrase is most celebrated among the Latins: With Minerva unwilling, used to mean something like with one’s mind resisting, with nature rebelling, or with heaven being unfavorable. Cicero, in his On Duties, writes: With Minerva, as they say, unwilling. Cicero also writes in his twelfth book of Familiar Letters:

During the festival of Minerva, I conducted your case with Minerva not unwilling.

Again, in the third book of the same work:

Since you want it so, I think that I will do it with a not unwilling Minerva.

Horace writes:

You will neither say nor do anything with Minerva unwilling.

Seneca alluded to this when he said:

Minds respond badly under compulsion…

Minerva - Wikipedia


Latinis et illud est celebratissimum: Inuita Minerua pro eo, quod est: refragante ingenio, repugnante natura, non fauente coelo. Cicero in Officiis: Inuita, vt aiunt, Minerua. Idem libro Epistolarum familiarium duodecimo:

Quinquatribus frequenti senatu causam tuam egi non inuita Minerua.

 Rursum eiusdem operis libro tertio:

 Idque quoniam tu ita vis, puto me non inuita Minerua facturum.


Tu nihil inuita dices faciesue Minerua.

 Huc allusit Seneca, cum dixit:

Male respondere coacta ingenia.

Pigs and Minerva, Round II

Erasmus, Adagia 1.41

A Pig Has Undertaken a Contest with Minerva

This saying is the same or at least as close as possible to what we read in Theocritus’ Travelers: Ὗς ποτ᾽ Ἀθηναίαν ἔριν ἤρισε, that is, A pig has dared to compete with the goddess Minerva. How often the uneducated and the stupid and those prepared for a fight are not afraid to provoke the most eminent men in every discipline to a literary contest. The interpreter of Theocritus says that this saying is circulated among the common people thus: Ὗς ὢν πρὸς Ἀθήνην ἐρίζεις, that is, Though you are a pig, you contend with Minerva. Some scholiast or other adds that those are said to ἐρίζειν who contend with words, and those who content with facts are said to ἐρείδειν. So it’s all the more ridiculous if an unteachable pig vies with Minerva, the custodian of learning.

Athena | Luvin Arms Animal Sanctuary



Cum hoc aut idem aut certe quam maxime finitimum, quod apud Theocritum legitur in Hodoeporis:  Ὗς ποτ᾽ Ἀθηναίαν ἔριν ἤρισε,  id est  Cum diua est ausus sus decertare Minerua. Quoties indocti stolidique et depugnare parati non verentur summos in omni doctrina viros in certamen literarium prouocare. Theocriti enarrator sic efferri vulgo παροιμίαν scribit: Ὗς ὢν πρὸς Ἀθήνην ἐρίζεις, id est Sus cum sis, cum Minerua contendis.  Scholiastes nescio quis addit eos ἐρίζειν dici, qui verbis certant, ἐρείδειν, qui factis, quo magis ridiculum est, si sus indocilis certet cum Minerua disciplinarum praeside.

A Pig Teaches Minerva

Erasmus, Adages 1.40:

A Pig…Minerva

The saddest adage among Latin authors is Ὗς τὴν Ἀθηνᾶν, that is, ‘A pig…Minerva’, where ‘advises’ or ‘teaches’ must be understood as the verb. It is typically said whenever someone uneducated or lacking in wit tries to teach someone from whom they should rather be taught. To use the words of Pompeius Festus, it is when someone teaches another that of which they themselves are ignorant. This is because the guardianship of the arts and the intellect is attributed to Minerva by the poets, as we have said. Further, there is no other animal more brutish or filthy than the big, either because it takes immeasurable delight in shit, which comes about because of the size of its liver, which is the seat of lust and desire, or because of the thickness of its nose and its blunt sense of smell, from which it occurs that it is not offended by the filth. Further, it is so prone and given to food that if by chance it is compelled to look upward, it suddenly falls into a stuporous silence because of the novelty, as Alexander Aphrodiseus tells us. Nor is there anything less capable of instruction, and seems not to be of any use (as some other animals are), but rather to have been given to us by nature simply for feasts. Pliny, in Book VIII Chapter 51 of his Natural History, attests to this when he says, Of all the animals, the pig is especially brutish and is thought, not unwittily, to have received a soul as salt. Varro, in the second book of On Agricultural Affairs says the same thing: They say that the swinish herd was given by nature for feasting. And so, they were given souls in place of salt, to preserve the meat. Indeed, in the fifth book of On the Ends of Good and Evil, Cicero explains what these words mean:

For of all things, which nature creates and guards, which are either lacking mind or not far from it, the highest good lies in their body, as it seems not unwisely said of the pig that a mind was given to that flock in place of salt, so that it would not rot. There are however beasts in which there is something similar to virtue, as for example in lions, in dogs, in horses, in which we see not only some motions in their bodies (as is the case in pigs), but even in some part of their minds.

Aristotle, in his Physiognomics, writes that people with a small forehead are incapable of instruction and unsuited for learning, and seem to belong to their own race, as if they were the farthest removed of all from docility and human arts. For the rest seem full of docility, from which now too we are accustomed commonly to call those who are lacking intelligence and born as if for their guts and stomachs alone ‘pigs’.

Nay, even Suetonius in his catalogue of illustrious grammarians relates that Palaemon was endowed with such arrogance that he called Marcus Varro a pig, and said that his letters were born with and would die with him. Further, if we wish to signify anything uneducated or illiterate, we say that it came from the pig sty, as Cicero says in Against Piso: Brought forth from the sty, not from the school. From this, then, comes the adage a pig Minerva. Luciius Caesar in Cicero’s second book of The Orator says, Thus I, as Crassus listens, will speak first about jokes and I the pig will teach him, the orator of whom, when Catulus had recently heard him, said that the rest might as well eat hay. Cicero also says in the first book of his Academic Questions: For even if it is not a case of the pig teaching Minerva, as they say, nevertheless whoever ineptly teaches Minerva…

Jerome says, in Against Rufinus: I pass over the Greeks, the knowledge of whom you toss about, and while you run after foreign things, you have almost entirely forgotten your speech, lest according to the old adage a pig seems to teach Minerva. Jerome also uses this phrase with different wording in a letter to Marcella, the beginning of which is Charity does not have measure.

Marcus Varro and Euhemerus refer the saying to fables, which can be conjectured from the words of Pompeius Festus, who says, They preferred to involve this thing, placed in the middle, with inept stories rather than relating it simply. The joke of Demosthenes is celebrated; when Demades was crying out to him Δημοσθένης ἐμὲ βούλεται διορθοῦν, ἡ ὗς τὴν Ἀθηνᾶν, that is, Demosthenes wants to correct me, like a pig correcting Minerva, Demosthenes responded, Αὕτη μέντοι πέρυσιν ἡ Ἀθηνᾶ μοιχεύουσα εἰλήφθη, that is, And indeed, this Minerva was recently caught out in adultery. The saying alluded to Minerva the virgin.



Tritissimum apud Latinos autores adagium Ὗς τὴν Ἀθηνᾶν, id est Sus Mineruam, subaudiendum ‘docet’ aut ‘monet’, dici solitum, quoties indoctus quispiam atque insulsus eum docere conatur, a quo sit ipse magis docendus aut, vt Festi Pompeii verbis vtar, cum quis id docet alterum, cuius ipse est inscius. Propterea quod Mineruae artium et ingeniorum, vt diximus, tutela tribuitur a poetis. Porro sue nullum aliud animal magis brutum magisque sordidum, vt quod stercoribus impense gaudeat vel ob iecoris magnitudinem, quae sedes est concupiscentiae ac libidinis, vel ob narium crassitudinem et olfactum hebetem, vnde fit vt non offendatur foetore; tum adeo pronum ciboque deditum, vt si forte sursum aspicere cogatur, protinus stupore sileat ob insolentiam, vt tradit Alexander Aphrodiseus. Nec est aliud magis indocile, proinde non ad vsum aliquem, quemadmodum pecudes nonnullae, sed ad epulas duntaxat a natura donatum videtur. Cui rei testis est Plinius lib. viii., cap. li. Animalium, inquit, hoc maxime brutum animamque ei pro sale datam, non illepide existimabatur. Idem affirmat Varro libro De re rustica secundo, Suillum, inquit, pecus donatum a natura dicunt ad epulandum. Itaque his animam datam pro sale, quae seruaret carnem. Atque haec quidem verba quid sibi velint, explicat M. Tullius libro De finibus bonorum quinto,

Etenim omnium rerum, inquit, quas et creat natura et tuetur, quae aut sine animo sunt aut non multo secus, eorum summum bonum in corpore est, vt non inscite illud dictum videatur in suem, animum illi pecudi datum pro sale, ne putresceret. Sunt autem bestiae, in quibus inest aliquid simile virtutis vt in leonibus, vt in canibus, vt in equis, in quibus non corporum solum vt in suibus, sed etiam animorum aliqua ex parte motus aliquos videmus.

Aristoteles in Physiognomicis scribit exigua fronte homines indociles et ad disciplinas ineptos videri atque ad suum genus pertinere, tanquam a docilitate humanisque artibus longe omnium alienissimum. Nam reliqua ferme docilitatis esse capacia, vnde nunc quoque vulgo insipidos istos et quasi ventri atque abdomini natos sues appellare consueuimus.

Quin et Suetonius in catalogo illustrium grammaticorum refert Palaemonem arrogantia tanta fuisse, vt M. Varronem porcum appellaret, secum et natas et morituras literas. Praeterea si quid indoctum atque illiteratum significare volumus, id ex hara profectum dicimus. Quemadmodum M. Tullius in

Pisonem: Ex hara productae, non schola. Hinc igitur natum adagium Sus Mineruam. L. Caesar apud Ciceronem libro De oratore secundo, Sic ego, inquit, Crasso audiente primum loquar de facetiis et docebo sus, vt aiunt, oratorem eum, quem cum Catulus nuper audisset, foenum alios aiebat esse oportere. Idem Cicero libro de

Academicis quaestionibus primo: Nam etsi non sus Mineruam, vt aiunt, tamen inepte quisquis Mineruam docet.

Hieronymus in Rufinum: Praetermitto Graecos, quorum tu iactas scientiam, et dum peregrina sectaris, pene tui sermonis oblitus es, ne vetere prouerbio sus Mineruam docere videatur. Vsurpat idem verbis commutatis in epistola ad Marcellam, cuius initium Mensuram charitas non habet.

Varro et Euemerus adagium ad fabulas retulerunt, id quod ex Pompeii verbis licet coniicere. Quam rem, inquit, in medio, quod aiunt, positam ineptis μύθους inuoluere maluerunt, quam simpliciter referre. Celebratur a multis Demosthenis scomma, qui cum Demades vociferaretur in eum: Δημοσθένης ἐμὲ βούλεται διορθοῦν, ἡ ὗς τὴν Ἀθηνᾶν, id est Demosthenes vult me corrigere, sus Mineruam, respondit: Αὕτη μέντοι πέρυσιν ἡ Ἀθηνᾶ μοιχεύουσα εἰλήφθη, id est Atqui nuper haec Minerua in adulterio fuit deprehensa. Dictum allusit ad Mineruam virginem.


Stop Talking Like a Professor

Erasmus, Adagia 1.39:

Less Cultivated and More Clearly:

Indeed, that phrase is put less elegantly by the Greeks, but it has the same force: Ἀμαθέστερον καὶ σαφέστερον εἰπέ [speak less learnedly and more clearly], which is found in Gellius as well. He says,

‘For you know, I think, that ancient and commonly circulated phrase, Ἀμαθέστερον καὶ σαφέστερον εἰπέ,’

that is, Speak less learnedly and more plainly, and say it more openly and clearly. It appears to be taken from from a comedy of Aristophanes, titled Βάτραχοι, that is, The Frogs:

Ἀμαθέστερον πως εἰπὲ καὶ σαφέστερον,

that is, Speak less learnedly and more clearly. In this song, Bacchus chides the obscurity of Euripides, who had proposed something or other with insufficient lucidity. Suidas and an interpreter advise us that there is a proverb underlying it, which runs:

Σαφέστερόν μοι κἀμαθέστερον φράσον,

that is, Speak to me more openly and less learnedly. I suspect that it was taken from the fact that in antiquity, those sophists (as they call them) were accustomed to exert a fair amount of labor in covering over the mysteries of wisdom with certain enigmatical entanglements, clearly with the intention of keeping the profane mob not yet initiated into the sacred secrets of philosophy from following it. Nay, even today, some professors of philosophy and theology, when they are about to relate what any little old lady or workman might say, tangle and wrap up the matter with little spikes and portents of words so that they will seem learned. Thus Plato with his numbers obscured his own philosophy. Thus Aristotle, with all of his learned collections, made a lot of things more obscure.



Inelegantius quidem est illud apud Graecos, sed idem tamen pollet: Ἀμαθέστερον καὶ σαφέστερον εἰπέ, quod apud eundem refertur Gellium.

Nosti enim, inquit, credo, verbum illud vetus et peruulgatum, μαθέστερον εἰπὲ καὶ σαφέστερον,

id est Indoctius rudiusque quodammodo loquere et apertius ac clarius fare. Sumptum apparet ex Aristophanis comoedia, cui titulus Βάτραχοι, id est Ranae:

Ἀμαθέστερον πως εἰπὲ καὶ σαφέστερον,

id est  Indoctius proloquitor atque clarius. Quo carmine Bacchus Euripidis obscuritatem taxat, qui nescio quid parum dilucide proposuerat. Suidas et interpres admonent subesse prouerbium, quod hunc ad modum feratur:

Σαφέστερόν μοι κἀμαθέστερον φράσον,

id est  Apertius mihi loquere atque indoctius. Suspicor inde sumptum, quod antiquitus illi σοφοί, quos vocant, soleant mysteria sapientiae quibusdam aenigmatum inuolucris data opera obtegere, videlicet ne prophana turba ac nondum philosophiae sacris initiata posset assequi. Quin et hodie nonnulli philosophiae ac theologiae professores, cum ea quandoque tradant, quae quaeuis muliercula aut cerdo dicturus sit, tamen quo docti videantur, rem spinis quibusdam ac verborum portentis implicant et inuoluunt. Sic Plato numeris suis obscurauit suam philosophiam. Sic Aristoteles multa mathematicis collationibus reddidit obscuriora.



With a Thicker Muse

Erasmus, Adagia 1.38


Παχύτερα Μούσῃ, that is, with a thicker Muse. Quintilian brought out the same phrase in the first book of his Institutio Oratoria:

It is pleasing because of some less experience people to take away the doubt about this utility with a thicker Muse, as they say.

Sometimes among some not inadequate writers it is found with a richer formula for it, which is: more plainly and more intelligibly. Sometimes people said to speak Latin in place of that phrase, which was meant to signify:: openly and simply. Cicero writes in Against Verres:

Understand that I am speaking Latin, not Accusationese.

He also writes in his Philippics:

but as is the custom with those, who speak plainly and in Latin.

In the Priapeia:

It is much simpler to say ‘let me fuck you in the ass’ in Latin.

Priapeia - Wikipedia


Παχύτερα Μούσῃ, id est Crassiore Musa. Eandem paroemiam sic extulit Quintilianus Institutionum oratoriarum libro i.:

Libet propter quosdam imperitiores etiam crassiore, vt vocant, Musa dubitationem huius vtilitatis eximere.

Inuenitur aliquoties apud scriptores non inidoneos pinguiore formula pro eo, quod est: planius atque intelligibilius. Dictum est et Latine loqui pro eo, quod est: aperte et simpliciter. M. Tullius in Verrem:

Latine me scitote, non accusatorie loqui.

Idem in Philip.:

Sed vt solent ii, qui plane et Latine loquuntur.

In Priapeiis:

Simplicius multo est, da paedicare, Latine/Dicere.

Thick Minerva

Erasmus, Adagia 1.37:


Minerva, according to the stories of poets, presides over arts and minds. From this came the phrase: Minerva unwilling. Beyond that, there was also the phrase with a fat or with a thick Minerva, which is indeed sometimes granted the solemn honor of being treated as a proverb. Columella, in the first chapter of his twelfth book of On Rural Matters, writes,

In this study of the country, however, scrupulosity of that sort is not examined, but as it is said, as long as he has a fat Minerva, a useful presage of a future storm will fall to the overseer.

Similarly, in the preface of the first book:

For agricultural matters can be administered neither by the subtlest nor on the other hand, as they say, by a fat Minerva.

And again, he also writes in the tenth book:

Nor is the subtlety of Hipparchus necessary to what they call the more fertile letters of rustic people.

That is said to occur with a fatter Minerva which occurs with less order, and with more simplicity, as if with less learning, and not with refined or exceptionally exacting care. Thus, when that Priapus, asks with naked words, though he could have sought it more urbanely through verbal convolutions, he says, ‘My Minerva is thick.’ And Horace, describing a philosopher instructed not in those precise reasonings and subtleties of the Stoics, but as if, without any art, expressing his philosophy according to his custom, and not so much learned as simple and sincere, says,

A rustic, irregularly wise and with a thick Minerva.

Aulus Gellius, in Attic Nights 14.1, writes,

Nevertheless, it was his opinion that in no way could that be comprehended and understood by however brilliant a human mind in such a brief and exiguous space of life, but that some few things were subject to mere conjecture and, if I may use his phrase, with a παχτερον,

that is, more thickly and with a fat Minerva[1].

Manuth, Volker. “Minerva in Her Study” (2017). In The Leiden Collection Catalogue, 3rd ed.



Minerua iuxta poetarum fabulas artibus atque ingeniis praesidet. Vnde et illud fluxit: Inuita Minerua. Praeterea illud Pingui seu crassa Minerua, quod quidem iam olim prouerbii vice celebratur. Columella libro De re

rustica duodecimo, capite primo.

In hac autem, inquit, ruris disciplina non consideratur eiusmodi scrupulositas, sed quod dicitur, pingui Minerua, quantumuis vtile continget villico tempestatis futurae praesagium.

Idem in primi libri praefatione:

Potest enim nec subtilissima nec rursum, quod aiunt, pingui Minerua res agrestis administrari.

Idem libro decimo:

Nec tamen Hipparci subtilitas pinguioribus, vt aiunt, rusticorum literis necessaria est.

Dicitur pinguiore Minerua fieri, quod inconditius simpliciusque quasique indoctius fit, non autem exquisita arte nec exactissima cura. Vnde et Priapus ille, cum rem obscoenam, quam poterat vrbanius per inuolucra verborum petere, nudis verbis rogat, Crassa, inquit, Minerua mea est. Et Horatius philosophum describens non exactis illis Stoicorum rationibus atque argutiis instructum, sed veluti citra artem philosophiam moribus exprimentem neque tam disertum quam simplicem ac syncerum,

Rusticus, inquit, anormis sapiens crassaque Minerua.

Aulus Gellius lib. xiiii., cap. i.:

Nequaquam tamen id censebat in tam breui exiguoque vitae spatio, quantouis hominis ingenio comprehendi posse et percipi, sed coniectari pauca quaedam et, vt verbo ipsius vtar, παχτερον, id est crassius et pingui Minerua.


[1] Erasmus is stretching the application of this excerpt.

Pride and Proportionality

Erasmus, Adagia 1.36:


As we recently related, this phrase seems to pertain equally to the reciprocation of both duty and of injury, but it should refer even more to the recompense for some favor, because Hesiod says:

Αὐτῷ τῷ μέτρῳ, καὶ λώϊον, αἴ κε δύνηαι,

that is, Either in the same proportion, or even better, if it is possible. With this phrase, he teaches that some duty is to be repaid either in the same measure or in an even greater degree, if the opportunity allows, and that in this respect especially we should imitate the fertile fields, which customarily return the seed deposited in them with much interest.

A passage from Lucian’s Imagines is cited in turn:

Αὐτῷ μέτρῳ φασὶ <ἢ> και λώϊον,

that is, In the same proportion, as they say, or better. Cicero, in his thirteenth book of Letters to Atticus, writes:

‘I was preparing myself for that which he had send me so that αὐτῷ τῷ μέτρω καὶ λώϊον [in the same proportion or better], if only I could. For Hesiod even adds this phrase, αἴ κε δύνηαι [if only you are able].

He was not weighed down by this adage, just like our instructor Christ in the Gospel, when he says that some day, with whatever proportion we have measured out to others, it will be with that same proportion that others measure out to us. He speaks thus in Matthew:

Ἐν ᾧ γὰρ κρίματι κρίνετε, κριθήσεσθε, καὶ ἐν ᾧ μέτρῳ μετρεῖτε, μετρηθήσεται ὑμῖν,

that is, In whatever judgment you judge, in that you will be judged, and in whatever proportion you measure out to others, in that proportion they will measure out to you.

Erasmus - Wikipedia


Quod modo retulimus, videtur pariter et ad officii et ad iniuriae retaliationem pertinere, verum ad beneficii pensationem magis referendum, quod ait Hesiodus:

Αὐτῷ τῷ μέτρῳ, καὶ λώϊον, αἴ κε δύνηαι,

id est

Aut mensura eadem, aut melius quoque, si qua facultas.

Quo docet officium remetiendum esse eadem mensura aut etiam copiosiore, si suppetat facultas, prorsumque hac parte imitandos esse foecundos agros, qui sementem depositam multo cum foenore reddere consueuerunt.

Citatur a Luciano prouerbii vice in Imaginibus:

Αὐτῷ μέτρῳ φασὶ <ἢ> και λώϊον,

id est Eadem mensura, quod aiunt, aut melius. M. Tullius Epistolarum ad Atticum libro decimotertio:

Ego autem me parabam ad id, quod ille mihi misisset, vt αὐτῷ τῷ μέτρω καὶ λώϊον, si modo potuissem. Nam hoc etiam Hesiodus asscribit, αἴ κε δύνηαι.

Hoc adagio non grauatus est vti praeceptor noster Christus in Euangelio, cum ait futurum, vt qua mensura fuerimus aliis emensi, eadem nobis alii remetiantur. Sic enim loquitur apud Matthaeum:

Ἐν ᾧ γὰρ κρίματι κρίνετε, κριθήσεσθε, καὶ ἐν ᾧ μέτρῳ μετρεῖτε, μετρηθήσεται ὑμῖν,

id est In quo iudicio iudicatis, in eo iudicabimini, et qua mensura metimini aliis, illa remetientur vobis).

Between the Altar and the Knife

Erasmus, Adagia, 1.1.15:

“Tyndarus, one of the captives in the play of that name by Plautus, was caught red-handed in the middle of his scheming. Having no device by which he could escape, he said

Now I am utterly destroyed. Now I stand between the altar and the knife, and I don’t know what to do.

Apuleius, in the eleventh book of his Golden Ass, writes:

At a time when the hardness of poverty was interfering with my life, I was – as the ancient proverb has it – being put to torture between the altar and the knife .

Apuleius, however, explains the saying allegorically as referring to the priesthood to which he was about to be initiated, and the poverty which was harder than a rock, on account which no resources were at hand. It is clear that this has been taken from the earliest ceremonies of striking up a treaty, in which the Fetial would strike a pig while pronouncing these words: ‘whoever breaks this treaty first, let Jupiter smite him just as I smite this pig with this rock.’ But though the proverb has flowed this way and that, it is clear enough that it was usually applied to those who, in their perplexity, are driven to the most extreme danger.”

Image result for roman sacrifice pig

Inter sacrum et saxum.xv

Tyndarus apud Plautum, alter e captivis, cum jam proditis dolis esset deprehensus nec haberet, quanam arte possit elabi,

Nunc ego, inquit, omnino occidi.

Nunc ego inter saxum sacrumque sto, nec quid faciam scio.

Apuleius Asini sui libro undecimo:

Plurimum ergo duritia paupertatis intercedente, quod ait vetus proverbium, inter sacrum et saxum positus cruciabar.

Explicat autem Apuleius allegoriam adagii videlicet alludens ad sacerdotium, cui erat initiandus, et paupertatem saxo duriorem, per quo non suppetebant sumptus. Sumptum apparet ex priscis foederis feriendi ceremoniis, in quibus fecialis porcum saxo feriebat haec interim pronuntians : Qui prior populus foedus rumpet, Jupiter eum feriat, quemadmodum ego porcum hoc lapide ferio. Sed undecumque fluxit adagium, satis liquet dici solitum in eos, qui perplexi ad extremum periculum rediguntur.

A Lengthy Disquisition on Shit-Talking

Erasmus, Adagia 27:

If you say what you want to say, you will hear what you do not want to hear. St. Jerome cites this in the place of a proverb in his work Against Rufinus: ‘You will hear nothing more than this, except that from the crossroads: when you say what you want, you will hear what you don’t. Terence, in his Andria, writes:

If he continues to say what he wants, he will hear what he doesn’t.

and in his prologue to Phormio:

If he had contended against him with well-chosen words, he would have heard something good in return,

and he even alluded to the same thing in his prologue to Andria:

Let them cease to talk shit, lest they learn of their own crimes.

and somewhat more obscurely, he writes in his prologue to The Eunuch:

Then, if there is anyone who thinks that something here has been spoken a little ungenerously about him, let him think so, but understand that this was not an attack…

for by the word responsum, he means an attack made in return for another. But this passage reminds me that I should contradict the error of certain people who had written in the margin that I read in the following lines because he first did harm [quia laesit prius: indeed, thus it was written in the common copies. I, before anyone else, restored the proper reading, to wit:

Just as [quale sit] he who, first translating them well and describing them badly made bad Latin plays out of good Greek ones, and who now recently did the same for Menander’s Phasma

where the phrase quale sit has the same force as the Greek οἷον or the Latin velut or quod genus sit, which we use when we are about to lay out an example. For he was recounting the act of returning an assault, and then he added an example, and then first [prius] responds to the adverb which follows, recently [nuper]. So the sense is something like, ‘who earlier had translated many plays badly, which you now do not remember, also recently produced that shitty version of the Phasma, which you can remember.’

But, to return to the subject at hand, it seems that Homer was the father of this adage, and we read in this verse of Book 20,

              Ὁπποῖόν κ᾽ εἴπῃσθα ἔπος, τοῖόν κ᾽ ἐπακούσαις, that is,

You will hear such a speech as you have just made.

Similarly, Hesiod, in his Works and Days, writes,

Εἰ δὲ κακόν τ᾽ εἴποις, τάχα κ᾽ αὐτὸς μεῖζον ἀκούσαις,  that is

It is likely that to one talking shit, much shit will be talked in turn.

And again in that same book,

Εἰ δέ κεν ἄρχῃ

Ἤ τι ἔπος εἰπὼν ἀποθύμιον ἠὲ καὶ ἔρξας,

Δὶς τόσα τίννυσθαι μεμνημένος,  that is,

If first you yourself either say or do some bad word or deed, you will see it return to you with doubled interest.

Euripides, in his Alcestis, writes:

Εἰ δ᾽ ἡμᾶς κακῶς

Ἐρεῖς, ἀκούσῃ πολλὰ κοὐ ψευδῆ κακά,  that is,

If you talk some shit to me, you will hear a lot of shit in turn, and it will be true.

But Sophocles expressed the same sentiment in a much more charming way, and Plutarch cites him thus:

Φιλεῖ γὰρ γλῶτταν ἐκχέας μάτην

Ἄκων ἀκούειν οὒς ἑκὼν εἴπῃ λόγους, that is,

Indeed, the one who has tossed about his words carelessly is usually unwilling to hear what he was willing to say.

But the phrase from Sophocles is actually:

Φιλεῖ δὲ πολλὴν γλῶσσαν ἐκχέας μάτην

Ἄκων ἀκούειν οὓς ἑκὼν εἶπεν κακῶς,  that is

The one who pours out words carelessly is usually unwilling to hear the kind of shit he talked.

Indeed, even in our own times, the common saying goes, As you greet someone, so too will you be greeted, which is to say that people will respond to you in the manner of your own speech. Plautus writes, If you speak an insult, you will hear one. Caecilius, in his Chrysius as cited by Gellius, writes: You will hear an insult if you speak one to me. The same sense can be had from that Euripidean verse which one encounters in some authors, Ἀχαλίνων στομάτων ἀνόμου τ᾽ ἀφροσύνης τὸ τέλος δυστυχία, that is, The end of unbridled mouths and ungoverned madness is calamity. Celebrated among Chilon’s sayings is, Μὴ κακολογεῖν τοὺς πλησίον·εἰ δὲ μή, ἀκούσεσθαι ἐφ᾽ οἷς λυπήσεσθαι, that is, Don’t talk shit to those near you; otherwise you will hear what may case you pain. I think one could also add the little verse which Quintilian said was popular among the common people: He did not really insult him, because the other guy insulted him first.



Si dixeris quae vis, quae non vis audies. Diuus Hieronymus in Rufinum nominatim prouerbii loco citat: Nihilque super hoc audies, inquit, nisi illud e triuio: cum dixeris quae vis, audies quae non vis. Terentius in Andria:  Si mihi pergit quae vult dicere, quae non vult audiet. Rursum in prologo Phormionis: Benedictis si certasset, audisset bene. Eodem allusit in prologo Andriae: Desinant Maledicere, malefacta ne noscant sua. Obscurius etiam in prologo Eunuchi: Tum si quis est, qui dictum in se inclementius Existimet esse, sic existimet, sciat  Responsum non dictum esse, responsum enim vocat conuicium conuicio redditum. Sed hic locus admonet, vt quorundam errorem coarguam, qui in margine  dscripserant me in his quae sequuntur legere, quia laesit prius: imo sic legebatur in vulgatis exemplaribus. Ego primus ex fide veterum restitui germanam lectionem, nimirum hanc:

Quale sit, prius   Qui bene vertendo et eas describendo male

Ex Graecis bonis Latinas fecit non bonas, Idem Menandri Phasma nunc nuper dedit,

vt quale sit idem valeat quod apud Graecos οἷον, apud Latinos ‘velut’ aut ‘quod genus sit’, quibus vtimur exemplum proposituri. Meminerat enim de conuicio regerendo, eius mox subiicit exemplum, deinde prius respondet ad aduerbium quod sequitur, nuper. Qui prius male verterat multas fabulas, quarum non meministis, idem nuper dedit ineptam fabulam Phasma, cuius potestis meminisse. Verum vt ad rem redeamus, primus huius adagii pater Homerus fuisse videtur, apud quem hic versus est in Iliadis Υ:

Ὁπποῖόν κ᾽ εἴπῃσθα ἔπος, τοῖόν κ᾽ ἐπακούσαις,  id est Talia dicentur tibi, qualia dixeris ipse.

Item Hesiodus libro, cui titulus Opera et dies: Εἰ δὲ κακόν τ᾽ εἴποις, τάχα κ᾽ αὐτὸς μεῖζον ἀκούσαις,  id est  Fors male dicenti dicentur plura vicissim. Rursus in eodem:

Εἰ δέ κεν ἄρχῃ

Ἤ τι ἔπος εἰπὼν ἀποθύμιον ἠὲ καὶ ἔρξας,

Δὶς τόσα τίννυσθαι μεμνημένος,  id est

Si quod prior ipse

Aut verbum aut factum dicasue gerasue molestum,

Ad te cum duplici rediturum foenore noris.

Euripides in Alcestide:

Εἰ δ᾽ ἡμᾶς κακῶς

Ἐρεῖς, ἀκούσῃ πολλὰ κοὐ ψευδῆ κακά,  id est

Si dixeris nobis male,

Mala inuicem permulta nec falsa audies.

Longe venustius idem extulit Sophocles citante Plutarcho:

Φιλεῖ γὰρ γλῶτταν ἐκχέας μάτην

Ἄκων ἀκούειν οὒς ἑκὼν εἴπῃ λόγους,  id est

Etenim solet qui dicta temere iecerit,

Audire nolens verba, quae dixit volens.

Refertur ex Sophocle:

Φιλεῖ δὲ πολλὴν γλῶσσαν ἐκχέας μάτην

Ἄκων ἀκούειν οὓς ἑκὼν εἶπεν κακῶς,  id est

Qui multa temere verba fudit, is solet

Audire nolens quae volens dixit male.

Quin etiam his nostris temporibus eiusmodi quiddam vulgo dictitant: Vt salutabis, ita et resalutaberis, hoc est vt tua fuerit oratio, ita tibi respondebitur. Plautus: Contumeliam si dices, audies. Caecilius in Chrysio apud Gellium: Audibis male, si male dicis mihi. Eodem pertinet Euripideum illud apud autores passim obuium: Ἀχαλίνων στομάτων ἀνόμου τ᾽ ἀφροσύνης τὸ τέλος δυστυχία, id est Infrenis oris et iniquae vecordiae finis seu vectigal, calamitas. Celebratur et hoc inter Chilonis apophthegmata: Μὴ κακολογεῖν τοὺς πλησίον· εἰ δὲ μή, ἀκούσεσθαι ἐφ᾽ οἷς λυπήσεσθαι, id est Non esse maledicendum iis, quibuscum agimus; alioquin audituros, quae molestiam adferant. Huc arbitror asscribendum versiculum, quem Quintilianus vt vulgo iactatum citat: Nec male respondit, male enim prior ille rogarat.

Hand Washing and Corruption

Erasmus, Adagia 33:

Socrates in the Axiochus of Plato, says to the sophist Prodicus that this little verse of the comic Epicharmus was always in his mouth: Ἡ δὲ χεὶρ τὴν χεῖρα κνίζει, δός τι καὶ λάβοις τι, that is, one hand wipes the other, give something and get something, obviously reproaching in a humorous way the greed of a man who taught no one for free, and from whom he affirmed that he himself had learned what he was about to speak not for free, but by paying a fee. This idea was worthy then of a Sicilian, then of a ‘cunning poet.’ For thus Cicero labels him. It does, however, advise us that no one can be found who would wish to do someone a service without wishing that the other would repay the favor in turn: rather, duty is called forth by duty, favors called forth by favors. The same adage is expressed this way: Χεὶρ χεῖρα νίπτει, that is, one hand washes the other. Either metaphor has the same sense, for it is a kind of shared benefit when one hand either wipes or washes the other. There is a distich of this sort which was fashionable among the Greeks: Ἀνὴρ γὰρ ἄνδρα καὶ πόλις σῴζει πόλιν.  Χεὶρ χεῖρα νίπτει, δάκτυλος τε δάκτυλον, that is, one man saves another, one citiy saves the other; the hand washes the hand and the finger cleans the finger. Seneca uses this phrase in that ridiculous little book about the death of Claudius.



              Socrates in Axiocho Platonis ait Prodico sophistae hunc Epicharmi comici versiculum semper in ore fuisse:  Ἡ δὲ χεὶρ τὴν χεῖρα κνίζει, δός τι καὶ λάβοις τι,  id est Affricat manum manus, da quiddam et aliquid accipe, videlicet hominis quaestum facete taxans, qui neminem gratis doceret et a quo se quoque quae tum dicturus esset, didicisse affirmabat, at ne id quidem gratuito, imo numerata mercede. Sententia digna tum homine Siculo tum ‘vafro poeta’; sic enim illum appellat Cicero. Monet autem neminem ferme mortalium inueniri, qui velit in quempiam beneficium collocare, a quo non speret aliquid emolumenti vicissim ad se rediturum, sed officium inuitari officio, beneficium beneficio prouocari. Idem adagium effertur et hoc pacto: Χεὶρ χεῖρα νίπτει, id est Manum manus lauat. Idem pollet vtraque metaphora. Nam mutua commoditas est, quoties vel fricat vel abluit manus manum. Circunfertur inter Graecanicas sententias huiusmodi distichon: Ἀνὴρ γὰρ ἄνδρα καὶ πόλις σῴζει πόλιν.