Review by: Michelle Wu - September 28, 2005
With 1,188 proverbs, in English and Latin, this little book serves as a source of inspiration and reflection. I was amazed that these words, written in ancient times, still hold true today. The advice about relationships and human nature caused me to reexamine my own worldview and interactions. The wry jokes written then transcend the barrier of time. Moreover, the index of topics lists the quotes by appropriate keyword, so I could look up what authors thought about a certain topic. The back of the book also provides the means to reference these quotes by author and works quoted.
And unlike many other books of ancient words, Latin Proverbs holds true to these words, without any modern interpretation or analysis. The reader is free to ponder the wisdom of the ancients without filters or suggestion. This book contains the phrases that have withstood the test of time, bringing us insight from the ancients that demonstrate the shared bonds of the human condition.
Review by: Amy Vail, Texas Classics in Action - May 1, 2004
Amy Vail, Baylor University
Waldo E. Sweet, Latin Proverbs: Wisdom from Ancient to Modern Times. Wauconda: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, 2002. 278 pp. $16.95 ISBN: 0865165440
Anyone who has a passion for books of Latin sayings (and who among us does not?) will certainly wish to add Latin Proverbs to the bookshelf. A compendium of 1,188 assorted quotations, the book contains a topical index, an index of authors, and a brief but thorough guide to classical authors and their works. Since this book is designed to appeal as much to amateurs as to professional classicists, this last index should prove especially valuable. (The topical index, by the way, even on its own, is mildly amusing reading, proceeding as it does from milk to millstone to mind to Minerva.)
What distinguishes this book from its many fine predecessors? There are plenty of collections of proverbs already in print. Jon Stone's scholarly Latin for the Illiterati ('96) and Eugene Ehrlich's entertaining Amo, Amas, Amat ('85) and its companion volume Veni, Vidi, Vici ('95) both contain extensive lists of mottoes and sayings. Even Capellanus' Sprechen Sie Lateinisch? Moderne Konversation in lateinischer Sprache (Leipzig 1890), includes in its English edition, Latin can be fun. a modern conversational guide. Facetiae Latinae. sermo hodiernus antique redditus ('75, ed. and trans. Peter Needham) an assortment of well-known proverbs, as well as sections on the Royal Family, the Peerage, and civil and military decorations. These are, naturally, vitally necessary for those whose dearest wish is to compose Latin prose about noblemen who have received the Victoria Cross.
Latin Proverbs surpasses its forerunners in more than a few ways. One of the book's principal virtues is that it ranges further afield than other collections. Dr. Sweet and his contributing editors, Georgia Irby-Massie and Scott Van Horn have harvested the fruit of an impressive array of sources. As is only natural in a collection of this sort, some sixty-two proverbs are taken from the standard stock of Ciceronianisms, while bon mots from the works of Publilius Syrus (an author who perhaps would not enjoy even the slight currency he does these days but for the abiding impress of Frederick Wheelock), account for eighty-five of the listings. One might carp that Seneca the Younger is somewhat overrepresented in Latin Proverbs, for he is quoted some ninety-five times, and not always at his most amusing. An example: In cane sagitas prima est si investigare debet feras, cursus si consequi, audacia si mordere et invadere. These and their like occasionally seem to fall more under the heading of quotation rather than proverb.
These are minor quibbles, for collections of quotations must inevitably include the standard set. Nil sub sole novum, after all, as St. Jerome wrote, and which is included in this collection. Where Latin Proverbs shines is where it goes beyond the usual boundaries, including citations from sources ranging from Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy to Ausonius and even to Theodore Roosevelt. Unexpected delights frequently appear, including Schopenhauer's epigram upon the death of an old housekeeper he had pensioned off: Obit anus, abit onus.
A small orthographical quibble: the use of "j" for a consonantal "i" can be distracting to the eye. The rationale behind this practice, however, should be readily apparent: a substantial number of quotations are taken from mediaeval sources and consistency needed to be maintained.
The English translations are idiomatic without sacrificing any accuracy. Commendably, both sexist usage and slang have been avoided. The line drawings that illustrate the book are charming, but alas, their artist is nowhere named. Could it be the author himself? If so, Dr. Sweet is a man of many talents. The bad crows with the bad eggs are particularly appealing. The book's small size and attractive cover will make it a good gift book.
The book's strongest asset is certainly the fact that wherever possible, the author has included an exact textual citation. This will enable any reader whose curiosity has been piqued by a quotation from a classical author to track down the text and to read it in context. This feature alone, even without the book's fine indices, would render Latin Proverbs unique and valuable.
Review by: John Hazel, JACT Review - September 1, 2003
This is a strange but amusing little volume setting out in bold type and large letters some 1188 proverbs in Latin. The classical authors get a good look-in, but there do seem to be an awful lot of mediaeval and anonymous proverbs, and the mottoes of all the American States are included. Publilius Syrus does well. They seem to be in no logical order, and I can only conclude that they were included in the order in which they came into S's ken. The introduction seems to suggest that there is some order to it, but I have to confess it eludes me. Macrons are included on the long vowels, but alas, these are not always correct. (the old fad for marking any vowel as long before the combination gn rears it head often, in e.g. in no. 974) abd sometimes do violence to the scansion of verse as in no. 577 where the final o of sermo, marked long, must be scanned short. Indeed the author or his macron purveyor scarcely seems to have heard of the law of the brevis brevians, e.g. the word ubi is invariably written with a long i. It is slightly annoying to see j used indiscriminately for consonantal i whether initial or germinated in medial position. There is also an unfortunate tendency not to write lines of verse correctly, and to run one line into another.
The book contains an excellent topical index, and a list of classical authors with brief notes. It is note worthy that a CD Rom of the collection also exists, offercing academic exercises as well. It is quite enjoyable thumbing through the wit and wisdom of these proverbs despite their rather idiosyncratic selection and presentation.
Review: Port Arthur News - June 1, 2003
"Latin Proverbs: Wisdom from Ancient to Modern Times" Even if you aren't going to Eurpe this summer, you can sound like you did. Amicus animae dimidium. A friend is the half of one's soul.
Virtue lives after death; Wuth courage, not with words; A bad end to a bad beginning; He can be bent, but he cannot be broken.
Keep those phrases coming and learn where they came from in this new Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers Inc. book. Think of the conversation starters that will arise from these 1,188 quotes.