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Avarum irritat, non satiat pecunia

Original post date: Tuesday, September 26, 2006

In English: Money provokes the greedy person; it doesn't satisfy him.

The verbal charm of this Latin proverb depends on the similarity between the two verbs here: irritat, non satiat. I've been trying to come up with a pair of English verbs that fit together as nicely, but I haven't managed to come up with anything I like. Maybe: "Money makes a greedy man demented, not contented."

I chose this proverb for today in honor of the sentencing of Enron's Andrew Fastow, a perfect example of greed gone mad. Fastow has been sentenced today to six years in prison, the result of a plea bargain in which he testified against his bosses at Enron, Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling.

During the summer, I posted a large collection of Latin proverbs about greed after I saw the genius documentary film, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. If you have not seen this film, I recommend it very highly. I watched it out a sense of civic duty, since Enron was in the news all the time, but I really did not know very much about the story. I expected the documentary to be a bit tedious, but instead it was completely gripping, from start to finish. Through the words and deeds of Lay, Skilling and Fastow, the film shows how their greed for money, for insane amounts of money, launched them into a world that has nothing to do with reality. Enron was a real business, but what they were doing was surreal - and dangerous. It's a cautionary tale that I found both shocking and sobering.

The Romans had many proverbs denouncing the dangers of greed. Proverbs that might have helped Jeff Fastow stay out of jail. Ken Lay has since died - and as for Jeff Skilling, his sentencing is scheduled for next month. I'll have another proverb in honor of that occasion, too!

Meanwhile, here is today's proverb read out loud:

1090. Avarum irritat, non satiat pecunia.

The number here is the number for this proverb in Latin Via Proverbs: 4000 Proverbs, Mottoes and Sayings for Students of Latin.

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