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Innocentia ubique tuta

Original post date: Tuesday, November 28, 2006

In English: Innocence is safe everywhere.

I thought this would be a good follow-up to yesterday's proverb, which was also about innocentia. Today's proverb tells us that the person who is innocent is safe everywhere; in other words, someone who has done no wrong has nothing to fear. (The Latin word in-nocens, "innocent," means literally "not-harming," someone who does no harm.)

You can see a great illustration of this motto in Otto Vaenius's Q. Horatii Flacci Emblemata, published in 1612. This book is a set of emblematic images with mottoes and commentaries based on phrases from the poetry of the Roman poet Horace. The book provides a brief and pithy Latin motto for each emblematic image, and then the poem by Horace which inspired the motto. This particular motto is based on the famous poem which begins Integer vitae, scelerisque purus..., "Living a blameless life, unblemished by crime..." The poem is cited in full in Vaenius's book, along with translations into various European languages (not including English, however).

In the image for this particular motto, you can see a man walking unafraid, even though he is challenged by some seriously scary-looking creatures, including a horned dragon with a sharp-tipped tongue.

Even though he faces terrible dangers, the man rejects a pile of weapons which lies off to the side. With this gesture, he shows that he refuses to put on the suit of armor or take up the weapons. Why? Because as an innocent man he has no need of weapons, no need to be on the defensive, brandishing weapons in a show of force. (Use the nifty zoom tool at the website to get a close-up look if you want!)

The man himself looks quite saintly and completely tranquil in the face of these dangers. He is accompanied by a sheep which is clearly under his care, suggesting the image of the "good shepherd," a man who is not only safe but provides safety for his the flock in his charge.

If you have never explored the world of emblem books, they are a wonderful way to learn about Renaissance and early modern Latin. You can see several emblem books at the website entitled Emblem Project Utrecht: Dutch Love Emblems of the Seventeenth Century. It's one of my favorite Latin resources online - if you haven't ever taken a look at an emblem book, this is a great way to get started!

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

14. Innocentia ubique tuta.

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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