Si tacuisses, philosophus mansisses
Original post date: Tuesday, January 23, 2007
In English: If you had remained silent, you would have remained a philosopher.
This is a proverb with a very similar message to yesterday's proverb: Stultus quoque, si tacuerit, sapiens reputabitur, "The fool, too, if he can just keep quiet, will be considered a wise man." Yesterday's proverb, though, was a future conditional statement. Today's proverb is one of those delightful Latin past-contrary-to-fact conditions, with the easily recognizably pluperfect subjunctive: If you had kept quiet (you did NOT keep quiet), you would have remained a philosopher (but you did NOT do that!).
The saying is based on a passage from Boethius's remarkable composition, The Consolation of Philosophy:
nam cum quidam adortus esset hominem contumeliis, qui non ad uerae uirtutis usum ad superbam gloriam falsum sibi philosophi nomen induerat, adiecissetque iam se sciturum an ille philosophus esset si quidem inlatas iniurias leniter patienterque tolerasset, ille patientiam paulisper assumpsit acceptaque contumelia uelut insultans: "iam tandem," inquit, "intellegis me esse philosophum?" tum ille nimium mordaciter: "intellexeram," inquit, "si tacuisses."This anecdote in Boethius became part of the treasure trove of exempla that permeated medieval European culture, as for example in the wonderful collection by Odo of Cheriton:
A certain man had heaped insults on a man who had falsely labeled himself a philosopher, but not for the purpose of true virtue but rather for vainglory, and he then added that he would soon know whether the man was really a philosopher or not based on whether he patiently and meekly put up with the insults spoken against him. That man put on a show of patience for a little while as if accepting the insults and scoffing at them. Then he said, "Now can you see that I am a philosopher?" Then the first man said quite cuttingly, "I might, if you had kept quiet."
Mos erat apud Athenas, quod qui voluit haberi pro philosopho, bene verberaretur, et, si patienter se haberet, pro philosopho haberetur. Quidam autem bene uerberabatur, et, antequam iudicatum esset quod philosopho haberetur, statim post uerbera exclamauit dicens: Bene sum dignus uocari philosophus; et respondit ei quidam: Frater, si tacuisses, philosophus esses.As often, Odo pairs up this human story with an animal story (that is one of the great charms of his collection of stories). You can probably guess what animal fable he pairs with the talkative philosopher: the story of the crow who couldn't keep his mouth shut!
There was a custom in Athens, that anyone who wanted to be considered a philosopher would be thoroughly whipped and, if he could undergo this patiently, he would be considered a philosopher. A certain man, however, was thoroughly whipped and, before the judgment was made about his being a philosopher, he shouted out right after the whipping: "I am definitely worthy of being called a philosopher!" Another man answered him: "Brother, if you had kept quiet, you would have been a philosopher."
Caseus in rostro Corvi pendebat ab alto, et Vulpes, cupiens caseum comedere, dixit Corvo: Quam bene cantabat pater tuus! Vellem audire vocem tuam. Corvus aperuit os suum et cantavit, et sic caseus cecidit, et Vulpes eum comedit.So, if you want to be a philosopher, keep your mouth shut! And watch out for those hungry foxes too!
A cheese was dangling on high in the beak of a crow and the fox, wanting to eat the cheese, said to the crow: How nicely your father used to sing! I would like to hear your voice. The crow opened his mouth and sang, and thus the cheese fell down, and the fox ate it.
I'll open my mouth just long enough to read today's proverb out loud...
3447. Si tacuisses, philosophus mansisses.
The number here is the number for this proverb in
If you are reading this via RSS: The Flash audio content is not syndicated via RSS; please visit the Latin Audio Proverbs blog to listen to the audio. You can also hear this saying read aloud at a Polish website: Wladyslawa Kopalinskiego Slownik wyraz?w obcych i zwrot?w obcojezycznych (weblink).
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