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Cupido atque ira consultores pessimi

Original post date: Monday, June 25, 2007

In English: Desire and Anger are the worst advisors.

I though this would be a good follow-up to the previous posting about Latin ira, "anger." You can find the saying in Sallust. The idea, of course, is that if you do what desire or anger urge you to do, you are likely to do something that you will regret. These feelings are the worst possible advisors. And who do you think would be the consultores optimi, the "best advisors"? You can use that as an idea for writing your own Latin saying!

Meanwhile, what I want to focus on today is this word cupido, which I have translated as "Desire," but which is better known in English as "Cupid" himself, that wicked little god wielding such destruction with his tiny bow and arrows.

Depending on what Latin dictionary you use, you might find that you have two separate entries. One entry would be for Cupido (upper-case C), the god who is the son of Venus, goddess of love, whom we call "Cupid." The other entry would be for cupido (lower-case C), meaning "desire, passionate longing, yearning." Of course, this distinction between upper- and lower-case letters is a purely modern distinction (read more about letter cases at wikipedia).

For the Romans, there was just one word, CUPIDO, and it meant both a feeling and the "god" who personified that feeling. In Greek, this same god was called EROS (the same root as in the English word "erotic"). You can read more about Cupid-Eros at wikipedia or, even better, at theoi.com which provides abundant ancient texts for you to read and images to look at.

And what then about IRA, the personification of anger? She can probably be connected with the Greek goddess Lyssa, as can the Latin FUROR. You can read more about these angry divinities at theoi.com (which includes a marvelous picture of Lyssa from a Greek vase painting, where she is clearly labeled ΛΥΣΑ).

So, hoping you are not the victim of either Cupid or Ira at the moment, here is today's proverb read out loud:

204. Cupido atque ira consultores pessimi.

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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