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Longae regum manus

Original post date: Wednesday, June 13, 2007

In English: Long are the hands of kings.

After yesterday's proverb about the ears and eyes of the king, I felt obliged to include this one about the royal hands. The influence of a king reaches out over great distances, so you had better be careful. Where the king's hands can reach, there's no room to run, no room to hide.

This was a saying you could find in many forms, such as this version where the dative is used for possession (as often with body parts) instead of the genitive: Longae sunt regibus manus. The highly charged word tyrannus can also be used instead of rex: longae tyrannorum manus. There's even a version that makes the message of the saying more explicit: A regibus cavendum, quod eis praelonga sint brachia, "You should be careful of kings, because they have very long arms."

This saying makes its way into one of Ovid's Heroine Letters, when Helen is writing to her lover Paris. As King Menelaus sailed away on a journey, he told Helen to take good care of their Trojan guest. Helen, however, realizes that being left alone with Paris does not mean that she is really alone, as she explains: "My husband is gone from here in such a way that while absent he is able to guard me; don't you know that kings have long hands?"

sic meus hinc vir abest ut me custodiat absens.
an nescis longas regibus esse manus?


Of course, Menelaus's hands were not long enough to keep hold of Helen, after all!

So, hoping the grasping hands of kings are not causing trouble in your life, here is today's proverb read out loud:

556. Longae regum manus.

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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