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Dulcis inexpertis cultura potentis amici

Original post date: Tuesday, July 03, 2007

In English: The cultivation of a powerful friend is enjoyable, for those who do not know any better!

The saying comes from one of the epistles of Horace. The full form is: Dulcis inexpertis cultura potentis amici: expertus metuit, "The cultivation of a powerful friend is sweet to those who have not tried it before; the one who has tried it knows to be afraid." The contrast is between the experti and the inexperti, the people who have experience and know better than to endanger themselves with powerful friends, and those naive folks with no experience in such matters who do not realize what dangers lurk ahead if they do, indeed, attempt to be friends with the high and mighty.

In other words: too bad, Scooter Libby, fall-guy for the Vice President! Play with fire and you will get burned.

Meanwhile, I'm still carrying on, as in the previous few days, with Latin words formed with the -ura suffix. So far we have had pictura, "painting" from the verb pingere (participle pictus), mixtura, "mixture" from the verb miscere (participle mixtus), iactura, "throwing away, loss" from the verb iacere (participle iactus), and sepultura, "burial" from the verb sepelire (participle sepultus).

Today's saying features cultura, "cultivation," from the verb colere (participle cultus). So, as you can see, the familiar Latin word cultura and the even more familiar English word "culture" belong to this large group of words formed with the nominal suffix -ura (which comes out -ure in English).

Today's saying is also a good warning about the perils of word endings in Latin. Just look at all the words ending in -is! There is dulcis, feminine nominative singular (agreeing with cultura), inexpertis, masculine dative plural (adjective used substantively), and potentis, masculine genitive singular (agreeing with amici). Whew!

So, watching out for those word endings, here is today's proverb read out loud:

423. Dulcis inexpertis cultura potentis amici.

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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