10 Latin Quotes For The Underground

Apropos of nothing at all, Cambridge don and classicist Mary Beard has these suggestions for pithy latinate tubing:

1. “perfer et obdura! dolor hic tibi proderit olim” — or “Be patient and put up with it; one day this pain will pay dividends”. That’s Ovid (Amores III, XIa) reflecting on the insults of his mistress — but fits well enough for the rush hour commute.

2. “quousque tandem abutere, Catilina, patientia nostra” — or “How long Catiline will you abuse our patience?”. The famous first line of Cicero’s first speech against Catiline, attacking the would-be revolutionary (or innocent stooge), Catiline. But you can substitute any adversary for Catiline.. ‘quousque tandem abutere, Boris, patientia nostra?”

3. “arma virumque cano” — or “Arms and the man I sing”. The most famous line in the whole of Latin poetry, the first line of the first book of Virgil’s Aeneid. Though Virgil didn’t exactly mean the arms of the man digging into your side, as you’re stuck in the tunnel between Covent Garden and Leicester Square.

4. “amantium irae amoris integratio est” — or “Lovers’ quarrels are the renewal of love” (that’s from Terence’s comedy, The Woman of Andros, 555). Something to cheer you up after a bad night.

5. “medio tutissimus ibis” — or “You’ll go safest in the middle”, from Ovid, Metamorphoses II, 137. Advice to Phaethon, who was about — disastrously — to drive the chariot of the sun. Probably not much better advice on the underground.

6. “audacibus annue coeptis” — or “Look with favour on a bold start” (as in Virgil, Georgics 1, 40). You could translate as — make for the tube door first, and dont worry about the elder;y, disabled or women with buggies.

7. “nemo enim fere saltat sobrius, nisi forte insanus” — or “No-one dances sober, unless maybe he’s mad” (Cicero, Pro Murena 6, 13). More memories of last night.

8. nil desperandum — or “don’t despair about anything” (Horace, Odes I, 7, 27). Self explanatory for the rush hour journey , but hard advice to follow.

9. Better perhaps would be “nunc est bibendum” — or “Now is the time to drink” (Horace, Odes I, 37, 1 — in the original celebrating the death of Cleopatra).

10. “capax imperii nisi imperavisset” — or “capable of ruling if he hadn’t ruled ” (or roughly, “he had a great future behind him”). This is what Tacitus had to say of Galba after the event. Too soon to tell if that’s true of Boris.

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