Latin Quotes Worth Knowing

Here is my collection of important Latin quotes. Memorizing these has been very valuable for learning the language. I have tried, wherever possible, to locate and include the actual reference to where these appear in ancient texts.

Ab ovo
From the egg
Used to describe excessive detail in storytelling.
The poet Horace wrote that the Trojan War should not be recounted  “nec gemino bellum Troianum orditur ab ovo,” that is to say, from the story of how Helen of Troy was born from one of the twin eggs after Zeus turned her mother Leda into a goose.
Horace, Ars Poetica, 147

Ab ovo usque ad mala
From the egg up to the apples

(I.e., from start to finish, akin to “From soup to nuts”)
Horace, Satires 1.3.6

Ab uno, disce, omnes
From one person, learn everyone
(i.e, one example describes a larger group)
Vergil, Aeneid 2.65-66

Acta est fabula, plaudite!
The play is over, applaud!
(Reportedly, the Emperor Augustus' last words, but delivered 
in Greek)
Suetonius, Divus Augustus 99.1

Ad kalendas Graecas
On the Greek Kalends
(Since the Greeks did not have Kalends in their calendar.
Meant, in essence, “When hell freezes over.”)
Augustus, quoted by Suetonius, Divus Augustus 87

Alea iacta est
The die has been cast
(Spoken when Caesar was about to cross the Rubicon River,
a thing he was not authorized to do with his army. From this,
the phrase “Crossing the Rubicon” has come to mean any
irreversible action which one hopes will turn out well.).
Suetonius, Divus Julius 32

Alter ipse amicus
A friend is another self
Attributed to Cicero, but closest quote is

verus amicus numquam reperietur est enim is qui est 
tamquam alter idem
 (De Amicitia 80)

Amantium irae amoris integratio est
The quarrels of lovers are the renewal of love
Terence, Andria 555

Amicus certus in re incerta cernitur
A true friend is known in an uncertain situation
Cicero, De Amicitia 64.8

Amor tussisque non celantur
Love and a cough cannot be hidden
Latin proverb (often erroneously attributed to Ovid)

Amor vincit omnia
Love conquers all
Vergil, Eclogues 10.69

Arma virumque cano
I sing of arms and a man
Vergil, Aeneid 1.1

Ars longa, vita brevis
Art is long, life is short
Seneca, De brevitate vitae 1, quoting Hippocrates, Prognosticum 1

Aspirat primo Fortuna labori
Fortune smiles upon our first effort
Vergil, Aeneid 2.385

Assiduus usus uni rei deditus et ingenium et artem saepe vincit
Constant practice given to one matter often conquers both genius and art
Cicero, Pro Balbo 45

Audentes fortuna iuvat
Fortune favors those who dare
Often quoted with 
audaces (the bold).
Vergil, Aeneid 10.284

Aurea mediocritas
The golden mean
(Moderation in all things is described as golden.)
Horace, Carmina 2.10.5

Aut viam inveniam aut faciam
Either I will find a way or I will make a way
(Attributed to Hannibal)

Ave atque vale
Hail and farewell
(Catullus addressed to his deceased brother, whose tomb he had visited in Bithynia.)
Catullus, Carmina 101.10

Bella detesta matribus
Wars, detested by mothers
Horace, Carmina 1.24-25

Carpe diem
Seize the day
Horace, Carmina 1.2.8

Carthago delenda est
Carthage must be destroyed
(This exact quote appears nowhere in ancient literature, but Pliny the Elder makes a close reference in Natural 
History 15.74, referring to Cato the Elder “
cum clamaret omni Senatu Cartaginem delendam.”)
Cato the Elder.

Cave canem
Beware of the dog
(A famous mosaic from Pompeii preserves this quote, as well as the author Petronius.)
Petronius, Satyricon 29

Cedant arma togae
Let arms yield to the toga
(I.e., let warfare defer to civility and law.)
Cicero, De officiis 1.22.77

Cui bono?
To whose benefit?
(A legal maxim asserting that whoever most benefits from a crime may be the guilty party.)
Cicero, Pro Milone 12.32

Cui dono lepidum novum libellum?
To whom do I give my new elegant little book?
Catullus, Carmina 1.1

Cum Timendi sit causa nescire
While ignorance is the cause of fear
(Sometimes quoted as 
Timendi causa est nescire)
Seneca, Quaestiones Naturales 6.3

Da mi basia mille
Give me a thousand kisses
Catullus, Carmina 5.7

Davus sum, non Oedipus
I’m Davus, not Oedipus
(Meaning, I can’t solve riddles.)
Terence, Andria 1.2

De mortuis nil nisi bonum
Say nothing but good about the dead
(Latin translation of words attributed to the Spartan Chilon, quoted by Diogenes Laertes, Vitae 1.70)

Difficile est longum subito deponere amorem
It is difficult to suddenly give up a long love
Catullus, Carmina 76.13

Difficile est tenere quae acceperis nisi exerceas
It is difficult to retain what you have learned unless you practice it
Pliny the Younger, Epistulae 8.14.3

Dulce bellum inexpertis
War, sweet to those who have not experienced it
Erasmus, quoting Pindar

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori
It is sweet and proper to die for one's country
Horace, Carmina 3.2

Dum spiro, spero
While I breathe, I hope
Attributed to Cicero, who speaks similarly in Ad Atticum 9.11.2

Dux femina facti
A woman was the leader of the deed
Vergil,  Aeneid 1.364

Eheu fugaces, Postume, Postume, labuntur anni
Oh no, the fleeting years, Postumus, Postumus, slip by
Horace, Carmina 2.14.1

Errare humanum est
To err is human
(Attributed to Seneca the Elder, who does write “
per humanos errores” (through human errors [Controversiae 
4.3]). A closer parallel is found in Cicero “
cuiusvis hominis est errare” (It is every human’s tendency to err 
[Phillipics 12.2.5])

Et tu, Brute?
Even you, Brutus?
(Shakespeare [Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene 1] popularized this Latin version of Julius Caesar’s actual final words, 
spoken in Greek, 
καὶ σὺ τέκνον)
Suetonius, Divus Julius 82.2

Etiam capillus unus habet umbram
Even one hair has a shadow
Publilius Syrus, Sententiae 148

Ex ossibus ultor!
An avenger from our bones!
(Vergil, Aeneid 4.634

Exegi monumentum aere perennius
I have erected a monument more enduring than bronze
Horace, Carmina 3.39.1

Experto credite
Believe the expert
Vergil, Aeneid 9.283

Facilis descenso Averni
Easy is the descent into hell
Vergil, Aeneid 6.426-427

Facilius enim per partes in cognitionem totius adducimur
We are more easily led part by part to an understanding of the whole
Seneca, Epistulae 14.1

Fama, malum qua non aliud velocius ullum
Rumor, faster than which there is no other evil
Vergil, Aeneid 4.173

Felicior Augusto, melior Traiano
Luckier than Augustus, Better than Trajan
Eutropius, Breviarium 8.5

Felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas
Happy is he who has been able to learn the causes of things
Vergil, Georgics 2.490

Fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt
Men readily believe what they want to believe
Caesar, Gallic Wars 3.18

Festina lente
Make haste slowly
(Erasmus [Adagia 2.1.1] gives us the Latin translation of Augustus’ Greek original quote, 
Σπεῦδε βραδέως)
Suetonius, Divus Augustus 25

Fluctuat nec mergitur
It is tossed by the waves but it does not sink
Latin proverb

Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit
Perhaps it will even help to remember these things one day
Vergil, Aeneid 1.202

Fortes fortuna adiuvat
Fortune helps the brave
audentes fortuna adiuvat above.)
Terence, Phormio 203

Fugit inreparabile tempus
Irretrievable time flies
(Often quoted as 
Tempus Fugit)
Vergil, Georgics 3.284

Gens togata
The toga-clad race
(I.e., the Romans, since only they wore togas. Nominative case version from Vergil’s original, where the phrase is 
gentemque togatam.)
Vergil, Aeneid 1.282

Genus irritabile vatum
The irritable race of poets
Horace, Epistolae 2.2.102

Gladiator in arena consilium capit
The gladiator is making his plan in the arena (i.e., too late)
Seneca, Epistolae 22.1

Graecia capta ferum victorem cepit et artes intulit agresti Latio
Captive Greece conquered her savage victor and brought her arts into rustic Latium
Horace, Epistulae 2.1.156-157

Gutta cavat lapidem
The drop excavates the stone
Ovid, Pontica 4.10.5

Hannibal ante portas!
Hannibal is at the doors!
From Cicero, “
Si Hannibal ad portas venisset...negaret esse in malis.” De Finibus 4.9.22

Hinc illae lacrimae
Hence those tears
Terence, Andria 126.

Homines, dum docent, discunt
People learn while they teach
Seneca, Epistolae 7.8

Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto
I am human, therefore nothing human is alien to me
Terence,  Heauton Timorumenos 1.1

Ille mi par esse deo videtur
He seems to me to be equal to a god
Catullus, Carmina 51.1

In medias res
Into the midst of things
Horace, Ars Poetica 148

In silvam ne ligna feras
Don't carry logs into the forest
Horace, Satirae 1:10:34 

Incidit in Scyllam, cupiens vitare Charybdim
He runs onto Scylla, wanting to avoid Charybdis.
(Frequently quoted as “Between Scylla and Charybdis.”  It’s the same sentiment as “Out of the frying pan and into the 
fire ” or “Between a Rock and Hard Place.
Gauthier de Chatillon (Alexandreis 5.2549), describing Darius as he fled from Alexander the Great

Insanabile cacoethes scribendi
An incurable passion for writing
Juvenal, Satires 7.51-52

Labor omnia vincit
Work conquers all things
Vergil, Georgics 1.145

Maecenas atavis edite regibus
Maecenas, born of monarch ancestors
Horace, Carmina 1.1

Manus manum lavat
Hand washes hand
(I.e., You scratch my back; I’ll scratch yours.)
Seneca, Apocolocyntosis, 9.9

Medici graviores morbos asperis remediis curant
Doctors cure the more serious diseases with harsh remedies
Curtius Rufus, Historiae Magni Alexandri 5.9

Mens sana in corpore sano
A sound mind in a sound body
Juvenal, Satires 10.356

Miles gloriosus
Praiseworthy soldier
Title of play by Plautus

Nemo repente fuit turpissimus
No one ever became thoroughly bad all at once
Juvenal, Satires 2.83

Non est ad astra mollis e terris via
There is no easy way from the earth to the stars
Seneca, Hercules furens 437

Non omnia possumus omnes
Not all of us are able to do all things
Vergil, Bucolics 8.63

Non ut edam vivo, sed vivam edo
I do not live to eat, but eat to live
Quintilianus, Institutes 9.3.85

Nosce te ipsum
Know thyself
Latin translation of the famous Greek slogan inscribed at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, 
γνῶθι σεαυτόν.

Nulla dies sine linea
Not a day without a line
Apeles, Greek painter, quoted by Pliny, Natural History 35.36

Nullum magnum ingenium sine mixtura dementiae
There is no one great ability without a mixture of madness
Seneca, De Tranquillitate Animi 18.1

Nullum saeculum magnis ingeniis clausum est
o generation is closed to great talents
Seneca, Epistolae 102

Nunc est bibendum
Now we must drink
Horace, Carmina 1.37

O di immortales!
O immortal gods!
Uttered by Cicero on the Senate floor, Pro Milone 38.104

O tempora, O mores!
Oh, the times! Oh, the morals!
Cicero, In Catilinam 1.2

Oderint dum metuant
Let them hate so long as they fear
From the now lost tragedy Atreus by Accius (2nd BCE), quoted by Cicero in Philippicae 1.14

Odi et amo
I hate and I love
Catullus, Carmina 85.1

Omnia vincit amor; et nos cedamus amori
Love conquers all things; let us too surrender to love
Vergil, Bucolics 10.69

Panem et circenses
Bread and circuses.
(Food and games to keep people happy.)
Juvenal, Satires 10.80-81

Parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus
Mountains will be in labour, and a ridiculous mouse will be born. (A lot of work and nothing to show for it)
Horace, Ars Poetica 139, from Plutarch, Agesilaus 36

Perfer et obdura; dolor hic tibi proderit olim
Be patient and tough; some day this pain will be useful to you
Ovid, Amores 3.11.7

Pollice verso
With turned thumb
Juvenal, Satires 3.36

Potius sero quam numquam
Better late than never
Livy, Ab Urbe condita 4.2

Purpureus Pannus
Purple patch
(I.e., a passage excessively full of literary devices.)
Horace, Ars Poetica 1:15-16

Qui non est hodie cras minus aptus erit
He who is not prepared today will be less so tomorrow
Ovid, Remedia Amoris 94

Quidquid id est, timeo Danaos et dona ferentes
Whatever it is, I fear the Greeks, even bearing gifts
(Quoted in English as "Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts.")
Vergil, Aeneid 2.49

Quos amor verus tenuit, tenebit
True love will hold on to those whom it has held
Seneca, Thyestes 551

Quot homines, tot sententiae
For as many people, there are that many opinions
Terence, Phormio 2.4.14

Qualis artifex pereo
Such an artist dies in me
(Emperor Nero's famous last words)
Suetonius, Nero 49

Rara avis
A rare bird
(I.e., any unusual or rare thing.)
Juvenal, Satires 2.6.165

Sapere aude
Dare to be wise
Horace Epistolae 1.2.40

Sed quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
Who shall keep watch over the guardians themselves?
Juvenal, Satires 6.347-348

Si vis pacem, para bellum
If you want peace, prepare for the war
(After Vegetius’ Institutiones rei militaris, 3, prologue, 
Ergo qui desiderat pacem praeparet bellum)

Sic itur ad astra
Thus is the way to the stars
Vergil, Aeneid 9.640

Sic semper tyrannis
Thus always to tyrants
(Often mistranslated as "Death to Tyrrants!")
Attributed to Marcus Brutus (though not in his own time) and reportedly said by John Wilkes Booth after shooting 

Silent enim leges inter arma
Laws are silent in times of war
(Sometimes quoted as 
Inter arma silent leges)
Cicero, Pro Milone 4

Sine ira et studio
Without rage or bias
Tacitus, Annals 1.1

Solve senescentem mature sanus equum
Be wise in time and release an aging horse
Horace, Epistolae 1.1.8

Stultum est timere quod vitare non potes
It is foolish to fear that which you cannot avoid
Publilius Syrus, Sententiae 752

Sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt
These are the tears of things, and mortality touches the mind
Vergil, Aeneid 1.462

Tabula Rasa in qua nihil est scriptum
A clean slate upon which nothing has been written
Aristotle, De Anima 3:4, as quoted by St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Quaestiones de anima 8

Taedium vitae
Tiredness of life
Pliny the Elder, Natural History 7.54

Tantae molis erat Romanam condere gentem
So great a burden it was to found the Roman people
Vergil, Aeneid 1.33

Tantaene animis caelestibus irae?
Can such great angers reside in heavenly minds?
Vergil, Aeneid 1.11

Tempus edax rerum
Time, the devourer of things
Ovid, Metamorphoses 15.234

Utinam populus Romanus unam cervicem haberet!If only the Roman people had one neck!
(I.e., so he could strangle them all together.)
Suetonius, Caligula 30

Vare, Vare, redde mihi legiones!
Varus, Varus, give me back my legiones!
(Thus it is quoted. The original quote is 
Quinti Vare, legiones redde!)
Suetonius, Divus Augustus 23

Vae victis!Woe to the conquered!
Livy, Ab Urbe Condita 5.48

Veni, vidi, viciI
I came, I saw, I conquered
Spoken by Julius Caesar, Suetonius, Divus Julius 37

Vir bonus, dicendi peritus
A good man, expert in speaking
Quintilianus, describing Cato the Elder in Institutes 12.1

.Vitae Necisque Potestas
The power of life and death
(The absolute power of the Paterfamilias within his family.)
Sallust, Jugurtha 14

Vivamus, mea Lesbia, atque amemus
Let us live, my Lesbia, and let us love
Catullus, Carmina 5.1

Vixere fortes ante Agamemnona
Brave men lived before Agamemnon
(Meaning, great people’s lives have gone unrecorded.)
Horace, Carmina 4.9

No comments:

Post a Comment