Adagia is an annotated collection of Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 and Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

A proverb is a simple and concrete saying popularly known and repeated, which expresses a truth, based on common sense or the practical experience of humanity. They are often metaphorical. A proverb that describes a basic rule of conduct may also be known as a maxim...

s, compiled during the Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 by Dutch
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

Humanism is an approach in study, philosophy, world view or practice that focuses on human values and concerns. In philosophy and social science, humanism is a perspective which affirms some notion of human nature, and is contrasted with anti-humanism....

 Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus. Erasmus' collection of proverbs is "one of the most monumental ... ever assembled" (Speroni, 1964, p. 1).

The first edition, titled Collectanea Adagiorum, was published in Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 in 1500, in a slim quarto
Quarto could refer to:* Quarto, a size or format of a book in which four leaves of a book are created from a standard size sheet of paper* For specific information about quarto texts of William Shakespeare's works, see:...

 of around eight hundred proverbs. By 1508, after his stay in Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, Erasmus had expanded the collection (now called Adagiorum chiliades or "Thousands of proverbs") to over three thousand items, many accompanied by richly annotated commentaries, some of which were brief essays on political and moral topics. The work, which continue to be expanded right up to his death in 1536 (to a final total of 4,251 essays), is the fruit of Erasmus' vast reading in ancient literature.

Commonplace examples from Adagia

Many of the adages have become commonplace in many European languages, and we owe our use of them to Erasmus. Among these in English are:
  • Make haste slowly
  • One step at a time
  • To be in the same boat
  • To lead one by the nose
  • A rare bird
  • Even a child can see it
  • To have one foot in Charon's boat (To have one foot in the grave)
  • To walk on tiptoe
  • One to one
  • Out of tune
  • A point in time
  • I gave as bad as I got (I gave as good as I got)
  • To call a spade a spade
  • Hatched from the same egg
  • Up to both ears (Up to his eyeballs)
  • As though in a mirror
  • Think before you start
  • What's done cannot be undone
  • Many parasangs
    The parasang is a historical Iranian unit of itinerant distance comparable to the European league.In antiquity, the term was used throughout much of the Middle East, and the Old Iranian language from which it derives can no longer be determined...

     ahead (Miles ahead)
  • We cannot all do everything
  • Many hands make light work
  • A living corpse
  • Where there's life, there's hope
  • To cut to the quick
  • Time reveals all things
  • Golden handcuffs
  • Crocodile tears
  • To show the middle finger
  • You have touched the issue with a needle-point (To have nailed it)
  • To walk the tightrope
  • Time tempers grief (Time heals all wounds)
  • With a fair wind
  • To dangle the bait
  • To swallow the hook
  • The bowels of the earth
  • From heaven to earth
  • The dog is worthy of his dinner
  • To weigh anchor
  • To grind one's teeth
  • Nowhere near the mark
  • Complete the circle
  • In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king
  • A cough for a fart
  • No sooner said than done
  • Neither with bad things nor without them (Women: can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em)
  • Between a stone and a shrine (Between a rock and a hard place)
  • Like teaching an old man a new language (Can't teach an old dog new tricks)
  • A necessary evil
  • There's many a slip 'twixt cup and lip
  • To squeeze water out of a stone
  • To leave no stone unturned
  • Let the cobbler stick to his last (Stick to your knitting)
  • God helps those who help themselves
    God helps those who help themselves
    The phrase "God helps those who help themselves" is a popular motto that emphasizes the importance of self-initiative.The phrase originated in ancient Greece, occurring in approximately equivalent form as the moral to one of Aesop's Fables, Hercules and the Waggoner, and later in the great tragedy...

  • The grass is greener over the fence
  • The cart before the horse
  • Dog in the manger
    The Dog in the Manger
    The story and metaphor of The Dog in the Manger derives from an old Greek fable which has been transmitted in several different versions. Interpreted variously over the centuries, it is used now of those who spitefully prevent others from having something that they themselves have no use for...

  • One swallow doesn't make a summer
  • His heart was in his boots
  • To sleep on it
  • To break the ice
  • Ship-shape
  • To die of laughing
  • To have an iron in the fire
  • To look a gift horse in the mouth
  • Neither fish nor flesh
  • Like father, like son
  • Not worth a snap of the fingers
  • He blows his own trumpet
  • To show one's heels

  • Context

    The work reflects a typical Renaissance attitude toward classical texts: to wit, that they were fit for appropriation and amplification, as expressions of a timeless wisdom first uncovered by the classical authors. It is, as well, an expression of the new Humanism
    Humanism is an approach in study, philosophy, world view or practice that focuses on human values and concerns. In philosophy and social science, humanism is a perspective which affirms some notion of human nature, and is contrasted with anti-humanism....

    . The Adagia could only have been possible in the new world of European education, in which careful attention to a broader range of classical texts produced a much fuller picture of the literature of antiquity than had been possible, or desired, in the medieval period. In a period in which sententiæ
    Sententiae are brief moral sayings, such as proverbs, adages, aphorisms, maxims, or apophthegms taken from ancient or popular or other sources, often quoted without context. A sententia , also called a "sentence," is a kind of rhetorical proof...

     were often marked by special fonts and footnotes in printed texts, and in which the ability to use classical wisdom to bolster modern arguments was a critical part of scholarly and even political discourse, it is not surprising that Erasmus' Adagia was among the most popular volumes of the century.

    Source: Erasmus, Desiderius. Adages in Collected Works of Erasmus. Trans. R.A.B Mynors et al. Volumes 31-36. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982-2006. (A complete annotated translation into English. There is a one-volume selection: Erasmus, Desiderius. Adages. Ed. William Barker. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001.)

    External links

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