Ancient Roman Quotes Posted by on Apr 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

Some of the greatest quotes and inspirational sayings come from ancient Rome. One such quote that comes to mind is “Consuetudinis magna vis est” by Cicero. Before I tell you what it means, try to figure out the meaning by yourself. You can get the general gist of a quote even if you don’t understand every word. I’ll give you a couple of hints. Consuetudinis is the genitive singular of consuetudo. Consuetudo means “custom” or “habit”. “Magna”, as you probably already know, means “great”. “Vis” means “power” or “force”. “Est” in this context it means “is”. By now you’ve probably already figured out that the quote is, “The power of habit is great”. In simpler terms it means that habits are hard to break.

There are also some insightful quotes from people that weren’t as famous as Cicero. For instance there’s the quote that goes like this, “Inopi beneficium bis dat, qui dat celeriter” by Publilius Syrus. Publilius Syrus was a Syrian who was brought to Italy as a slave. His wit impressed his master and he was eventually freed. After he earned his freedom he went on to write clever maxims in a volume of work called Sententiae (Sentences). Before I give you the translations, here are some hints to help you figure this quote on your own. “Inopi” means “poor” or “destitute” or “needy”. “Beneficium” = benefit. “Bis” = twice. Qui = who. “Celeriter” = “swiftly”, “quickly” or “immediately”. Put this all together and you get “He who gives quickly benefits the needy twice”. In other words, receiving a prompt payment of a loan will feel as good as receiving twice the amount of what was originally owed.

This next quote is by Emperor Tiberius: “Boni pastoris est tondere pecus, non deglubere”. Once again, here are some hints: Boni = good. Pastoris = shepherd. Tondere = shear. Pecus = sheep. Non = not. Deglubere = to flay (to strip the skin off). The translation of this quote is, “A good shepherd shears his sheep, he doesn’t flay them”. This quote is an analogy that Tiberius used to warn his regional commanders of excessive taxation. He compares his regional commanders to the good shepherd and the populace as the sheep. Moreover, like the good shepherd that shears the hair without flaying the sheep, a good regional commander will tax the people without resorting to overtaxation.

As much as the ancient Romans were fatalists, they were also the proponents of initiative. This next quote was by Appius Claudius Caecus, who was a ancient Roman consul. His speech against an envoy of Pyrrhus was the first political speech from ancient Rome that was recorded on paper. He is best remembered for the quote “Faber est suae quisque fortunae”. “Faber” can mean “artisan” or “workman”, but it can also mean “forger” or “smith”. Suae = his. “Quisque” means “each one” or “each person”. “Fortunae” = fortune. Put it all together and you get “Each person is the smith/forger/maker of his own fortune”.



Keep learning Latin with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it


  1. Louis Wilkerson:

    When people think of inspirational quotes, most often times they think of the modern geniuses of today. But some of the most common or known quotes can be traced back to ancient Rome. Cicero, one of the men one often thinks first of when thinking about Roman history, was the originator of the quote “the power of habit is great.” If this does not sound like something one would say every day, it is because we know this phrase a little differently: habits are hard to break. Another quote we know of, “each person is the maker of his own fortune” also finds its origins in Rome, specifically by Appius Claudius Caecus. In short, the number of quotes that we use every day or at least know of can be found in Rome. Why is this? Because these quotes show that some things in life never change and never will, and that every person can sympathize or even empathize with one another due to the similar circumstances or problems we all face.