Tuesday, June 11, 2019


An Obscure Proverb

Terence, Phormio 768, tr. Peter Brown in Terence, The Comedies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), p. 241, with note on p. 332:
Look before you leap,* as the saying goes.

768 Look before you leap: literally, 'Don't run beyond the hut', i.e. (probably) 'Don't run so far to avoid trouble that you have no place of refuge left'.
The Latin:
ita fugias ne praeter casam, quod aiunt.
Terence, Phormio. Edited with Introduction, Notes & Vocabulary by R.H. Martin (1959; rpt. London: Bristol Classical Press, 2002), p. 153:
768. ita fugias ne praeter casam, an obscure proverb. If, as Donatus suggests, casa is tutissimum receptaculum, the meaning would be 'Run away in such a way that you don't overshoot your place of refuge', perhaps equivalent to 'Don't jump out of the frying pan into the fire'. ita . . . ne, sc. fugias (curras, uel sim.); Latin sometimes has a neg. final clause where English uses a consecutive clause, e.g. Capt. 737, atque hunc me uelle dicite ita curarier ne qui deterius huic sit quam quoi pessume est.
I don't have access to Robert Maltby's edition of Terence's Phormio (Warminster: Aris and Phillips, 2012). For a discussion of various interpretations of the proverb see H.T. Karsten, De Commenti Donatiani compositione et origine (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1907), p. 135.

Paul Wessner, ed., Aeli Donati quod fertur Commentum Terenti, Vol. II (Leipzig: B.G. Teubner, 1905), p. 473:
1 ITA FVGIAS NE PRAETER CASAM VT AIVNT ita fugito, ne praetermittas casam tuam, quae sit tibi tutissimum receptaculum. 2 Aut: ita fugias, ne praetereas casam tuam, ubi custodiri magis et prehendi fur et mulctari uerberibus potest. 3 Aut uerbum erat ipsius custodis furem exagitantis et interea prohibentis, ne ante casam transeat, ne in praetereundo etiam inde aliquid rapiat.

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