Marcus Manilius

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We are always beginning to live, but are never living.

Marcus Manilius (fl. 1st century AD) was a Roman poet and astrologer, traditionally held to be the author of a poem in five books called Astronomica.



  • Per varios usus artem experientia fecit,
    Exemplo monstrante viam.
    • By several proofs experience art has made,
      Example being guide.
    • Book I, line 61. Quoted by Michel de Montaigne in Essays, Vol. III, Ch. 13 (tr. Charles Cotton).
      • Variant translation: Experience, after many trials, perfected the art, example showing the way.
  • Semper enim ex aliis alias proseminat usus.
    • Experience is always sowing the seed of one thing after another.
    • Book I, line 90.
  • Certis legibus omnia parent.
    • All things obey fixed laws.
    • Book I, line 479.
  • Quis credat tantas operum sine numine moles
    Ex minimis, caecoque creatum foedere mundum?
    • Who can believe that all these mighty works
      Have grown, unaided by the hand of God,
      From small beginnings? that the law is blind
      by which the world was made?
    • Book I, line 492, as reported in Dictionary of Quotations (classical) (1897) by T. B. Harbottle, p. 240.
  • Quot post excidium Trojae sunt eruta regna?
    Quot capti populi? quoties Fortuna per orbem
    Servitium imperiumque tulit, varieque revertit?
    • How many realms since Troy have been o'erthrown?
      How many nations captive led? How oft
      Has Fortune up and down throughout the world
      Changed slavery for dominion?
    • Book I, line 506, as reported in Dictionary of Quotations (classical) (1897) by T. B. Harbottle, p. 248.
  • Omnia mortali mutantur lege creata,
    Nec se cognoscunt terræ vertentibus annis,
    Et mutant variam faciem per sæcula gentes,
    At manet incolumis mundus suaque omnia servat.
    • Death's law brings change to all created things;
      Lands cease to know themselves as years roll on.
      As centuries pass, e'en nations change their form,
      Yet safe the world remains, with all it holds.
    • Book I, line 515, as reported in Dictionary of Quotations (classical) (1897) by T. B. Harbottle, p. 197.
      • G. P. Goold's translation: Everything born to a mortal existence is subject to change, nor does the earth notice that, despoiled by the passing years, it bears an appearance which varies through the ages.
      • Variant translation (disputed): Everything that is created is changed by the laws of man; the earth does not know itself in the revolution of years; even the races of man assume various forms in the course of ages.
  • Rationi nulla resistunt.
    Claustra nec immensæ moles, ceduntque recessus:
    Omnia succumbunt, ipsum est penetrabile cœlum.
    • No barriers, no masses of matter, however enormous, can withstand the powers of the mind. The remotest corners yield to them; all things succumb, the very heaven itself is laid open.
    • Book I, line 541.
  • Volat hora per orbem.
    • The hours fly around in a circle.
    • Book I, line 641.
  • Quis cœlum possit nisi cœli munere nosse?
    Et reperire deum nisi qui pars ipse deorum est?
    • Who can know heaven except by its gifts? and who can find out God, unless the man who is himself an emanation from God?
    • Book II, line 115.
  • Facile est ventis dare vela secundis,
    Fecundumque solum varias agitare per artes,
    Auroque atque ebori decus addere, cum rudis ipsa
    Materies niteat.
    • It is easy to spread the sails to propitious winds, and to cultivate in different ways a rich soil, and to give lustre to gold and ivory, when the very raw material itself shines.
    • Book III, line 26.
  • Æquo stat fœdere tempus.
    • Time stands with impartial law.
    • Book III, line 310.
Nascentes morimur.

We are born but to die.

  • Victuros agimus semper, nec vivimus unquam.
    • We are always beginning to live, but are never living.
    • Book IV, line 5.
  • Nascentes morimur, finisque ab origine pendet.
    • As we are born we die, and the end commences with the beginning.
    • Book IV, line 16. Quoted by Michel de Montaigne in Essays (1580), Book I, Chapter 19.
      • Variant translation: When we are born we die, our end is but the pendant of our beginning.
  • Labor est etiam ipse voluptas.
    • Labor is itself a pleasure.
    • Variant translation (reading ipsa): Even pleasure itself is a toil.
    • Book IV, line 155. Explained by Housman ad loc. The first reading is the correct one in the context.
  • Impendendus homo est, deus esse ut possit in ipso.
    • Man must be so weighed as though there were a God within him.
    • Book IV, line 407.
  • Exemplumque dei quisque est in imagine parva.
    • Every one is in a small way the image of God.
    • Book IV, line 895.
  • Materiae ne quaere modum; sed perspice vires
    Quas ratio, non pondus habet; ratio omnia vincit.
    • Seek not the measure of matter; fix your gaze
      Upon the power of reason, not of bulk;
      For reason 'tis that all things overcomes.
    • Book IV, line 924, as reported in Harbottle's Dictionary of Quotations (classical) (1897), p. 130.

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