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 Troiae 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?

or Who can know heaven unless by the grant of heaven? (reading munere)

    • 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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