Valerius Maximus

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Valerius Maximus was a 1st-century Latin writer and author of a collection of historical anecdotes: Factorum et dictorum memorabilium libri IX ("Nine books of memorable deeds and sayings", also known as De factis dictisque memorabilibus or Facta et dicta memorabilia). He worked during the reign of Tiberius (14 to 37 AD).


  • Deos enim reliquos accepimus, Caesares dedimus.
    • Others we receive for gods, Caesars we make such.
  • Lento enim gradu ad vindictam sui divina procedit ira tarditatemque supplicii gravitate pensat.
    • Divine anger proceeds at a slow pace to avenge itself, and compensates for the slowness with the gravity of the punishment.
      • I, 1, ext. 3 (tr. Samuel Speed, 1678)
        • Other translations:
          The divine wrath moves with slow steps in the path of retribution, and makes up for slowness by the severity of the punishment inflicted.
          —W. F. H. King, Classical and Foreign Quotations, 3rd ed. (1904), no. 2499
  • Aspero enim et absciso castigationis genere militaris disciplina indiget, quia vires armis constant, quae ubi a recto tenore desciverint, oppressura sunt, nisi opprimantur.
    • Military discipline requires a severe and quick method of punishment. For force consists of armed men, who when they grow disobedient will soon oppress others, unless they be brought low themselves.
  • Speciosius aliquanto iniuriae beneficiis vincuntur quam mutui odii pertinacia pensantur.
    • It is more splendid to overcome injuries with benefits, than to retaliate with obstinate animosity.
  • Haec ... ornamenta sunt mea.
    • These are my ornaments.
      • IV, 4, incipit
        • Valerius Maximus relates an anecdote of Cornelia, which has often been cited. A Campanian lady, who was at the time on a visit to her, having displayed to Cornelia some very beautiful ornaments which she possessed, desired the latter, in return, to exhibit her own. The Roman mother purposely detained her in conversation until her children returned from school, when, pointing to them, she said this famous locution: also commonly translated as "These are my jewels."
          See also: Ogden Nash, "Columbus" in The Face is Familiar (1940): "And she said, Here are my jewels, and she wasn’t penurious like Cornelia the mother of the Gracchi, she wasn’t referring to her children, no, she was referring to her jewels, which were very very valuable."
  • Ubi idem et maximus et honestissimus amor est, aliquanto praestat morte iungi quam distrahi vita.
    • When love is so great and so honourable, it is better to be joined in death than to be separated by life.
  • Verum nulla tam modesta felicitas est, quae malignitatis dentes vitare possit.
    • There is no prosperity so modest, that it can escape the teeth of envy.
  • Mirifice et ille artifex, qui in opere suo moneri se a sutore suo de crepida et ansulis passus, de crure etiam disputare incipientem supra plantam ascendere vetuit.
    • It was well done by the artist, who allowed himself to be corrected by a cobbler, as to the shoes and loops; but when he began to talk about the shin, forbade him to go beyond the foot.
      • IV, 12, ext. 3 (tr. Samuel Speed, 1678)
        • See also: Pliny, Natural History, 35, 10, 85: Ne supra crepidam sutor judicaret; quod et ipsum in proverbium venit.—"A cobbler should stick to his last”—a saying that has passed into a proverb.

Classical and Foreign Quotations

W. Francis H. King, ed. Classical and Foreign Quotations, 3rd ed. (1904), nos. 246, 1085, 1729, 2170
  • Cane mihi et Musis.
    • Sing to me and the Muses.
      • 3, 7, ext. 2.
        • Antigenidas, the flute player, having a pupil who in spite of his proficiency did not please the public, said one day to him in the hearing of all the audience, Mihi cane et Musis.—"Play to me and the Muses!"
  • Ingrata · Patria · Ne · Ossa · Quidem · Mea · Habes.
    • Ungrateful country, thou canst not boast even my bones.
      • 5, 3, 2.
        • Inscription ordered to be placed on his tomb by Scipio Africanus (236–183 BC), at Liternum in Campania, in revenge for the unworthy partisan persecution which embittered his last days.
  • Noli, obsecro, istum disturbare.
    • I pray you, do not disturb it.
      • 8, 7, ext. 7.
        • Generally quoted as, Noli turbare circulos meos.—"Do not disturb my circles." Archimedes’ expostulation to the Roman soldier, during the siege of Syracuse, 212 BC, who surprised him engaged upon some geometrical problem figured on the sand, and not being able to get any other reply, put him to death.
  • Provocarem ad Philippum, inquit, sed sobrium.
    • I will appeal to Philip, she said, but to Philip sober.
      • 6, 2, ext. 1
        • Appeal of a foreign woman against judgment pronounced by Philip, King of Macedon, when he was tipsy. The appeal was allowed, and, on the King’s recovering his sobriety, the sentence reversed. Hence the common saying of appealing from Philip drunk to Philip sober; when your opponent, or judge, is so led away by passion, excitement, or what not, as to be unable to take a reasonable view of the case.
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