To make proverbs of some Erasmus adages, try to replace “You’re” by “Don’t. ..” or “It’s unwise to” and similar, and see what you end up with. – TK. Erasmus, who contributed largely to the restoration of letters in Europe, bestowed no small portion of labour in collecting together, and explaining the proverbs. The Adages of Erasmus [William Barker] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. Erasmus was fascinated by proverbs and prepared a collection .

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They do not come much deader, whiter, or more European than Erasmus.

For a start, this is a publishing event. You haven’t been able to get a one-volume selection from the Adages until now. Even so, I would have hardly considered mentioning this were it not for the fact that it is so extraordinarily readable; and often surprisingly relevant. I’ll get back to that.

But Erasmus always was readable. That was his mission, and he usually succeeded.

Adages of Erasmus Quotes

His Praise of Folly, still a masterpiece of slyly subversive wit, was in a sense the first bestseller, read covertly under desks and sniggered over by countless trainee monks and priests. His Colloquies, examples of elegant Latin conversations, enraged the more tiresomely pious with their subtle deflations of religious priggishness, and, translated into English directly defeating their original intended purposecontinued to amuse people until the 19th century – a fact all the more remarkable zdages the author’s tolerant attitude to what are now called gender issues.


His courtesans always get the better of his priests. And now the Adages.

Death to the eagle

This is basically Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable avant la lettre. This may not sound exciting, but the Adages were Erasmus’s most popular work, and it is remarkable how influential they still are. We still refer to Erasmua box because of Erasmus it was, strictly speaking, a jar ; and we call a spade a spade because he mistranslated the Latin scapha, which actually means a skiff. But what makes Erasmus’s Adages special are the digressions.

Adagia – Wikipedia

These are invariably fascinating and connect us to the Renaissance mind with a shock of recognition. If there was one thing that got his goat, it was the abuse of power.

Time and again he returns to the subject of how a good ruler should behave, and to his disgust for brazen pomposity, absolute might, and contempt for the people. Considering that he had plenty of examples to choose from, some of them uncomfortably close to home, this was brave and principled. This is more than just a superb bedside book.


Those who feel a little uncomfortable with American foreign policy these days will read with interest his comments on the kind of rulers who choose the eagle as their symbol.

He hated the eagle, “the greedy, evil eyes, the menacing gape, the cruel eyelids, and most of all Erasmus is also funny: I cannot think of a more congenial companion in all the centuries of recorded rrasmus. But his depiction of the menace of the eagle makes this a book you would do well to look at now.