Title page of Epitome Adagiorum
Compiled, improved, and republished over a period of over three decades, Erasmus’ hugely successful Adagia are an annotated collection of Greek and Latin proverbs. Initially issued in 1500, its publisher promoted their contents to ‘gentle youths’ as ‘ornaments’ to be sprinkled over letters and ‘daily talk’. Others saw in this humanistic work a more profound purpose as a means to bolster modern arguments in politics and scholarship through recourse to the timeless wisdom of ancient authors.
The initial work required to compile the Adagia marked a significant stage in Erasmus’ mastery of the Greek language. Many of the proverbs included by Erasmus are still in use today, such as ‘To be in the same boat’, and ‘To look a gift horse in the mouth’.
Author: Desiderius Erasmus
Title: Epitome Adagiorum [Abridged adages] (Cologne: Walter Fabritius, 1564)