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romans and us | publilius servus

If you refuse where you have always granted you invite to theft.

some days you just look up from your book and find that the world is rich in reflection and sense. for me such a day was when i discovered one of the maxims of publilius servus, the first great author of mimes (circa 80 BC).

very little of his writing survives apart from his maxims. but they are as applicable today as when he wrote them. the roman world was perhaps the most similar of all the ancient ones to our own. what makes us so similar? good highways and the almost uninhibited traffic of commerce.

i do not praise these similarities, i only note them. the romans were also among the vilest and most cruel of men.

enough politics, ancient and modern.

here is a list of some of servus’s maxims which i found most interesting. i have divided them into two categories, most pithy and most profound. the epigraph belongs to the latter.

most pithy

Admonish thy friends in secret, praise them openly.

Ready tears are a sign of treachery, not of grief.

A good reputation is more valuable than money.

Better be ignorant of a matter than half know it.

I have often regretted my speech, never my silence.

Prosperity makes friends, adversity tries them.

To do two things at once is to do neither.

There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.

Familiarity breeds contempt.

Money alone sets all the world in motion.

most profound

Depend not on fortune, but on conduct.

Look to be treated by others as you have treated others.

Never promise more than you can perform.

It is no profit to have learned well, if you neglect to do well.

Treat your friend as if he might become an enemy.

The gods never let us love and be wise at the same time.

not enough? more can be found at michael moran’s quotation page.

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