Dusty Phrases

Hi! Welcome to “Dusty Phrases.” You will find below an ancient phrase in one language or another, along with its English translation. You may also find the power to inspire your friends or provoke dread among your enemies.

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εἷς οἰωνὸς ἄριστος, ἀμύνεσθαι περὶ πάτρης
Heîs oiōnòs áristos, amýnesthai perì pátrēs


There is only one omen, to fight for one’s country

This line is from The Iliad, Book 12, line 281.

The Trojan prince Hector says this to his friend Polydamas when the latter was feeling superstitious about a bird omen. The omen was an eagle that flew with a snake in its talons, still alive and struggling to escape. The snake twisted backward until it struck the bird on the neck, forcing the eagle to let the snake fall.

Cultures all over the world seem to share eagle verses serpent mythology. Many (most? all?) nations in history have also shared a willingness to place the cause of war above other concerns.