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.

For other examples, visit HERE:



ξένος ὢν ἀκολούθει τοῖς ἐπιχωρίοις νόμοις.
Xénos ṑn akoloúthei toîs epikhōríois nómois.


As a foreigner, follow the laws of that country.

The modern English equivalent of this phrase is “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” The Greek phrase is attributed to Menander. From Wiki:

Menander (/məˈnændər/Greek: Μένανδρος Menandros; c. 342/41 – c. 290 BC) was a Greek dramatist and the best-known representative of Athenian New Comedy. He wrote 108 comedies and took the prize at the Lenaia festival eight times. His record at the City Dionysia is unknown.

He was one of the most popular writers in antiquity, but his work was lost during the Middle Ages and is now known in highly fragmentary form, much of which was discovered in the 20th century. Only one play, Dyskolos, has survived almost complete.

It is often the case that the writings from antiquity, which have survived, are quoting Menander. Here are some examples:

In his First Epistle to the CorinthiansPaul the Apostle quotes Menander in the text “Bad company corrupts good character”, which probably comes from his play Thais; according to 5th century Christian historian Socrates Scholasticus, Menander derived this from Euripides.

“He who labors diligently need never despair, for all things are accomplished by diligence and labor.” — Menander

“Ἀνερρίφθω κύβος” (anerriphtho kybos), best known in English as “the die is cast” or “the die has been cast”, from the mis-translated Latin “iacta alea est” (itself better-known in the order “Alea iacta est“); a correct translation is “let the die be cast” (meaning “let the game be ventured”). The Greek form was famously quoted by Julius Caesar upon committing his army to civil war by crossing the River Rubicon. The popular form “the die is cast” is from the Latin iacta alea est, a mistranslation by Suetonius, 121 AD. According to Plutarch, the actual phrase used by Julius Caesar at the crossing of the Rubicon was a quote in Greek from Menander’s play Arrhephoros, with the different meaning “Let the die be cast!”. See discussion at “the die is cast” and “Alea iacta est“.

He [Caesar] declared in Greek with loud voice to those who were present ‘Let the die be cast’ and led the army across. (PlutarchLife of Pompey, 60.2.9)

Lewis and Short, citing Casaubon and Ruhnk, suggest that the text of Suetonius should read Jacta alea esto, which they translate as “Let the die be cast!”, or “Let the game be ventured!”. This matches Plutarch’s third-person perfect imperative ἀνερρίφθω κύβος (anerrhiphtho kybos).

According to Gregory Hayes’ Translation of “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius, Menander is also known for the quote/proverb: “a rich man owns so many goods he has no place to s***.” (Meditations, V:12)

Another well known quote by Menander is “Whom the gods love dies young”.

2 thoughts on “Dusty Phrases

  1. You’re welcome! I agree about it being interesting. I was not expecting the origin of this expression to go back that far. It’s incredible to me that someone from the early parts of antiquity could still have a notable influence on modern language, even though his own works are now largely lost.