Dusty Phrases

Hi! Welcome to “Dusty Phrases.” You will find a phrase below, in one ancient 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:



festina lente


hurry slowly

This oxymoron was a motto of the Roman Emeror Augustus. From wiki:

Festina lente (Classical Latin[fɛsˈtiː.naː ˈlɛn.teː]) or speûde bradéōs (σπεῦδε βραδέως, pronounced [spêu̯.de bra.dé.ɔːs]) is a classical adage and oxymoron meaning “make haste slowly” (sometimes rendered in English as “more haste, less speed”). It has been adopted as a motto numerous times, particularly by the emperors Augustus and Titus, the Medicis and the Onslows.The original form of the saying, σπεῦδε βραδέως speũde bradéōs, is Classical Greek, of which festina lente is the Latin translation. The words σπεῦδε and festina are second-person-singular present active imperatives, meaning “make haste”, while βραδέως and lente are adverbs, meaning “slowly”.

The Roman historian Suetonius, in De vita Caesarum, tells that Augustus deplored rashness in a military commander, thus “σπεῦδε βραδέως” was one of his favourite sayings:

Nihil autem minus perfecto duci quam festinationem temeritatemque convenire arbitrabatur. Crebro itaque illa iactabat: σπεῦδε βραδέως; ἀσφαλὴς γάρ ἐστ᾽ ἀμείνων ἢ θρασὺς στρατηλάτης; et: “sat celeriter fieri quidquid fiat satis bene.”
(He thought nothing less becoming in a well-trained leader than haste and rashness, and, accordingly, favourite sayings of his were: “Hasten slowly”; “Better a safe commander than a bold”; and “That which has been done well has been done quickly enough.”)

Certain gold coins minted for Augustus bore images of a crab and a butterfly to attempt an emblem for the adage. Other such visualizations include a hare in a snail shell; a chameleon with a fish; a diamond ring entwined with foliage; and perhaps most recognizably, a dolphin entwined around an Cosimo I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany took festina lente as his motto and symbolised it with a sail-backed tortoise. This emblem appears repeatedly throughout his Palazzo Vecchio where it was painted by the artist Giorgio Vasari. There are about 100 instances in the palace decorations and frescos and there are now tours with the object of finding them all.

The Renaissance printer Aldus Manutius adopted the symbol of the dolphin and anchor as his printer’s markErasmus (whose books were published by Manutius) featured the phrase in his Adagia and used it to compliment his printer: “Aldus, making haste slowly, has acquired as much gold as he has reputation, and richly deserves both.” Manutius showed Erasmus a Roman silver coin, given to him by Cardinal Bembo, which bore the dolphin-and-anchor symbol on the reverse side.

The adage was popular in the Renaissance era and Shakespeare alluded to it repeatedly. In Love’s Labour’s Lost, he copied the crab and butterfly imagery with the characters Moth and Armado.The French poet and critic Nicolas Boileau, in his Art poétique (The Art of Poetry) (1674) applied the dictum specifically to the work of the writer, whom he advised in those words:

Hâtez-vous lentement, et sans perdre courage,
Vingt fois sur le métier remettez votre ouvrage,
Polissez-le sans cesse, et le repolissez,
Ajoutez quelquefois, et souvent effacez.

(Slowly make haste, and without losing courage;
Twenty times redo your work;
Polish and re-polish endlessly,
And sometimes add, but often take away)

Jean de la Fontaine alluded to the motto in his famous fable of “The Hare and the Tortoise” (Fables, 1668–94), writing that the tortoise “with a prudent wisdom hastens slowly”.

The Onslow family of Shropshire has the adage as its motto, generating a pun upon the family name: “on-slow”.The adage was a favourite of the influential judge, Sir Matthew Hale,

Sir Matthew Hale was naturally a quick man; yet, by much practice on himself, he subdued that to such a degree, that he would never run suddenly into any conclusion concerning any matter of importance. Festina Lente was his beloved motto, which he ordered to be engraved on the head of his staff, and was often heard to say that be had observed many witty men run into great errors, because they did not give themselves time to think…

— Bishop BurnetThe Life and Death of Sir Matthew Hale

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