Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Warren Buffet, Horace and Ovid

I was reading something a couple of weeks ago (though I can't for the life of me remember what), and came across a quote from Warren Buffet (currently the world's richest person) that stuck in my head. He said something along the lines of that he had made so much money by being cautious when everyone else is greedy, and by being greedy when everyone else is cautious. Good on him.

A few days later I happened to be reading a Horace poem which contains a similar idea:

auream quisquis mediocritatem
diligit, tutus caret obsoletis
ordibus tecti, caret invidenda
sobrius aula.

saepius ventis agitatur ingens

pinus et celsae graviore casu
decidunt turres feriuntque summos
fulgura montis.

sperat infestis, metuit secundis
alteram sortem bene praeparatum

Whoever cherishes the golden middle-way
will safely avoid the squalor of the slums
and will soberly avoid the palace
which brings only jealousy.

Often a huge pine tree is uprooted by the winds,
and tall towers fall with more serious
consequences, and lightning strikes
the highest mountains.

When times are tough, the well prepared heart
hopes for a change of fate, and, when they are favourable,
fears it.
(Horace, Odes II.10)

The idea of the 'golden middle-way' (auream... mediocritatem) was particularly dear to the Romans (especially Stoics), who took the story of Daedalus and Icarus as a kind of parable on the dangers of excess:

instruit et natum 'medio' que 'ut limite curras,
Icare,' ait 'moneo, ne, si demissior ibis,
unda gravet pennas, si celsior, ignis adurat...
me duce carpe viam!'

He fitted his son with the wings and said to him 'I warn you, Icarus, to fly on the middle course, so that, if you fly too low, the waves won't weigh down your wings, nor, if you fly too high, will the sun's fire burn them... With me as your leader, take to the sky!

(Ovid, Metamorphoses VIII.203ff)
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

mens rea
actus rea
novus actus interveniens

latin keeps coming back to haunt me sir

thought you should know