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1001 deeds, sayings, curiosities and anecdotes of the ancient world

Nothing dries more quickly than a tear

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This Latin phrase, prior Greek, has had remarkable success judging by the frequency with which it is used or cited. His immediate sense seems to refer to how quickly we forget the pain or frustration, whether in body or in spirit, a fact which the evidence seems to deny in many situations.

The phrase seems to have  been originated in Greece, but we cant say it's a popular statement or it’s created by a thinker or a poet. It is attributed to Apollonius of Rhodes, but at least there is another candidate Apollonius.

The phrase is mentioned in the anonymous work, attributed to Cicero, "Rhetorica ad Herennium, 2.31 to 50: " commiserationem brevem esse oportet, nihil enim lacrima citius arescit " (should that  commiseration be brief, because nothing dries faster than a tear) and  also in the works of Cicero "Partitiones Oratoriae, 17, 57" and in" De inventione, 1.109 ", which is awarded to the" rhetorician Apollonius "without further specification.

Also Quintilian in his Institutiones Oratoriae, 6.1.27 says “ numquam tamen debet esse longa miseratio, nec sine causa dictum est nihil facilius quam lacrimas inarescere”  (Commiseration  should never be long, as not without reason it is said that nothing is dry before a tear). And Quintus Curtius, 5,5,11 insists "ignorant quam celeriter lacrimae inarescant" (do not know how quickly the tears dry).

The phrase perhaps became to the popular and general domain, but the quotes from the Latin rhetoricians make us suspect that its meaning was less general  and transcendent. Maybe its context is the teaching of public speaking, of the oratory,  and with this maxim the master intends to curb the excesses of passion and feeling that some disciples put in the epilogues of his speeches. Too much passion can make the listener or viewer to disconnect or unhook the speaker, because the full sentence of Cicero in fact  said: "Nothing dries faster than tears, especially when spilled at the misfortunes of others" (Lacrima nihil  citius arescit, praesertim in alienis malis).

The appointment went through the Middle Ages, and is used, for example, by Peter Abelard in his "Ethics. Know thyself "and through the Modern Age: as a curiosity we will say that in the edition in the year 539 in Cologne  of " Ad Herennium", Gybertus Longolius  reconstructs the original Greek sentence as" oύδέν θάσσον ξηραίνεσθαι δακρύου "(Ouden zâsson xeraíneszai dakrúou).

It comes to the Contemporary Age, in which, for example,  dozens of blogs using it with both senses.

General De Gaulle, for example, seems to know the sentence, because he  paraphrases it: with regard to the independence of Algeria after the French occupation and the long hard war, told a general in a critical tone "shed much blood ...", to which that the great De Gaulle replied saying  "nothing dries faster than blood."

Not true,  the tears dry faster, but it is curious that De Gaulle knew the words of Apollonius or Cicero. I do not think many generals or current professional politicians have to like reading Greek and Latin classics even if sporadic, but anything is possible and there is always honorable exceptions.


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