Nulla dies sine linea
[The idea of writing about this Latin motto was suggested to me by the note Nulla dies sine Blogposta, by Bill Vallicella, included in his blog Maverick Philosopher.]
We take the Latin phrase Nulla dies sine linea to mean "No day [should go by] without [reading / writing at least] a line". I would like to point out two remarks about this famous saying:
- The phrase is not documented verbatim (as is) in Classical Latin. It seems that it was forged in the Middle Ages. But a proverb with the same sense did exist in ancient Rome, although we ignore its exact wording. Pliny the Elder transmits an interesting story about the famous Greek painter Apelles of Colophon (fourth century B.C.). (By the way, it was told that Alexander the Great allowed no other painter to paint him.) Pliny writes:
- Curiously enough, linea can not mean "line (of text)" in Classical Latin, but "a string, cord" (Oxford Latin Dictionary, s.v. 1 and 2), or "a line traced on a surface by a pen or other instrument" (OLD s.v. 3). It was therefore a technical term, belonging to the field of painting or drawing, not literature. The word might have taken the sense of "line (of text)" in medieval Latin.
Apelli fuit alioqui perpetua consuetudo numquam tam occupatum diem agendi, ut non lineam ducendo exerceret artem, quod ab eo in proverbium venit. (Naturalis Historia 35.84)
[Apelles had furthermore the systematic habit of not letting any day go by, no matter how busy it could be, without practising his art by tracing a line at least (and as a result his attitude became a proverbial saying).