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All things in moderatio

Posted by Victoria S Dennis on March 21, 2011 at 23:07

In Reply to: All things in moderatio posted by Pickles on March 20, 2011 at 19:57:

: Where did the phrase "do all things in moderation" derive? I thought at one time that it came from Shakespeare, but can't remember now. Please list it on your phrase website. (it's an important observation!)

I don’t think it’s in Shakespeare at all, at least not in anything like that form. The first recorded remark to this effect is by one of the earliest Classical Greek poets, Hesiod, as "Observe due measure; moderation is best in all things." Half a millennium later the Roman playwright Plautus wrote modus omnibus rebus optimus est habitu, “moderation in all things is the best policy”. I don’t know if Plautus was quoting Hesiod or had independently come to the same conclusion, but I suspect the English phrase is a direct translation from Plautus. For centuries in English-speaking countries ‘education’ meant learning Latin, and that’s exactly the kind of maxim that small boys were made to parse and copy out interminably in Latin lessons.

FWIW, "Nothing in excess" was one of the precepts inscribed on Apollo’s temple at Delphi in ancient Greece . That’s the same thing, only said the other way round.