A quotation from Libanius

I found the following quotation online (on a tee-shirt!), attributed to Libanius:

Men are neither suddenly rich, nor suddenly good.

As an aphorism it is rather like Libanius himself; a bit trite.  But did he say it?

I find the saying attributed already in A handbook of proverbs by a certain John Ray, published by Bohn, in 1855, p.451.  But of course there is no reference.  It seems an uncommon quote, judging from a Google search.

In 1831 a Moral Encyclopaedia, Or, Varlé’s Self-instructor appears, which has the same saying on p.199, attributed to “Laborius” (!).

In 1824 Thomas Fielding’s Select proverbs of all Nations p.207 has it by “Laberius”.  This is, presumably, D. Laberius, the Roman knight and writer of mimes who was famously forced to appear on the stage by Julius Caesar in a contest with the actor Publilius Syrus.  This seems a more probable source; but how to access his fragments?  He is quoted, I believe, by Aulus Gellius; and that is probably the place to start.

4 Responses to “A quotation from Libanius”


  1. Suburbanbanshee

    This Costas Panayotakis guy who put together the Cambridge book of Decimus Laberius fragments seems to be interested in a lot of the same things you are, Roger, and he’s up in Glasgow being a prof. So maybe you should just send him an email or give him a call. :)

  2. Dr. Jürgen Schmidt

    Ganz ähnlich: Repente dives nemo factus est bonus – Plötzlich ist (noch)kein Reicher gut geworden. (Publilius Syrus)

  3. Michael Gilleland
  4. Roger Pearse

    Thank you everyone! @Suburbanbanshee, well, if I had more time I might!

    Ironic that the same idea is in Publilius Syrus, and attributed to Laberius! – “No good man suddenly becomes rich.”

    Good blog post, Michael :-)