Festina lente

The emblem of the dolphin and anchor which has been used since Roman times to illustrate the adage. This example is the printer's mark of Aldus

Festina lente or σπεῦδε βραδέως (speude bradeos) is a classical adage and oxymoron meaning "make haste slowly" or "more haste, less speed". It has been used as the motto of many people including the emperors Augustus and Titus, the Medicis and the Onslows.



The Roman historian Suetonius, in De vita Caesarum, tells that Augustus deplored rashness in a military commander and so σπεῦδε βραδέως was one of his favourite sayings:[1]

Nihil autem minus perfecto duci quam festinationem temeritatemque convenire arbitrabatur. Crebro itaque illa iactabat: σπεῦδε βραδέως; ἀσφαλὴς γάρ ἐστ᾽ ἀμείνων ἢ θρασὺς στρατηλάτης; et: "sat celeriter fieri quidquid fiat satis bene."

(He thought nothing less becoming in a well-trained leader than haste and rashness, and, accordingly, favourite sayings of his were: "More haste, less speed"; "Better a safe commander than a bold"; and "That is done quickly enough which is done well enough.")

Gold coins were minted for Augustus which bore the image of a crab and a butterfly,[2] which was considered to be emblematic of the adage.[3] Other pairings used to illustrate the adage include a hare in a snail shell; a chameleon with a fish; a diamond ring entwined with foliage; and, especially, a dolphin entwined around an anchor.[4][5] Cosimo I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany had festina lente as his motto and illustrated it with a tortoise with a sail upon its back.[6]

Erasmus praised the adage in his great work, Adagia, and used it especially to compliment his printer — "Aldus, making haste slowly, has acquired as much gold as he has reputation, and richly deserves both." Aldus used the corresponding symbol of the dolphin and anchor as his printer's mark. He showed Erasmus a Roman silver coin, given to him by Cardinal Bembo, which bore this symbol on the reverse side.[7][8]

The adage was popular in renaissance times and Shakespeare alluded to it repeatedly. In Love's Labour's Lost, he copied the crab and butterfly imagery with the characters Moth and Armado.[9]

The great Onslow family of Shropshire, have the adage as their motto. This is a pun upon the family name — on-slow.[10]


The meaning of the phrase is that activities should be performed with a proper balance of urgency and diligence. If tasks are rushed too quickly then mistakes are made and good long-term results are not achieved. Work is best done in a state of flow in which one is fully engaged by the task and there is no sense of time passing.[11]


The phrase is used in physics to describe the Strong Confinement Limit or Festina Lente Limit, which is a mode of an atom laser in which the frequency of emission of the Bose-Einstein condensate is less than the confinement frequency of the trap.[12]

Goethe refers to the proverb in his poem Hermann und Dorothea, translating it with the rhyming German phrase, Eile mit Weile:[13]

Laßt uns auch diesmal doch nur die Mittelstraße betreten! Eile mit Weile! das war selbst Kaiser Augustus' Devise.
(Let us this time take the middle course. Make haste slowly: that was Emperor Augustus' motto.)

See also


  1. ^ Suetonius, John Carew Wolfe, "Lives of the Caesars", Suetonius, 1, ISBN 9780674995703, http://books.google.co.uk/books?ei=iHn3TKaeCouShAeWmbHnAg&ct=result&id=Vu5nAAAAMAAJ 
  2. ^ W. Deonna (1954), "The Crab and the Butterfly: A Study in Animal Symbolism", Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes (The Warburg Institute) 17 (1/2): 47–86, JSTOR 750132 
  3. ^ Gabriele Simeoni (1559), Le Imprese Heroiche et Morali, ISBN 9781149367988, http://books.google.com/books?id=V_erSQAACAAJ 
  4. ^ Gary M. Bouchard (2000), "Colin Clout's "Stayed Steps"", ISBN 9781575910444, http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=mnGUUZbWS40C&pg=PA68 
  5. ^ Aleta Alekbarova (20 juin 2010), "M. Durmius’ Aureus", L'Age d'Or de la Poésie latine, http://golden-age.over-blog.com/article-m-durmius-aureus-52629759.html 
  6. ^ Hope B. Werness (2006), "Turtle", The Continuum encyclopedia of animal symbolism in art, ISBN 9780826419132, http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=iBSDddO-9PoC&pg=PA416 
  7. ^ Desiderius Erasmus, William Watson Barker (2001), The adages of Erasmus, University of Toronto Press, ISBN 0802048749, http://books.google.com/books?id=VmJn6IFMyicC 
  8. ^ "Some rare or unpublished Roman gold coins", The Numismatic chronicle and journal of the Royal Numismatic Society (Royal Numismatic Society) 7-8: 225, http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=yNsEAAAAYAAJ&pg=RA1-PA225 
  9. ^ John McMichaels, "Allegories of Rhetoric and Dialectic in Shakespeare’s Plays", Allegoria Paranoia, http://allegoriaparanoia.com/shakespeare/balklogic/appendix2.html 
  10. ^ Mark Antony Lower (1860), "Onslow", Patronymica Britannica, http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=00cBAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA249 
  11. ^ Karlin Sloan, Lindsey Pollak, "Festina Lente", Smarter, faster, better, http://books.google.com/books?id=Jai5ZfYzk-YC&pg=PA91 
  12. ^ Filip Floegel (2003), Optical Loading of a Bose–Einstein Condensate, http://deposit.ddb.de/cgi-bin/dokserv?idn=970681119&dok_var=d1&dok_ext=pdf&filename=970681119.pdf, retrieved 2010-09-16 
  13. ^ Scottish notes and queries, D. Wyllie and son, 1895, p. 104, http://books.google.com/books?id=MaxuNRdw7VIC 

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Festina lente — (лат. торопись медленно)  фразеологический оборот, употребляемый в значениях: «не делай наспех»; «когда спешишь, не поступай необдуманно»,  выражение ставшее пословицей. Соответствует целому ряду народных речений: «Тише едешь  …   Википедия

  • Festina lente — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Festina lente es una locución latina cuya traducción literal es: Apresúrate lentamente . Palabras atribuidas a Augusto, según Suetonio (Augusto, 25): Caminad lentamente si queréis llegar más pronto a un trabajo bien… …   Wikipedia Español

  • FESTINA lente — notum Augusti Symbolum, cuius emblema delphinus anchorae circumvolutus. In quem sensum nummi uncialis aurei Germaniae cuiusdam Principis meminit Barth. in quo istud Epigr. DILATIO NOCET. PRAECIPITATIO NECAT. LENTE ERGO PROPERA. Vide eum… …   Hofmann J. Lexicon universale

  • festina lente — лат. (фэстина лэнтэ) букв. «торопись медленно»; не делай наспех. Толковый словарь иностранных слов Л. П. Крысина. М: Русский язык, 1998 …   Словарь иностранных слов русского языка

  • Festīna lente — (lat.), Eile mit Weile …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Festina lente — Festīna lente, lat. Sprichwort: Eile mit Weile …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • Festina lente — Festina lente! lat. Sprichwort: eile mit Weile …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

  • festina lente — нареч, кол во синонимов: 4 • медленно поспешай (4) • не делай наспех (4) • спеши …   Словарь синонимов

  • Festina lente — er en latinsk talemåde der betyder Skynd dig langsomt …   Danske encyklopædi

  • Festina lente — Sigma Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Σ αγαπώ. 2 Σαρδόνιος γέλως …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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