Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Rollenhagen 31: Sapiens Dominabitur Astris

Here is today's emblem and distich by Gabriel Rollenhagen, Book 1.31, with an English rendering by George Wither. Although the phrase "Sapiens Dominabitur Astris" is well known, its origins are unclear; you can read a detailed discussion here in The Mediaeval Attitude Toward Astrology by Theodore Otto Wedel (1920).

Sapiens Dominabitur Astris
Astra regunt homines; sapiens dominabitur astris
Et poterit notis cautior esse malis.

Hee, over all the Starres doth raigne,
That unto Wisdome can attaine.

The vocabulary is keyed to the DCC Latin Vocabulary list. There are only two words in this poem that are not on the DCC list:

cautus -a -um - cautious, careful, wary
dominor, -ārī - master, control, rule over

astrum -ī n.: star; constellation
et: and
homo hominis m.: human being
malus -a -um: bad, evil; male: (adv.) badly
nōtus -a -um: well-known
possum posse potuī: be able
regō regere rēxī rectum: guide, rule
sapiens -ntis.: wise man
sum, esse, fuī: be, exist


  1. "Sapiens dominabitur astris" is usually interpreted to mean "The wise man rules the/his stars". Is this correct?

  2. The Latin is a future tense - dominabitur, will rule - but yes, that's the idea. The first line of the poem presents the paradox between the wise man and the typical man:
    Astra regunt homines;
    Stars rule men (i.e. men who are not wise; they are the playthings of destiny - the stars direct them, control them)
    sapiens dominabitur astris
    the wise man will master the stars
    (unlike the men who are not wise)

  3. Praepositinus originated this comment, according to a 14th-c. Sentence commentary by one Jacobus de Altavilla.


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