Hands_of_God_and_AdamThe great masters of the Renaissance — da Vinci, Michelangelo, et al. — if asked by the Medici, the Holy Father or any other influential patron of the visual arts to put a “rush job” on their masterpieces, would’ve probably dropped their palettes, chisels and other tools of the creative trade, waved their hands in the air and wryly replied, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

It’s one of the most widely-used, time-tested expressions indicating that important, intricate work takes time. So, please be patient.

Original book cover - A. Tobler |@University of Toronto, CanadaEver wonder who cleverly arranged those six words into the powerhouse catchphrase that it is today?

As it turns out, nary a Roman, sandal clad or otherwise, first coined this locution. Shockingly, it was a 12th century cleric in the court of Phillippe of Alsace — the Count of Flanders — who gets the credit for dreaming up the phrase in French: Rome ne s’est pas faite en un jour.

In 1895, Adolf Tobler, a Swiss linguist, published Li Proverbe au Vilain, a collection of Medieval French poems. Each verse is accompanied by a proverb or popular expression of the time followed by the phrase, “Or so the peasant says.”

It is in this compilation of 12th century literary art that the expression about the Eternal City not being quickly constructed over a 24-hour period first appears.

It wasn’t until 1538 that the saying ebbed into the English language when playwright-author John Heywood included it in his work A Dialogue Containing the Number in Effect of all the Proverbs in the English Tongue.

Rome panorama | ©Tom Palladio ImagesNext time you hear someone say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” be quick to respond, “Or so the peasant says.” After all, let’s give credit where credit is due. In this case, the wise, but anonymous, poet laureate who penned it first for the Count of Flanders.

©The Palladian Traveler

TPT Borsalino on Cobblestone | ©Tom Palladio Images

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Written by The Palladian Traveler

Tom traded his hometown St. Louis Cardinals' baseball cap in the United States for a Borsalino and he now hangs his "capello" in the Puglia region of southeastern Italy. A veteran print and broadcast journalist, with well-worn passports that have got him into and out of 50 countries and counting, Tom fell in love with the "Bel Paese" years ago. As he notes, "I'm inspired by the beauty I find in all things that are very, very old, and reliving history, or at least meandering along cobblestone streets that were laid down over a thousand years ago and just looking up and marveling at what occupies the space still today, really gets my 'Vespa' running." Tom has a good eye behind the lens and is a graphic storyteller, but he'll let you decide as he keeps his camera batteries fully charged and the posts flowing from his creative hideaway in the hills overlooking Ostuni. You can also follow his dispatches along the cobblestone via TravelingBoy.com.

16 comments

  1. This is fantastic. I love knowing the origin of words and expressions. Can’t wait to be able to quip, “Or so the peasant says” on the next opportunity. Though I may use it in other situations too, because that’s just going to be fun to say!

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