Noctua volat – the owl flies

Erasmus Adagia 76:

From the same superstition this Greek proverb take its origin: ‘the owl flies’ or ‘the owl has flown.’ Among the early Athenians the flight of an owl was thought representative of victory because this bird was believed sacred to Athena, who was said to bring good fortune to any doing of Athens, even when poorly planned. On this topic I’ll speak later in the proverb ‘Atheniensium inconsulta temeritas‘. From this association it was customary to say ‘the owl flies’ when matters went well and as desired. Zenodotus and Suidas provide the authority on this.
Not unwittily is an owl said to have flown whenever a matter is thought completed not by energy or strength but by the intervention of money – since the Athenian money had an owl imprinted on it. Whence also that proverb ‘Lauriotic Owls’ which is recounted elsewhere.

Ex eadem superstitione manauit et illud Graecanicum: Γλαὺξ ἵπταται, [G] siue ἵπτατο, [C] id est [A] Noctua volat, [C] siue volauit. [A] Nam priscis Atheniensibus noctuae volatus victoriae symbolum existimabatur, propterea quod auis haec Mineruae sacra crederetur, quae quidem dicta est etiam male consulta Atheniensium bene fortunare. [C] Qua de re copiosius aliquanto dicemus in prouerbio Atheniensium inconsulta temeritas. [A] Inde rebus felicius atque ex animi sententia succedentibus dici consueuit Noctua volat. Autores Zenodotus et Suidas. [G] Non illepide dicetur volasse noctua, quoties res non viribus, sed pecuniarum interuentu confecta creditur, quod Atheniensium nomisma noctuam haberet insculptam. Vnde et illud Laurioticae noctuae, quod alibi recensetur.

The two other proverbs are numbers 744 and 1731.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s