Iracundiam qui vincit, hostem superat maximum.
(Publilius Syrus, 251)

The individual who conquers his/her anger overcomes a very great enemy.

(pron = ee-rah-KOON-ee-ahm kwee WING-kit, HOS-tem SOO-per-aht MAK-sih-moom)

Comment: Publilius Syrus’ work is made up of long lists of short proverbs like
this. Like many such “books of proverbs” (quite like the Hebrew bible’s book
of Proverbs) there is little context that helps to understand any given
proverb, though at times they seems to be grouped thematically.

This proverb is preceded by one that asserts that “forgetfulness is the remedy
of injuries”, and is followed by one that hopes that “you may make an
acknowledged crime more intense by keeping silent”. Both seem to imply that it
is best not to talk about painful things—which leads me back to this notion of
conquering one’s anger.

Like many Americans my age and older, I certainly grew up in an environment and
culture which taught that the ONLY way to deal with anger was to suppress it.
The suppression was the way to conquer one’s anger. If one suppressed it well
enough, it was conquered. My own experience is that such “conquered anger” is
more like the Trojan horse full of tired, angry Greeks waiting to burn down the
city while everyone is asleep.

There is no way to know what Publilius Syrus means by “conquering anger”. With
adjoining proverbs that suggest silence or forgetfulness as remedies for injury
and crime, I don’t think he gets any awards for good psychological advice. Such
advice serves the society or system that the advice-giver is a part of, at face
value. Of course, in the end, when the anger that has been silenced emerges,
both the individual and the society he/she is a part of pay the price.

Bob Patrick
(Used with permission)
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