(Ennius, Annales 247)
Fortuna has been given to brave men.
(pron = FOHR-tih-boos ehst fohr-TOO-nah WEE-rees DAH-tah)
Comment: My source says that this comes from Ennius' Annales 247. Another says
that it is 257. I can find it as neither in the only text I have of Ennius.
With that disclaimer, let me note that Ennius holds the position as the
acclaimed "father of Latin poetry" and this particular work, the Annales, is an
epic poem of the history of Rome focusing on Aeneas. Most people are more
familiar with the same kind of work known as The Aeneid written by a later poet
of the Empire, Vergil.
That context is important. An epic writer would indeed want to affirm that
heroes are those men who are brave, and to the brave who will do epic kinds of
things, Fortune gives double portions of herself. This makes sense in a world
view where heroes manifest as those famous few who belong to a community,
through whom the community lives and has claim to fame. In other words,
through their heroes, communities establish a self-understanding. The gods
Those kinds of heroes are fine for epic understandings, for metaphorical meaning
both for a community and for individuals who are asking themselves "whom am I".
It becomes burdensome, even deceiving and dangerous, when these kinds of stories
are taken literally. These days, communities don't understand themselves
through heroes so much anymore. However, the practice does still survive--the
practice of trying to gather meaning through a life story--in the way that
parents often try to craft meaning for themselves out of their children's
lives. As I see it, there is a very important, even dangerous, fine line to
If parents can look at their children as reflections of stories and meanings
that they need to work on IN THEMSELVES, then the work can be powerful,
healing, and lifegiving. If, however, parents look at their children as
literal stories to be shaped and crafted IN ORDER TO gather meaning for
themselves, then this work becomes oppressive and destructive for the child as
he/she tries to grow and become him/herself. It becomes simply dishonest for
the parent. We are not our children. Our children are not the source of
meaning for our lives. Their successes and failures are not ours.
Fortune? It is given to the brave. And the brave are those who cultivate
meaning out of the center of their own lives. No greater bravery is required
than when we look at ourselves, and journey into the mystery of who we are.
(Used with permission)
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