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The Origin of the Saying ‘Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day’

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The saying, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ is one of the most popular phrases today. It is used in everyday conversations and while it has the name ‘Rome’ in it, it is definitely not synonymous with the Romans only.

It is spoken and used in all parts of the world. When people say ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’, they usually mean that things take time. It is usually used to preach the virtue of patience.

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People use the phrase “Rome wasn’t built in a day” to remind someone of the time needed to create something great.

Rome – Popular City

Rome is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and can be regarded as great. Its rich history and culture date back to the beginning of civilizations around the world.

It has endured thousands of years and the rise and fall of the Roman empire, the Renaissance, the formation of the Papal States, and the Unification of Italy among many other historic events.

The Rome we see today clearly wasn’t built in a day, instead, in thousands of years.

The phrase was first coined by a 12th-century cleric in the court of Phillippe of Alsace, the Count of Flanders, in present-day Belgium.

Recorded as ‘Rome ne fu pas faite toute en un jour’, the phrase was captured in a medieval French poem dating to 1190 that was published in the book Li Proverbe au Vilain by Swiss linguist Adolf Tobler in 1895.

The expression made a reappearance three decades later in Richard Taverner’s translation of Desiderius Erasmus’ work, Adages.

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Popular Phrase

The point the phrase really took off was in 1538 when playwright and author John Heywood included it in his work, A Dialogue Containing the Number in Effect of all the Proverbs in the English Tongue, or Proverbs for short.

Heywood’s collection of proverbs weren’t all his unique creations but are commonly used. Some of them include Out of sight, out of mind’, ‘better late than never’ and ‘the more the merrier’.

In this particular case, he wrote, ‘Rome was not built on a date (quoth he) and yet stood Tyll it was finished. Rome was not built’.

Ever since then, the phrase has been a common one in many languages, not just English.

Queen Elizabeth, I used it in the Latin language during an address in Cambridge. “Hæc tamen vulgaris sententia me aliquantulum recreavit, quæ etsi non auferre, tamen minuere possit dolorem meum, quæ quidem sententia hæc est, Romam uno die non fuisse conditam,” she said.

This translates to, ‘But this common saying has given me a certain amount of comfort – a saying which cannot take away, but can at least lessen, the grief that I feel; and the saying is, that Rome was not built in one day’.

The expression has since been a critical aspect of pop culture and has been recorded being said in movies, songs, poems, and theatrical acts. Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day was the name of a 1962 soul song by Johnnie Taylor and a 2000 song by electronic band Morcheeba.

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Not only that but it continues to dominate in the English vocabulary.

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