Barba non facit philosophum

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Barba non facit philosophum is a Latin phrase meaning “A beard does not constitute a philosopher.

Origin[edit]

According to the Latin author Aulus Gellius, who relates he was present at the episode, a man in a cloak, "with long hair and a beard that reached almost to his waist" once came to the Athenian aristocrat, ex-Roman consul and man of letters Herodes Atticus, who was renowned for his "charm and his Grecian eloquence" and asked that money be given him εἰς ἄρτους ("for bread"). When Herodes asked him who he was, the man, seemingly taking offense, replied that he was a philosopher, adding that he wondered why Herodes thought it necessary to ask what was obvious.[1]

"I see", said Herodes, "a beard and a cloak; the philosopher I do not yet see."[2]

Some of Herodes' companions informed him that the fellow was actually a beggar "of worthless character", whose behavior was often abusive. Hearing which, Herodes said: "Let us give him some money, then, whatever his character may be, not because he is a man, but because we are men," and ordered that enough money be given to the man so that he could "buy bread for thirty days".[3]

Meaning[edit]

The Athenian's phrase, shortened to "A beard does not constitute a philosopher", has taken on a meaning similar to the proverb "Clothes do not make the man", encountered in many cultures.[4] It is sometimes used in variations of that meaning.[5]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Nights:9, 1-3
  2. ^ Nights:9, 4
  3. ^ Nights:9, 5-7
  4. ^ E.g. in English, "You can't judge a book by its cover"; in Greek "Τὰ ράσα δὲν κάνουν τὸν παπᾶ" ("The habit does not make the priest"); in Spanish, "El hábito no hace al monje" ("The habit does not make the monk"); etc.
  5. ^ Henry Ward Beecher: "Clothes and manners do not make the man; but when he is made, they greatly improve his appearance.": from DictionaryQuotes

Sources[edit]