Festina lente or σπεῦδε βραδέως (speûde bradéōs) is a classical adage and oxymoron meaning "make haste slowly" (usually rendered in English as "more haste, less speed"). It has been adopted as a motto numerous times, particularly by the emperors Augustus and Titus, the Medicis and the Onslows.
The original form of the saying, σπεῦδε βραδέως, is Classical Greek, of which festina lente is the Latin translation. The words σπεῦδε and festina are second-person-singular imperatives, meaning "make haste", while βραδέως and lente are adverbs, meaning "slowly".
Nihil autem minus perfecto duci quam festinationem temeritatemque convenire arbitrabatur. Crebro itaque illa iactabat: σπεῦδε βραδέως; ἀσφαλὴς γάρ ἐστ᾽ ἀμείνων ἢ θρασὺς στρατηλάτης; et: "sat celeriter fieri quidquid fiat satis bene."
(He thought nothing less becoming in a well-trained leader than haste and rashness, and, accordingly, favourite sayings of his were: "More haste, less speed"; "Better a safe commander than a bold"; and "What is done quickly enough is done well enough.")
Certain gold coins minted for Augustus bore images of a crab and a butterfly to attempt an emblem for the adage. Other such visualizations include a hare in a snail shell; a chameleon with a fish; a diamond ring entwined with foliage; and perhaps most recognizably, a dolphin entwined around an anchor. Cosimo I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany took festina lente as his motto and illustrated it with a sail-backed tortoise.
The Renaissance printer Aldus Manutius adopted the symbol of the dolphin and anchor as his printer's mark. Erasmus (whose books were published by Manutius) featured the phrase in his Adagia and used it to compliment his printer: "Aldus, making haste slowly, has acquired as much gold as he has reputation, and richly deserves both." Manutius showed Erasmus a Roman silver coin, given to him by Cardinal Bembo, which bore the dolphin-and-anchor symbol on the reverse side.
The constructive intent of the phrase is that activities should be performed with a proper balance of urgency and diligence. If tasks are overly rushed, mistakes are made and good long-term results are not achieved. Work is best done in a state of flow in which one is fully engaged by the task and there is no sense of time passing. One extrapolation is "Slow is smooth, smooth is fast."
In physics, the name "Festina Lente Limit" has been applied to the Strong Confinement Limit, which is a mode of an atom laser in which the frequency of emission of the Bose–Einstein condensate is less than the confinement frequency of the trap.
Laßt uns auch diesmal doch nur die Mittelstraße betreten! Eile mit Weile! das war selbst Kaiser Augustus' Devise.
(Let us this time take the middle course. Make haste slowly: that was Emperor Augustus' motto.)
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- Anonymous, How do you interpert [sic] the quote Slow is smooth Smooth is fast?
- Filip Floegel (2003), Optical Loading of a Bose–Einstein Condensate, retrieved 2010-09-16
- Scottish notes and queries, D. Wyllie and son, 1895, p. 104