Desiderius Erasmus

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In the country of the blind the one eyed man is king.

Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus [Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam] (27 October probably 1466 – 12 July 1536) was a Dutch humanist and theologian; born Gerrit Gerritszoon.


  • Ad Graecas literas totum animum applicui; statimque, ut pecuniam accpero, Graecus primum autores, deinde vestes emam.
    • I have turned my entire attention to Greek. The first thing I shall do, as soon as the money arrives, is to buy some Greek authors; after that, I shall buy clothes.
    • Letter to Jacob Batt (12 April 1500); Collected Works of Erasmus Vol 1 (1974)
    • Variant translation: When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.
  • In regione caecorum rex est luscus.
    • In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.
    • Adagia (first published 1500, with numerous expanded editions through 1536), III, IV, 96
    • Also in the same passage of the Adagia is a variant: Inter caecos regnat strabus (Among the blind, the squinter rules).
What is life but a play in which everyone acts a part until the curtain comes down?
  • For what is life but a play in which everyone acts a part until the curtain comes down?
  • This type of man who is devoted to the study of wisdom is always most unlucky in everything, and particularly when it comes to procreating children; I imagine this is because Nature wants to ensure that the evils of wisdom shall not spread further throughout mankind.
    • The Praise of Folly (1511)
  • Do not be guilty of possessing a library of learned books while lacking learning yourself.
    • Letter to Christian Northoff
  • Indeed, a constant element of enjoyment must be mingled with our studies, so that we think of learning as a game rather than a form of drudgery.
    • Letter to Christian Northoff
  • I have no patience with those who say that sexual excitement is shameful and that venereal stimuli have their origin not in nature, but in sin. Nothing is so far from the truth. As if marriage, whose function cannot be fulfilled without these incitements, did not rise above blame. In other living creatures, where do these incitements come from? From nature or from sin? From nature, of course. It must borne in mind that in the apetites of the body there is very little difference between man and other living creatures. Finally, we defile by our imagination what of its own nature is fair and holy. If we were willing to evaluate things not according to the opinion of the crowd, but according to nature itself, how is it less repulsive to eat, chew, digest, evacuate, and sleep after the fashion of dumb animals, than to enjoy lawful and permitted carnal relations?
    • De Conscribendis Epistolas


Desiderius Erasmus statue
  • Believe that you have it, and you have it!
  • Education is of far greater importance than heredity in forming character.
  • I am a citizen of the world, known to all and to all a stranger.
  • I am a lover of liberty. I cannot and will not serve parties.
  • I consider as lovers of books not those who keep their books hidden in their store-chests and never handle them, but those who, by nightly as well as daily use thumb them, batter them, wear them out, who fill out all the margins with annotations of many kinds, and who prefer the marks of a fault they have erased to a neat copy full of faults.
  • It is the friendship of books that has made me perfectly happy.
  • The most disadvantageous peace is better than the most just war.
  • The rules of grammar are crabbed things to many persons... it is important early to instil a taste for the best things into the minds of children, and I cannot see that anything is learned with greater success than what is learned by playing, and this is, in truth, a very harmless kind of fraud, to trick a person into his own profit.
  • There is nothing I congratulate myself on more heartily than on never having joined a sect.
  • They say that the AntiChrist will be born of a monk and a nun. If so, there must already be thousands of AntiChrists.
  • To know nothing is the happiest life
  • Whenever you encounter truth, look upon it as Christianity.
  • Fortune favors the audacious.


  • Dulce bellum inexpertis.
    • War is sweet to them that know it not.
      • Though Erasmus quoted this proverb in Latin at the start of his essay Bellum [War], and it is sometimes attributed to him, it originates with the Greek poet Pindar.
    • Variant translations:
    • War is sweet to those not acquainted with it
    • War is Sweet to Those Who Do Not Know It
    • War is sweet to those That never have experienced it.
    • War is delightful to those who have had no experience of it.

External links

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Praise of Folly