In 'Dem Bon'z we have a scene where the characters get distracted from their purpose by arguing over the use of the quotation, "Fortune Favors the Bold." One of the characters quotes George Armstrong Custer as having said the quote and other chime in that the quote dates back into the ancient world. George Armstrong Custer was one of the most photographed Americans in the 19th Century. He hardly ever missed a chance to step in front of available cameras. However, he was not a gifted orator and has left very few quotable quotes. He may indeed have used the quotation in discussion as it apparently was attributed to him in a New York newspaper of the period. Just remember, newspaper reporters of the period were not averse to putting words into the mouths of the tongue-tied. That might be the case for General Custer. However, George, the man of few words, or the reporter was "borrowing" the quote from antiquity. There actually are two versions of the quotation in Latin "audaces fortuna iuvat." and "fortes fortuna iuvat." (The former is more appropriate for the English meaning as the latter really suggests fortune favors the strong.) The phase was used in the Aenied by Virgil and seems to have been used by Sulla. The most famous use of the phrase comes to us from Pliny the younger who wrote about his famous uncle, Pliny the Elder, exclaiming the phrase before boldly leading ships to rescue as many of the doomed inhabitants of Pompeii during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Pliny was one of the most famous men of the period a phenomenal orator, writer, and general. It says much that he fell back on what must have been a common saying before sailing off to his doom. As much as my Italian roots would like the story to end there, it is possible that Alexander the Great also used the phrase hundreds of years before Pliny the Elder. It is likely that had literacy rates been higher in the ancient world this might turn out to be an idiom that almost every father inculcated into his sons.
Terry A. Del Bene
Writer- "Have Words, Will Travel"