Rome Was Not Built in One Day (Origin)

What Is the Origin of the Saying "Rome Was Not Built in One Day"?

The term "Rome was not built in one day" means achieving quality requires time.

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Rome Was Not Built in One Day (Origin)
Today, Rome is a magnificent city, but back when this proverb was first used (about 1,000 years ago), the scale and opulence of Rome were unprecedented. Therefore, "Rome" in this saying is a metaphor for excellence of the highest order.

"Rome wasn't built in one day" is a common saying because it fits so many scenarios. It effectively means "don't rush; get things right." Its message is similar to haste makes waste.

Examples of Use:

  • Sit still. I've nearly finished the portrait. Rome wasn't build in one day.
  • This book is taking me ages to finish. Still, Rome wasn't build in one day.
  • They say Rome wasn't built in a day, but I wasn't on that particular job. (Football manager Brian Clough)
  • (This is a joke. Football manager Brian Clough was extremely confident in his abilities, and he is jokingly suggesting that he would have built Rome in one day.)
"Rome wasn't built in one day" is a common translation of the Medieval French phrase "Rome ne fut pas faite toute en un jour," which features in an 1190 collection of French poems titled "Li Proverbe au Vilain (The Proverbs of the Common Man)." (NB: In modern French, the saying would be "Rome ne s'est pas faite en un jour".)

The English version "Rome wasn't built in one day" was in common use by the early 16th century, and it appears in John Heywood's 1538 book of proverbs "A Dialogue Conteinyng the Nomber in Effect of all the Prouerbes in the Englishe Tongue."

The saying's popularity will also have been given a boost when Queen Elizabeth I highlighted, in Latin, that "Roma uno die non est condita" in an address at Cambridge University.

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This page was written by Craig Shrives.