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Quidquid agis, prudenter agas et respice finem!
Whatever you do, do cautiously, and look to the end!
Long discussion of the source of the "Respice Finem" http://caroluslex.com/index.ph…er-agas-et-respice-finem/
The earliest written source of this quote to be found, was Gesta Romanorum4(Deeds of Romans). A very famous compilation of Latin anecdotes and tales, complied and widely spread during the early dark ages. Intellectual Property Law was not as eagerly executed back in medieval times as it is now, thus it was freely copied and translated into many western languages (and that is good) and has become a source of inspiration for authors of later literature, such as William Shakespeare. World famous “Merchant of Venice” or “King Lear” have their origins in the tales of Gesta Romanorum. Unfortunately, widespread of this size also means that the original authors are not known for certain. Tales have variety of origin; some of them come from Ancient Greek, Roman or even Asian culture. Our quotation appears in the CIII (103) part of the compilation- De omnibus rebus cum consensu et providentia semper agendis. Latin version of Gesta Romanorum from 1472 has been scanned and is available online to download for free, thanks to The University of Heinrich Heine in Düsseldorf 5.
Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Düsseldorf, urn:nbn:de:hbz:061:2-21508 Gesta Romanorum. [Köln] : [Ulrich Zell], [nach 1472]
Here is the fragment of story, where we can find our quote. For the whole story, please refer to the original available in the online directory of University of Dusseldorf by following this link. King Dominatius was approached by a merchant, who offered to share three important maxims for a price of 1000 florins. One of them was “whatever you do, do wisely, and think of consequences”. King was so fond of this maxim, that he ordered to inscribe it wherever he could go – his court, his bed chamber, even his table cloth. Dominatus was a just and fair king, and as such, he had many enemies on his court. Some of them, disagreeing with his policies, hired a barber, to cut Dominatius throat during his shaving routine. When the moment come and barber was raising his razor to assassinate the king, he noticed inscription on the towel- Whatever you do, do wisely, and think of consequences. Barber considered his actions, and thought about the final outcome of his deeds- and realized, that if he would kill Dominatius, he would probably get crucified anyway. Thus King’s life was saved.
A common misinformation repeated in many sources is that this quote comes from famous Publius Ovidius Naso (20 March 43 BC – AD 17/18), known as Ovid. This is false, but we will find this information on many blogs and websites, such as Polish version of Wikipedia. The most funny (or sad) example will be a Company that provides service in education, knowledge and training’s and uses this as a motto, claiming Ovid as an origin. Whatever you do, do it wisely and check your sources.
Original creator of this quote is anonymous, as the information about authors of tales from “Deeds of Romans” is mostly lost. Majority of the Roman Emperors and Kings mentioned in Gesta Romanorum are fictional and it’s hard to even place the origin the a time frame. This is however the earliest written source of this exact quote.
Latin quotes in general have a trait of being applicable beyond their original context. A warning about being careful when doing your job, and about it’s consequences is also not a “discovery of atom” and we can find quotes or tales in similar spirit, like Aesop’s (c. 620–564 BCE) tale of two frogs (“Look before you leap.” ) or The Old Testament, Syrach, SYR 7.36 (“In everything you do, remember your end, and you will never sin.”). Envision what you want to achieve in the future so that you do it in the best way possible and make it a reality.