While reading old Question: Two birds with one stone? I was reminded of the Russian expression: "A man who chases two rabbits will catch neither."

In English we speak of the futility of "fighting on two fronts". This may have been born from experiences of Twentieth-Century total-war. There was Germany (1914), despite the Schlieffen Plan, fighting on two fronts. A generation later (1944), there was Germany fighting on three fronts.

Three rabbits?!

The Romans, with a huge Empire to police: "local difficulties"; insurrections here; uprisings there; diluting their resources; moving armies; firefighting--how were the inherent difficulties of "chasing two (or more) rabbits" expressed?

A wild guess: "si duos cuniculos persequeris, neutrum capies." =

"If you pursue two rabbits, you will catch neither."


Publius Syrus expressed that very thing in Sententiae:

Lepores duo qui insequitur, is neutrum capit.

  • @Expediti Bipes: Thank you. Is this where the Russians got it from?
    – tony
    Nov 12 '20 at 14:10
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    @tony Would seem like a mighty big coincidence if not! Nov 12 '20 at 17:07
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    @tony See the discussion on Russian.SE: russian.stackexchange.com/q/19886/7386
    – tum_
    Nov 12 '20 at 19:22
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    @tony. Erasmus compiles a book of proverbs or sayings, the "Adagiorum", and, in it, he provided a Latin translation of a Greek proverb. However he did so at a date long after Publius Syrus included this saying in Sententiae. The saying probably did, in fact, orignate with the Greeks. Nov 13 '20 at 12:48
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    @tony I was completely unaware of it, but Google shows plenty of hits for "Wer zwei Hasen jagt, fängt keinen", which is as straightforward a translation as anyone could wish for; attributed, curiously, to all kinds of origins (Japan, Hungary, Confucius, "an old proverb"). It may be just as well not to catch the rabbit, because: Der eine schießt den Hasen, der andere frißt den Braten (as Diocletian reportedly complained: ego semper apros occido, sed alter utitur pulpamento). Nov 13 '20 at 17:48

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