I was asked recently how to translate "a wise decision" (as either the act of deciding, or the result) into Latin. "Wisdom" could perhaps be the Greek loanword sophia or the native Latin sapientia; a decision might be a consilium or an arbitrium. But can a consilium actually be sapiens or have sapientia? How do I indicate that the decision was made wisely/by a wise person, rather than that the consilium itself sapit?

  • 1
    Latin and Greek (even English) poetry and even prose will quite often employ transferred epithets.
    – cmw
    Mar 23 '17 at 14:52

Consilium sapiens is attested by Ovid (Met. 13.433):

...Polymestoris illic
regia dives erat, cui te commisit alendum
clam, Polydore, pater Phrygiisque removit ab armis,
consilium sapiens, sceleris nisi praemia magnas
adiecisset opes, animi inritamen avari

(Thanks brianpck for pointing out my mistake in a previous example, and offering this one as an alternative)

A later example is attested in XX century Ecclesiastical Latin by St. John XXIII (Humanae Salutis, 14):

Priusquam argumenta in Concilio pertractanda statueremus, ante omnia prudens et sapiens rogavimus consilium Patres Cardinales, universi catholici orbis Episcopos, ...

(I also underline prudens for what it's worth.)

In a side comment, the Vulgate (post-classical) has an example of sapienter respondere (Mc 12, 34), which may serve as an argument for sapiens responsum (although not exactly a decision, another example of an action by a man considered itself wise, or, as pointed out in the comments, a transferred epithet):

Iesus autem videns quod sapienter respondisset dixit illi non es longe a regno Dei


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