Home  »  Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men  »  St. Ambrose

S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.

St. Ambrose

  • [One of the Latin fathers of the Church; born at Treves about 340 A.D.; governor of Liguria, 374; elected bishop of Milan, which office he filled with great ability; died 397.]
  • When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

  • The advice St. Ambrose gave St. Augustine in regard to conformity to local custom. The authority of the see of Milan almost equalled that of Rome, and each Christian society had its particular rule for the observance of rites and customs. “My mother,” said St. Augustine, “having joined me at Milan, found that the church there did not fast on Saturdays, as at Rome, and was at a loss what to do. I consulted St. Ambrose of holy memory, who replied, ‘When I am at Rome, I fast on a Saturday: when I am at Milan I do not. Do the same. Follow the custom of the church where you are.’”—Epistle to Januarius, II. 18.
  • Burton derives a custom from this advice, “When they are at Rome, they do as they see done.”—Anatomy of Melancholy, Part III., IV., 2, 1. Jeremy Taylor gives it in verse:—
  • “Cum fueris Romæ, Romano vivito more;
  • Cum fueris alibi, vivito sicut ibi.”
  • Ductor Dubitantium, I. 1, 5.
  • Professor Lowell (“Among my Books”) calls Dante “extremely practical in the affairs of this life. He has made up his mind to take things as they come, and to do at Rome as the Romans do.” He quotes this couplet:—
  • “Ah, savage company! but in the church
  • With saints, and in the taverns with the gluttons!”
  • Inferno, XXII. 13.
  • Napoleon said, “A man who goes into a country must comply with the ceremonies in use there.”—O’MEARA: Napoleon in Exile, 1817.