Fortune favours the bold…

The quest to search for a blog title was much more arduous than I realised it would be. I wanted a name that wasn’t too lighthearted (i.e. cringe) but that was also more than just my name. Then I had the bright idea that I could make the name a cheeky Classics reference (because everyone loves a cheeky Classics reference, right?) But what quote was well-known enough to be known instantly, and still short and catchy?

My favourite part of Homer’s Odyssey is the part where Odysseus tells Polyphemos his name is “Nobody”. I like it because it’s clever and because, above all, it’s a pun. And a cheeky pun at that, one which completely sums up Odysseus’ character: he is known for being wise in a cunning sort of way, loved by Athena, the goddess who is just like him. There’s a Greek word for this, metis, and it’s a word which is constantly associated with Odysseus. Have you ever wondered what “Nobody” is in Greek? It’s me tis – two words, with a space in the middle. So when Odysseus tells the cyclops his name is “me tis” he’s also pointing out just how remarkably cunning he is. Humble sort of chap.

What a lovely, one word, catchy Classics reference. Perfect for a blog name! Sadly, however, the domain name “metis” was not available on WordPress, and so my personal epic continued. (Odysseus faced the Lotus Eaters and Circe turning his men into pigs; I faced a WordPress user who hasn’t used the site since 2001.)

Another quote which has always stuck out at me – this time from Virgil’s Aeneid, an epic from a different country to the Odyssey, written a few hundred years later – is “Fortune favours the bold”. How catchy would that be as a blog name?! However, again, this was already taken. And that’s not the only issue with this quote. “Fortune favours the bold” is taken from Book 12, the final book, of the Aeneid, and it’s spoken by Turnus, the hero who is not on the will-be-Roman side. Taken alone, the quote sounds heroic, filled with the grandeur war epics are renowned for. In a sense, it is heroic: Turnus bravely speaks these words moments before marching into battle, even when he knows that the odds are stacked against him. But Virgil intends the quote ironically. He wants to instil in us pathos for Turnus, because we know that no matter what he does, his Fate is decided. He can’t change it. Aeneas is the real hero here – the Roman dude – and Turnus won’t live beyond the last page of the book.

Hence my blog title: Fortune favours none. Because “Fortune favours the bold” simply isn’t true, at least not to me or Turnus. In a way, this twist on such an iconic quote can seem a bit pessimistic. But equally, I think it’s filled with promise. Because if we can’t rely on Fortune to fix things for us, we have to start to rely on ourselves. If luck doesn’t exist, then we have to realise that we have the power to effect positive change ourselves, we have to form our own  lives. Not so pessimistic after all, then.

For a long time, I’ve disliked the way that the “Fortune favours the bold” is misinterpreted. But as I’ve written this, I’ve realised that the quote’s own history – that is, how it has been interpreted across the millennia – points to something wonderful in the human condition. Much like Turnus, even in the face of extreme hardship and despair, we just keep on hoping.

On the inside, I think we all like to see the glass half full.

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