The proverb, ‘All roads lead to Rome’, does not actually originate in the ancient Roman times. It was first written down in the 1175s by Alain de Lille.
Lille wrote, in Latin, ‘mille viae ducunt homines per saecula Romam’. This means, ‘a thousand roads always lead people to Rome’. ‘Homines’ here can be used to mean ‘men’ or ‘humans’.
De Lille’s phrase became very popular, and it was soon translated into English as ‘all roads lead to Rome’.
Though the proverb was first recorded in the 1100s, it was most probably being used earlier.
This proverb has both a literal meaning and a more metaphorical meaning.
Literally, it means that all roads lead to a central point. The literal meaning is that wherever you travel, you will end up at Rome. Historically, this literal meaning derives from Rome’s traditional status as a destination of commerce. Rome used to be a major hub of transport and civilization with an empire that stretched all over the world.
Metaphorically, it means that all of life’s pathways lead to the same destination. What this destination is may depend on the individual person.
So, ‘Rome’ can literally mean the city of Rome. Or, it can mean any central and important point in life.
So, some people use this proverb to mean:
- All conversations lead to a single issue.
- There is a single central concern underlying everything we do.
- Whatever is the most important thing in our lives, we will keep on returning to it.
- If someone is important to us, we will keep on coming back to them, in both thoughts and deeds.
- Historically, the city of Rome was thought by many people to be a central point in the world.
- A problem can be solved in several numerous ways.
- There are numerous ways of reaching the same conclusion.
Though, initially, it referred to the ancient Roman road system. This road system had all roads radiating outwards from Rome. However, even in the beginning, there was a metaphorical side to the proverb. This metaphorical meaning was: all activities will lead to the same result. So, from the beginning this was a multifaceted proverb.
This saying suggests that we are fulfilling a given destiny with all our actions. If we are meant to be with someone, life will lead us back to them.
We are all diverse, but unified by common goals. Sometimes, there are many solutions to a given problem. This saying helps to remind us that we do not need to worry, we are going where we need to go.
This saying can be applied at school, in relationships and in the workplace to celebrate both unity and diversity.
This is not the only proverb that deals with Rome. Another Rome related proverb, for example, is ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do’. This proverb means ‘when in a foreign place, act as the native inhabitants of that place do’. Here, we can see that Rome can mean both literally the city of Rome and more generally any foreign place. Once again, Rome appears in a proverb in both a specific and a general metaphorical sense.
1. Psychological depth: This proverb rings true to many people who find their thoughts revolving around a central concern.
2. True love: The proverb is also frequently used to express the fact that people who are truly in love will keep returning to each other throughout their lives. As such, this is a proverb that celebrates true love.
3. History: This proverb is based in the fascinating history of ancient Rome, the importance of which continues to be felt today.
4. Acknowledging the interconnectedness of things: Thoughts, emotions and actions can all be interconnected. This proverb perfectly encapsulates that idea.
5. A simple way of expressing a deeper truth: This proverb is also significant because it provides an easy to understand framework for expressing the idea that no matter what we do, we will keep returning to a central point.
6. Having better conversations: The proverb teaches us to see if there is any single issue that conversations keep returning to. If so, that will be the main issue in the conversation, even if the two people conversing do not realise it yet.
7. Being aware of where we are going: often we walk through life without really thinking where we are heading. Sometimes we make the same mistakes, or keep on arriving back at the same point – whether psychologically or literally. Remembering this proverb is a great way of reminding ourselves to be aware of where we are heading in life. After all, that acknowledgement is the first step to taking control of the direction in which our life is going.
‘All roads lead to Rome’ is a saying that seems on the face of it to be a very specific proverb about a specific geographical location.
However, this proverb has ramifications that extend far into our psychological and emotional lives. The proverb can refer to romantic relationships that are central to our lives – or indeed to anything that we keep on returning to again and again. More profoundly still, this proverb can be taken to mean that all human beings are heading towards the same central point.
On a practical level, the proverb can help us to be more aware of what our concerns are as we converse with others and also help us to be more aware of where we are heading in our lives.