"A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss"

Context: The disputed authorship of many of these copybook sentences, perhaps used as models for the education of the young, gives rise to many theories concerning these familiar quotations. They were first attributed to Seneca, but Pliny and others give evidence of a slave from Syrus who was a mime in the first century B.C., having arrived in Rome with the astronomer Manilius and the grammarian Staberius. His plays seem to have been admired during the Augustan age and survived, according to Petronius, to the time of Nero, and the writer himself may have lived into the Christian era. In the Middle Ages the texts were bowdlerized and misplaced, and it is certain that the accretion of maxims under this name is not definitely Publius', as he is popularly called. The proverb is current today, having come to us from many sources, among which are John Heywood's "The rolling stone never gathereth mosse" (1546) and Tusser's "The stone that is rolling can gather no moss." (1557) The meaning remains constant: it is not a good thing to be always on the move, for stability gives repose and wealth. The popular version of the saying is:

A rolling stone gathers no moss.