We use this proverb to say that something needs time and patience to be completed, or that, in any case, great works are achieved with commitment and meticulousness.
The reference to the eternal city is probably due to the fact that Rome has acquired its beauty and grandeur century after century. Likely, it was the deep admiration for this city that led to the birth of the proverb.
Therefore, it will be natural to credit this very widespread idiom to a historical man who assisted in the founding of Rome, but in truth, we must move to Flanders (modern-day Belgium) to discover who actually uttered it, precisely in the twelfth century, at Philip of Alsace’s court.
The phrase was first spoken in French as “Roma ne fu pas faite toute en un jour” and was then used in a medieval poetry that was penned in 1190 and later included in Adolf Tobler’s book “Li proverbe au Vilain” in 1895.
Many characters used the phrase starting at this point, and it slowly started to appear more frequently. Thanks to the dramatist John Heywood, it started to spread in the United Kingdom in 1500. Later, in 1563, it also reached Queen Elizabeth I, who used it in an official speech in Cambridge.