Cicero and South Carolina: Dum Spiro Spero


In June I finished a Cicero translation course at the University of Dallas in which we translated portions of Cicero’s De officiis (‘On Duties’) – no small task given Cicero’s style. I then went with my family to South Carolina for a beautiful and wonderful vacation on the beach. It was fantastic. And so, you might ask, what does Cicero have to do with South Carolina? A strange question isn’t it. Yet there is a strong connection.

The state motto of South Carolina is a quote from Cicero: Dum spiro spero, which means “While I breathe, I hope”. It’s a pun since “I breathe” in Latin sounds like “I hope” – spiro and spero.

The Carolinas must love Cicero because the state motto of North Carolina is also a Cicero quote from his De amicitia (‘On Friendship’): Esse quam videri, which means “To be rather than to seem.” In other words, “Be genuine.”

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