What does „Dum spiro spero“ mean? Explanation, meaning, definition

The Romans have shaped our world. Their influence is still omnipresent today. We find it in laws, medicine, architecture, art, food and drink, engineering and literature. The Latin expression „dum spiro spero“ is a quote from the Roman scholar Cicero. It translates as „as long as I breathe, I hope.“ In German, there is the expression „die Hoffnung stirbt zuletzt“ for this.

Origin of the expression „dum spiro spero“

The phrase „dum spiro spero“ is found in a long letter written by Cicero to his friend Titus Pomponius Atticus, Roman censor and consul. Just like Cicero, he was a prominent figure in the first century B.C. The full text reads: Dum spiro spero, dum spero amo, dum amo vivo. Translated it means: As long as I breathe, I hope, as long as I hope, I love, as long as I love, I live.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 to 43 BC) was a Roman scholar, philosopher, writer, lawyer and politician. In 63 also held the position of Roman consul. He was revered during his lifetime and is still considered the most famous orator of ancient Rome. Atticus and Cicero wrote many letters to each other, were close friends since school days. The quotation is in a letter from the series „Ad Atticum 9.10,3“. The replies of Cicero’s friend Atticus have not been preserved.

„Dum spiro spero“ is meant to convey hope

„Hope dies last“ is a common saying and expression of optimism among us to this day. No matter how bad and hopeless a situation seems, confidence helps to dispel the fear of an uncertain future and of death. Those who have hope do not give up and do not fall into depression. Hope for improvement supports the psyche and gives strength in uncertain times. Ultimately, no one knows what the future will bring. Uncertainty is particularly strong in times of wars or pandemics, which also marked entire decades in ancient times. Every person carries the desire for betterment in the future. „Dum spiro spero“ is a very accurate description of this situation.

The meaning of hope in ancient Rome and in the Bible

The expression „dum spiro spero“ dates back to pre-Christian times. Spes (spero is derived from it) in Roman mythology means the hope of children and a good harvest. So it is an expectation. In ancient Rome, Roman citizens had household gods to protect them from harm. Every day, citizens prayed before their house shrine and asked the gods for their benevolence in all areas of life.

In the Bible, hope is defined differently. Doubt in relation to the future has no greater significance here. The fact that hope is emotionally sustaining is not addressed. Hope in the biblical sense expresses an expectation of the future in the hereafter. It is not about a wish, but about an event that will certainly occur according to Christian belief. The Bible does not address probabilities, but certainties that will happen through God. God establishes the events and also ensures that they will occur. Hope, in the biblical sense, is therefore the future fulfillment of the divine promise. The Christian believes in this and therefore does not need to be afraid of the future.

Autor: Pierre von BedeutungOnline

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