Homo homini lupus
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Homo homini lupus est is a Latin phrase meaning "man is a wolf to [his fellow] man." First attested in Plautus' Asinaria (195 BC, "lupus est homo homini"), the phrase is sometimes translated as "man is man's wolf", which can be interpreted to mean that man preys upon man. It is widely referenced when discussing the horrors of which humans are capable.
As a counterpoint, Seneca the Younger wrote that "man is something sacred for man." Thomas Hobbes drew upon both aphorisms in the dedication of his De Cive (1651): "To speak impartially, both sayings are very true; That Man to Man is a kind of God; and that Man to Man is an errant Wolfe. The first is true, if we compare Citizens amongst themselves; and the second, if we compare Cities." Hobbes's observation in turn echoes a line from Plautus claiming that man is inherently selfish.
It can also be taken further: "Man is a wolf to Man, which, you will agree, is not very kind to the wolf." (Serge Bouchard, Quinze lieux communs, Les armes, Boréal editions, p. 177)
- Erasmus discusses Plautus' use of the phrase in Adagia (1500).
- Used ironically in Voltaire's Candide (1759) to argue against the philosophy of optimism
- Founding assumption of Sigmund Freud's Civilization and Its Discontents (1929)
- Cited on p. 211 of the third volume of Klaas Schilder's Christus in Zijn lijden trilogy
- Quoted in Marianne Moore's World War II poem "In Distrust of Merits".
- In chapter 13 of Doctor Zhivago (1957) by Boris Pasternak, the narrator remarks, of the scenes and events witnessed by Zhivago as he evades partisans late in Russia's post-revolutionary civil war: "Those days justified the ancient saying that 'man is a wolf to man'."
- Quoted in Eine Frau in Berlin (1959), an anonymously published autobiography posthumously attributed to Marta Hillers
- In Marco Bellocchio's directorial debut Fists in the Pocket (1965), a man chats with a girl in a nightclub and tries to explain this phrase to her.
- In Patrick O'Brian's The Wine-Dark Sea (1993), parson Nathaniel Martin uses the phrase to comment on his shipmates who have become cheerfully avaricious in anticipation of more treasure from enemy ships.
- Title of a 1999 album by the Italian band La Locanda delle Fate
- Man Is Wolf to Man (1999), a memoir by Janusz Bardach
- Motto of a family of werewolves in Terry Pratchett's The Fifth Elephant (1999)
- Title of Episode 14 of Season 1 of Law & Order: Criminal Intent
- Title of an Italian short movie directed by Matteo Rovere in 2006
- Seen on a wall of the Main Cell Block of the Penitentary in the video game Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009)
- In part 6, chapter I of Wolf Hall (2009) by Hilary Mantel, Thomas Cromwell recalls the phrase whilst reflecting on the Duke of Norfolk's hounding of Cardinal Wolsey.
- The title of an achievement in the Faction Pack DLC for Metro: Last Light (2013)