Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi

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Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi is a Latin phrase, literally "What is permissible for Jove is not permissible for an ox"[1] in reference to the myth wherein Jupiter took the form of a bull to seduce Europa. In his play Heauton Timorumenos,[2] Terence, a playwright of the Roman Republic, coined a similar phrase, Aliis si licet, tibi non licet. The version referring to Jove was probably created in the Middle Ages.[citation needed]

The phrase is often translated as "Gods may do what cattle may not". It indicates the existence of a double standard (justifiable or otherwise), and essentially means "what is permitted to one person or group, is not permitted to everyone."[3] It is also used as the maxim for victor's justice, where a State that wins a war tries and punishes the vanquished, while avoiding such procedures with their own personnel.


  1. ^ The Concise Dictionary of Foreign Quotations, edited by Anthony Lejeune, 1998.
  2. ^ "Terence: Heauton Timorumenos". Retrieved March 27, 2014. 
  3. ^ D. J. Boggs, Challenges to the Rule of Law: Or, Quod Licet Jovi Non Licet Bovi. Cato S. Ct. Rev. 2007: 7-18