Talk:Fiat iustitia, et pereat mundus

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
WikiProject Law (Rated Start-class, Low-importance)
WikiProject icon

This article is within the scope of WikiProject Law, an attempt at providing a comprehensive, standardised, pan-jurisdictional and up-to-date resource for the legal field and the subjects encompassed by it.
Start-Class article Start  This article has been rated as Start-Class on the project's quality scale.
 Low  This article has been rated as Low-importance on the project's importance scale.
WikiProject Latin (Rated Start-class, Low-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Latin, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of Latin on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
Start-Class article Start  This article has been rated as Start-Class on the quality scale.
 Low  This article has been rated as Low-importance on the importance scale.

The references do not support the text in my opinion. Nor is the translation into English idiomatic. The meaning seems rather to be that one must do justice, regardless f temporal considerations. An ironical meaning is asserted, but without support. DGG (talk) 22:54, 1 January 2008 (UTC)

Where do you think doesen't the given reference “Reclams kleines Zitaten-Lexikon”, Author: Muriel Kasper, page 108, Reclam, ISBN 3-15-010478-5 support the “opinion”? Sorry, but it clearly does. Regards, —αἰτίας discussion 03:23, 4 January 2008 (UTC)

I do not think it justifies the use of the term in an English language context in that meaning. I do not even think it justifies that this is the general German language context. In fact, I think it is either a misunderstanding or a deliberate use in an opposite meaning; given the high quality of German legal scholarship, I susppect the later. The only reason I've delayed commenting is I've been thinking about whether to combine the articles under justicia or iusticia. I think the j form is the usual English one, i the European. DGG (talk) 19:20, 20 January 2008 (UTC)

I also don't concur with the opinion -- wherever it may stem from, as I don't read German -- that this phrase has anything ironic about it. I was actually taught that the saying is alternative to the "Fiat iustitia, ruat caelum", which appears to be described as almost an antonym here in all its gravity, which is at the same time denied to the "Fiat iustitia, pereat mundus" phrase. --Igor Windsor (talk) 17:57, 18 July 2008 (UTC)

There is a classical Latin phrase to counter "fiat justitia, ruat caelum" but it's "summum jus, summa injuria", not the variant "fiat justitia, et pereat mundus". NebY (talk) 12:37, 19 October 2008 (UTC)

The German Wikipedia gives a link to this account (in German) which appears to be both more authoritative and plausible than the explanation in the article. According to Detlef Liebs, Professor in the Institute for the History of Law and Historical Comparative Law at the Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg (Germany), the quotation originally comes from I diarii 33 of Venetian historian, politician and diarist Marino Sanuto (1466 – 1536 [1535?]). The above cited link says that Liebs wrote about this in his book Lateinische Rechtsregeln und Rechtssprichwörter (Latin Legal Maxims and Legal Mottoes), revised 6th ed. 1998, published by C. H. Beck (

However, Sanuto and his contemporaries used "mundus" in this context not literally as "the world" but as a metonym for "the High and Mighty," or "those in power." According to Liebs, it was Martin Luther who -- perhaps unaware of the metonymy -- employed the phrase in one his sermons but gave it a literal (too literal) German rendering: "Es geschehe, was recht ist, und sollt die Welt drob vergehen." (See also: Dred Scott.)

(Still according to Liebs) Loci communes was a work not by Philip Melanchthon (who is indeed famous for his insistence on the rule of law) but a book by a German itinerant printer named Johannes Manlius that he published in 1563. Manlius did write that it was the motto of Emperor Ferdinand I. The sarcastic use of the phrase to ridicule the mindset of people who insist on rigidly applying the law at all costs seems to have come later. In modern Germany (at least since the 20th century) the phrase is only ever used in that sense.

Incidentally, I must disagree with NebY above regarding "summum jus, summa injuria". In Utopia Thomas More writes, "I must say, extreme justice is an extreme injury: for we ought not to approve of those terrible laws that make the smallest offences capital, nor of that opinion of the Stoics that makes all crimes equal [...]." In other words, "let the punishment fit the crime": a counter to draconian laws, not to Fiat justitia ruat caelum. It is a topic distinct from the subject of Sanuto's diary entry and its permutations in subsequent centuries.

Finally, "Let there be justice, though the world perish" in the article as it stands today is idiomatic English, contrary to DGG ("perish" here is a subjunctive.) Of course, it is based on the modern understanding of the phrase in German-speaking countries, but that is appropriate as "fiat iustitia et pereat mundus" does not appear to have much currency elsewhere. In English-speaking countries, it seems that Sanuto's original phrase was soon supplanted by William Watson's variant wording "Fiat justitia et ruant coeli" (1601) and subsequent similar forms.

Anyone with access to Liebs' book (to check that he was quoted correctly on the web page that I cite above) is encouraged to revise the article to incorporate the historical background.-- (talk) 18:18, 29 March 2010 (UTC)