Tempora mutantur is a Latin adage meaning "times change", or more precisely "the times are changed" (passive). It is also stated in various longer hexametric forms, most commonly Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis, meaning "Times change, and we change with them", or more precisely "The times are changed and we too are changed in them (or during them)" – see history for various other forms.
Regarding the form:
- Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis
- strictly translated as:
- "The times are changed and we too are changed in them (or during them)"
- "The times move [on], and we too move [along] in them."
As many adages and proverbial or wisdom maxims handed on till nowadays from the Latin cultural tradition, this line is a hexameter: the rhythmical verse, typical of the great epic poetry, both in Greek and Latin literature. All other Latin verses cited in this page are hexameters as well.
The fact that et (and) is following nos and being accented in the hexameter's rhythm, attributes an emphasis to it. In this position et works as a short form of etiam; meaning: "also, too" or "even". So a correct translation is "and we too", instead of the simple "and we".
The verb mūtō means both "to move" and "to change", so an alternate reading is "The times move [on], and we move [along] in them." This recalls the image of time as a river, moving along, as in Heraclitus' Πάντα ῥεῖ (panta rhei) "everything is in a state of flux".
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Times change|
The notion of change, of everything changing, dates in Western philosophy at least to Heraclitus. This formulation appears to be traditional; the variant omnia mutantur ("everything changes", "τἀ πἀντα ρει" in Greek) occurs for instance in Ovid's Metamorphoses, in the phrase omnia mutantur, nihil interit, – everything changes, nothing perishes – and was cited as an inspiration by later writers. Various forms appear in the vernacular literature of the 16th and early 17th century; these are discussed below.
- Tempora mutantur et nos mutamur in illis
- with the translation:
- "The times change, and we change with them."
It also appears as
- "The tymes are chaunged as Ouid sayeth, and wee are chaunged in the times."
- in modern spelling:
- "The times are changed, as Ovid says, and we are changed in the times."
A couplet, in which form it gained popularity, is:
- Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis;
- Quo modo? fit semper tempore pejor homo.
- in direct translation (of second line):
- "How's that? The man (mankind) always gets worse with time"
Translated by Harvey, 1677, as:
- "The Times are Chang'd, and in them Chang'd are we:
- How? Man as Times grow worse, grows worse we see."
References in German vernacular literature date back to the Protestant Reformation and arise in that context:
Before 1554 Caspar Huberinus completes Ovid's verse:
- Tempora labuntur, tacitisque senescimus annis;
- Tempora mutantur, nosque mutamur in illis.
- "Times are slipping away, and we get older by (through, during, with, because of) the silent years"
- ("nosque" = the same as "nos et", with different hexameter rhythm)
The German translation is added in 1565 by Johannes Nas:
- Tempora mutantur et nos mutamur in ipsis;
- Die zeit wirdt verendert / vnd wir in der zeit.
- ("ipsis" = "themselves")
Omnia mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis
Illa vices quasdam res habet, illa vices.
"All things are changed, and we are changed with them
that matter has some changes, it (does have) changes".
Georg Büchmann, Geflügelte Worte: Der Citatenschatz des deutschen Volkes, ed. K. Weidling, 1898 edition, p. 506, confuses historical and poetical reality naming emperor Lothair I as the source and the couplet by Matthias Borbonius printed in 1612 as the quote.
- "Omnia mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis," is by Nicholas Borbonius, a Latin poet of the sixteenth century. Dr. Sandys says that the Emperor Lothair, of the Holy Roman Empire, had already said, "Tempora mutantur, nos et muta'mur in illis."
In Pierson v. Post, dissenting judge and future Supreme Court Justice Henry Brockholst Livingston argued "If any thing, therefore, in the digests or pandects shall appear to militate against the defendant in error, who, on this occasion, was foxhunter, we have only to say tempora mutantur, and if men themselves change with the times, why should not laws also undergo an alteration?"
In the popular UK sitcom Yes Prime Minister, Prime Minister Jim Hacker suggests to civil servant Sir Humphrey Appleby that "hardly anyone uses Latin nowadays". Sir Humphrey responds with "Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis".
Omnia mutantur is inscribed on the Convention Center at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas.
James Joyce's Stephen Dedalus goes back with his father to County Cork in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and one of his dad's old cronies cross-questions him: "One of them, in order to put his Latin to the proof, had made him translate short passages from Dilectus and asked him whether it was correct to say: Tempora mutantur nos et mutamur in illis or Tempora mutantur et nos mutamur in illis."
- Metamorphoses (Ovidius), Liber XV, line 165
- "The Epigrammata of John Owen, Book 8, Latin". Philological.bham.ac.uk. Retrieved 12 March 2012.
- "The Epigrammata of John Owen, Book 8, English". Philological.bham.ac.uk. Retrieved 12 March 2012.
- Caspar Huberinus: Postilla Deudsch, Frankfurt an der Oder 1554, fol. 354. Google
- Johannes Nas: Das Antipapistisch eins vnd hundert, [Ingolstadt] 1565, fol. 83. Google
- "The Epigrammata of John Owen, Note on source". Philological.bham.ac.uk. Retrieved 12 March 2012.
- Matthias Borbonius: Caesares, Leipzig 1595, Lotharius Primus CLIII. Google
- Matthias Borbonius: Selection of: Caesares, Leipzig 1595. In: Delitiae Poetarum Germanorum huius superiorisque aevi illustrium. A.F.G.G. (editor, not identified), vol. 1, Frankfurt am Main 1612, p. 685
- Richard T. Bruere (October 1968). "Review of: Follett World-Wide Latin Dictionary by Edwin B. Levine". Classical Philology 63 (4): 313–317. JSTOR 267592.
- 3 Cai. R. 175 (1805)