Civis romanus sum

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The Latin phrase civis romanus sum (cīvis rōmānus sum) (Classical Latin: [ˈkiːwɪs roːˈmaːnʊs ˈsʊm], I am a Roman citizen) is a phrase used in Cicero's In Verrem as a plea for the legal rights of a Roman citizen.[1]

In the New Testament, Paul the Apostle, when imprisoned and on trial, claimed his right as a Roman citizen to be tried before Caesar, and the judicial process had to be suspended until he was brought to Rome.[2][3]

The locution was quoted by Lord Palmerston when called to explain his decision to blockade Greece during the Don Pacifico Affair. In his speech in the Houses of Parliament on June 25, 1850 he claimed that every British subject in the world should be protected by the British Empire like a Roman citizen in the Roman Empire.[4][5]

American president John F. Kennedy used the phrase in 1963: "Two thousand years ago, the proudest boast was 'civis romanus sum'. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is 'Ich bin ein Berliner'."[6]


  1. ^ Cicero, Marcus Tullius. "In Verrem". Latin Texts and Translations (in English and Latin). Retrieved 8 April 2014. ...except these words, 'I am a citizen of Rome.' He fancied that by this one statement of his citizenship he could ward off all blows. 
  2. ^ "Acts 22". Bible Gateway. 
  3. ^ "Acts 27". Bible Gateway. 
  4. ^ Wawro, Geoffrey (2002). Warfare and Society in Europe 1792–1914. Routledge. pp. 37–38. 
  5. ^ Chamberlain, Muriel Evelyn (1980). British foreign policy in the age of Palmerston. Seminar studies in history. Longman. p. 125. 
  6. ^ Kennedy, John. "Ich bin ein Berliner". American Rhetoric. Retrieved 8 April 2014.