Tempora mutantur is a Latin adage meaning "times change". 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". The phrase is not found in Classical Latin, but is a variant of phrases of Ovid, to whom it is sometimes misattributed. Instead, it dates to early/mid 16th century Germany, in the context of the Protestant Reformation, and it subsequently was popularized in various forms. See history for history and other forms.
Regarding the form:
- Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis
- strictly translated as:
- "Times change, and we change with them."
Like many adages and proverbial or wisdom maxims drawn 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".
"Tempora" is a neuter plural and the subject of the first clause, meaning "times". "Mutantur" is a third person plural present passive, meaning "are changed" literally. "Nos" is the personal pronoun and subject of the second clause, meaning "we". "Et" here does not mean "and" but "also", so it is best translated as "and also". "Mutamur" is the first person plural present passive, meaning "are changed" as well. "In illis" is an ablative plural referring back to "tempora" and so means "with them". The sentence is also in hexameter.
The notion of change, of everything changing, dates in Western philosophy at least to Heraclitus, and is summarized in Ancient Greek as panta rhei (πἀντα ρει, "everything flows"). The Latin formulation tempora mutantur is not classical, and does not have a generally accepted attribution – it is often identified as "traditional" – though it is frequently misattributed, particularly to Ovid. It is typically considered a variant of omnia mutantur "everything changes", specifically from Ovid's Metamorphoses, in the phrase omnia mutantur, nihil interit "everything changes, nothing perishes". However, the earliest attestation is from the German theologian Caspar Huberinus (1500–1553), who instead uses tempora mutantur as a variant of tempora labuntur "time slips away", from Ovid's Fasti. The phrase tempora mutantur may thus be seen as a hybrid of tempora labuntur and omnia mutantur, both from Ovid.
Various longer Latin forms and vernacular translations appear in 16th and early 17th century; these are discussed below.
The earliest attestations are in German Latin literature of the 16th century:
- Tempora labuntur, tacitisque senescimus annis,
- et fugiunt freno non remorante dies.
- The times slip away, and we grow old with the silent years,
- and the days flee unchecked by a rein.
Fasti was popular in the 16th century, and this passage, near the end of the last extant book of the Fasti, is interpreted as expressing the poet's own old age.
Huberinus rewrites the second line as:
- 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".
- Tempora mutantur, et nos mutamur in illis
- with the translation:
- "The times change, and we change with them."
- "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."
- 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."
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 James Joyce's novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, the cronies of the protagonist's (Stephen Dedalus's) father ask him to prove his ability in Latin by asking him "whether it was correct to say: tempora mutantur nos et mutamur or tempora mutantur et nos mutamur in illis." The phrase is meant to be an ironic reference to the decline in fortunes of the Dedalus family at this point in the novel.
In Pierson v. Post, dissenting judge and future US 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?"
- Impermanence in Buddhism
- "Naes's answer to How would a perfect, deep grammar analysis of 'Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis' look like? - Quora". www.quora.com. Retrieved 2017-03-13.
- Metamorphoses (Ovidius), Liber XV, line 165
- Ovid's Fasti, VI, 771
- Playing with Time: Ovid and the Fasti, by Carole Elizabeth Newlands, p. 205
- 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
- "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.
- Richard T. Bruere (October 1968). "Review of: Follett World-Wide Latin Dictionary by Edwin B. Levine". Classical Philology. 63 (4): 313–317. JSTOR 267592.
- Stapert, Calvin (2014). Playing Before the Lord: The Life and Work of Joseph Haydn. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. p. 130. ISBN 9780802868527.
- 3 Cai. R. 175 (1805)
- "Caesars Convention Center Expamsion & Pool Area Remodel".
- Jacob Rees-Mogg [@Jacob_Rees_Mogg] (15 July 2017). "Tempora mutantur, et nos mutamur in illis" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- "Jacob Rees-Mogg's First Ever Tweet Is The Most Rees-Mogg Thing Possible". 17 July 2017.
- Quotations related to Change at Wikiquote