So, right at the top of every page of this blog there’s a big title line that says “Homo Sum: humani nil a me alienum puto”, which is sometimes shortened by the system to “Homo Sum” (in fact, that is probably what you see in the caption bar of your browser). And right beside that title is a picture of a bald dude.
The phrase is Latin, obviously. It roughly translates as “I am human and I let nothing human be alien to me.”
I love the idea of that phrase, the notion that nothing human is alien to me–that I have a stake in the life of each person, that all fields of human endeavour from particle physics to the most literary of novels, from pig farming to winemaking, are all things that I can find some link with.
I’m not the only one who loved the phrase. It was quoted by Cicero, and was commonplace amongst the humanists of the late medival before becoming not uncommon throughout the Enlightenment. Originally the phrase is from a play called The Self Tormenter (Heautontimorumenos) which was written in the second century BC by a playwright named Publius Terentius Afer, more commonly known as “Terence the African”. (See the info about Terence at Wikipedia, or check out the page at TheatreHistory. Note that the image I use in my header is a representation of a bust of Terenence that was ganked from that TheatreHistory page and Photoshop-ed into what I wanted.)
In the play the phrase is used as a response to a question that can be translated, very loosely, as “Do you have so much time that you can afford to spend it poking around in stuff that is none of your business”, and there is a good case to be made that a colloquial translation of the phrase would be more like “Hey, I consider everything my business”. I don’t think that takes away from how much I like the phrase–indeed, I think it adds another connotation to it that I amuses me.
Also amusing to me is this list of more than 40 translations of the phrase into other languages.