Sol omnibus lucet.
(Petronius, Satyricon 100)
The sun shines on everyone.
(pron = sohl OHM-nih-boos LOO-ket).
Comment: This short little line comes from the "first Latin novel", Petronius'
work known as "The Satyricon". It only exists in pieces. The entire thing
does not survive. It almost did not survive the middle ages as church
"scholars" found it's strong sexual themes something they could not publicly
condone. But, copies did survive, and eventually resurfaced during the
This short little line comes in the most famous section of the extant text, a
section known as Trimalchio's dinner. Trimalchio is a rich, gaudy,
ostentatious freedman who delights in throwing lavish dinner parties, inviting
the rich and powerful and the not so rich and powerful, having them mingle at
his tables, and then stunning them throughout the evening with outrageous
events that no one expects at a proper dinner party.
This short little line expresses a moment of what seems (scholars debate
this)like a very serious philosophical moment. It is an expression of the
equality of all human beings--slaves and free alike. The sun shines on all
human beings. Trimalchio's household is swimming with slaves. He was himself,
as was his wife, a slave. Most of his friends are former slaves. They know
slavery inside and out. They know, despite all of the rules of social
discourse in Rome, what is proper and what is not, that the sun shines on
everyone without discrimination.
This short little line is not really the expression of Trimalchio, who is, after
all, a fictitious character. It is the expression, though, of Petronius who
very likely was a chief in the court of Nero. He had been the one to procure
for the Emperor all of the niceties that he enjoyed. In the end of his life,
however, he wrote this work which seems to call all social lines into question,
or rather, demonstrate how those lines in classical society were collapsing.
Whatever differences we might like to enjoy in ourselves and over against others
today (and we all do in some overt ways and in some fairly secret ways), the sun
still shines on us and on those we are certain are inferior to us. This short
little line might be a bit of light for us today. Who are those on whom we
cannot give our approval? Let us call them to mind, and notice how, despite
our best forms of bigotry, the sun shines on them, too.
(Used with permission)
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