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Homo homini lupus is a Latin phrase meaning "man is a wolf to [his fellow] man." First attested in Plautus' Asinaria (495, "lupus est homo homini"), the sentence was drawn on by Thomas Hobbes in the dedication of his work De cive (1651): "To speak impartially, both sayings are very true; That Man to Man is a kind of God; and that Man to Man is an arrant Wolfe. The first is true, if we compare Citizens amongst themselves; and the second, if we compare Cities." Hobbes's observation in turn echoes a line from Plautus claiming that man is inherently selfish.

The phrase is sometimes translated as "man is man's wolf", which can be interpreted to mean that man preys upon man. It is widely referenced when discussing the horrors of which humans are capable.

As an opposition, Seneca wrote that "man is something sacred for man".[1]

Notable citations


  • Erasmus discusses Plautus' use of the phrase in Adagia first published in 1500.
  • In chapter 13, Opposite the House of the Caryatids of Doctor Zhivago (1957) by Boris Pasternak, the narrator remarks, of the scenes and events witnessed by Zhivago during his escape on foot from the partisans late in Russia's post-revolutionary civil war: "Those days justified the ancient saying that 'man is a wolf to man'." (English translation by Manya Harari and Max Hayward © William Collins & Co, 1958) - revised in a later edition to: "In those days it was true, if ever, that 'man is a wolf to man'."
  • In 1927, when sentence of death was pronounced upon the anarchists Bartolomeo Vanzetti and Nicola Sacco, after they were found guilty of murder, a verdict widely condemned as improper, Vanzetti said that the name of his friend Nicolo Sacco would live when the present was seen as "a cursed past in which man was wolf to the man."
  • Founding assumption in Sigmund Freud's 1929 Civilization and Its Discontents
  • The title of a 1999 album by the Italian band La Locanda delle Fate.
  • The title of an Italian short movie directed by Matteo Rovere in 2006.
  • Used in a song (Inequality Street) by the band Skyclad.
  • The character Coldman in Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker has a tattoo on the back of his head with this phrase along with a wolf-like creature with a peace symbol at its right paw.
  • Used ironically in Voltaire's Candide to argue against the philosophy of optimism.
  • The English title of the memoir Man Is Wolf To Man[2] by Janusz Bardach is a translation of Homo homini lupus. An unrelated movie[3] of the same name, created by the Santana brothers, is in post-production as of August 2010.


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