Latin Phrases

esse quam videri – to Be Rather than to Seem (Motto of N. Carolina)

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esse quam videri
To be rather than to seem
(Motto of North Carolina and many other groups/organizations)


The phrase esse quam videri is from Cicero’s essay On Friendship (Laelius de Amicitia, ch 98):
Virtute enim ipsa non tam multi praediti esse quam videri volunt.
Few are those who wish to be endowed with virtue rather than to seem so.

Just a few years after Cicero, Sallust in his Bellum Catilinae (54.6), wrote that Cato the Younger esse quam videri bonus malebat.
(Cato the Younger preferred to be good rather than to seem so).

Previous to Cicero and Sallust, ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus used a similar phrase in Seven Against Thebes at line 592, at which the scout (angelos) says of the seer/priest Amphiaraus: οὐ γὰρ δοκεῖν ἄριστος, ἀλλ᾽ εἶναι θέλει (ou gàr dokeîn áristos, all’ eînai thélei: “he doesn’t want to seem, but to be the bravest”).  Plato quoted this line in Republic.

Niccolò Machiavelli reversed the phrase to videri quam esse (to seem rather than to be).

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