"Dum Spiro Spero", Theocritus' Phrase Adopted by the Kingdom of Sarawak

Direct your gaze to the three-word phrase atop that building pillar; do not fail to focus on any other objects.

Every time I visit and soak in the atmosphere of Kuching, Sarawak, I never fail to, and never get tired of, stepping in front of this important inscription.

"Dum spiro spero." This Latin phrase translates to "While I breathe, I hope."

The expression is often attributed to the 3rd-century Greek poet Theocritus. Though "Dum spiro spero" is widely linked to Theocritus, the phrase in its Latin form does not originate directly from his works.

Theocritus and his pastoral poetry

This phrase, rooted in Latin, has been used in various contexts throughout history. Theocritus is renowned for his pastoral poetry, which vividly portrays rural life and nature. However, the phrase "Dum spiro spero" itself developed later within the Latin tradition.

The precise origins of the phrase in Latin are not entirely clear. Nevertheless, it is often associated with the Stoic tradition and Roman philosophical thought, which emphasized the importance of hope and perseverance. Over time, the phrase was adopted and utilized in diverse cultural and historical contexts, serving as both personal and institutional mottos.

Adoption by the Kingdom of Sarawak

One of the most notable adoptions of this phrase is by the Kingdom of Sarawak. If you visit Kuching, Sarawak, you will find "Dum spiro spero" prominently displayed on a pillar of the post office building.

This motto embodies a spirit of strong hope and courage, reflecting the tenacious and optimistic attitude of the people of Sarawak.

Personal significance and broader implications

On a personal level, this phrase holds profound meaning. No matter the circumstances, as long as we are alive and breathing, there is always hope. Hope is one of humanity’s greatest strengths, motivating us to continue striving and pursuing our goals despite challenges and obstacles.

More broadly, "Dum spiro spero" teaches us never to lose hope, to always hold on to optimism, and to persist in our efforts to achieve the best in our lives. The phrase serves as a reminder that as long as we are alive, there is always an opportunity for change and improvement, with hope guiding us towards a better future.

A motto for everyone

This motto could resonate with you as well. We all hold hope that things will go well, better, and even the best. Hope gives us the strength to keep moving forward, to face life's challenges with resilience, and never to succumb to despair.

As long as we are breathing, we have the chance to improve our circumstances, to reach our dreams, and to become the best version of ourselves. So, let us hold tightly to that hope. For as long as we breathe, there is always hope waiting to be realized.

-- Rangkaya Bada

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