Alas, English can never hope to capture the delightful rhyme which is, in a sense, the point of this Latin proverb. I guess we could try to say in English, "What is Jovine is not bovine." Alas, "Jovine" did not make it into the English vocabulary!
There is a nice English equivalent cited in wikipedia: "Gods may do what cattle may not."
This proverb follows up on yesterday's proverb about the crows getting off the hook, while the doves are punished.
There is something less cynical about today's proverb, however. A god and an ox are not the same, and they have different jobs in life. Jove wields the thunderbolt, while the ox bears the plough. If I had a choice, I guess it would be nice to be wielding the thunderbolt. I definitely find myself more at the ox-end of the spectrum!
Is there a subtext here of Jupiter's own amorous escapades? The lord of the gods disguised himself as a bull to carry off Europa, after all. (See, for example, this painting by Gustave Moreau, inspired by the story of Europa's abduction.) In that case, it seems that what is permitted to Jove is not permitted to the ox... but to Jove is permitted everything, from the world of gods and men and oxen alike!
Here is today's proverb read out loud - enjoy the rhyme!
1503. Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi.
The number here is the number for this proverb in
If you are reading this via RSS: The Flash audio content is not syndicated via RSS; please visit the Latin Audio Proverbs blog to listen to the audio. You can also hear this saying read aloud at a Polish website: Wladyslawa Kopalinskiego Slownik wyrazَw obcych i zwrotَw obcojezycznych (weblink). The Polish translation is lucky enough to have a very nice sound play between wol and woł, even if it does not rhyme: co wolno Jowiszowi, tego nie wolno wołowi.