South Carolina has two official mottoes. These were engraved on the original great seal in 1777. animis opibusque parati (Prepared in Mind and Resources) is on the rim of the seal obverse (front), accompanying a picture of a palmetto tree. The motto had earlier appeared on a £50 South Carolina banknote issued in 1776. The words were taken from the second book of Virgil’s Aeneid, at the point in the story where Aeneas joined his band of followers who had escaped from the burning city of Troy and had gathered on the beach. Aeneas said that he found his Trojans armed, equipped, ready, and willing to follow him into exile. They were about to set forth on the great voyage of adventure that would ultimately lead to the founding of Rome. Revolutionary South Carolina’s use of this motto expressed confidence in the state’s destiny.
dum spiro spero (While I Breathe, I Hope) appeared on the reverse (back) of the great seal, along with an image of the Roman goddess Spes (Hope). The phrase was popular in the British Isles, where it was borne as a motto by over fifty families. It had also been used as a personal motto by King Charles I and appeared on coins he minted during the English civil war. The words were probably chosen for South Carolina’s seal as an expression of optimism that fit well with the picture of Hope. No special connection with Charles I or any of the various families that employed the motto is known.
Heisser, David C. R. The State Seal of South Carolina: A Short History. Columbia: South Carolina Department of Archives and History, 1992. Pinches, Rosemary, ed. Elvin’s Handbook of Mottoes. Rev. ed. London: Heraldry Today, 1971.