Veni, vidi, vici

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The Philip Morris logo, from a pack of Marlboro cigarettes.

"Veni, vidi, vici" (Classical Latin: [ˈweːniː ˈwiːdiː ˈwiːkiː]; Ecclesiastical Latin: [ˈvɛni ˈvidi ˈvitʃi]; "I came; I saw; I conquered") is a Latin phrase popularly attributed to Julius Caesar, who supposedly used the phrase in a letter to the Roman Senate around 46 BC after he had achieved a quick victory in his short war against Pharnaces II of Pontus at the Battle of Zela.[1] The phrase is used to refer to a swift, conclusive victory.

Veni, vidi, and vici are first person perfect forms of the Latin verbs venire, videre, and vincere, which mean "to come", "to see", and "to conquer", respectively. The sentence's form is classed as a tricolon and a hendiatris. It appears in Plutarch (Plut. Caes. 50) and Suetonius (Suet. Iul. 37.). Plutarch reports that Caesar "gave Amantius, a friend of his at Rome, an account of this action",[2] whereas Suetonius says "In His Pontic triumph he displayed among the show-pieces of the procession an inscription of but three words, 'I came, I saw, I conquered'".[3]

Allusions and references[edit]

Robert Browne Hall's 1896 march, Veni, Vidi, Vici, performed by the United States Air Force Band.

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Variations of the sentence "Veni, vidi, vici" are often quoted, and also used in music, art, literature, and entertainment.

Since the time of Caesar, the phrase has been used in military contexts, from King Jan III of Poland's allusion to the phrase after the 17th-century Battle of Vienna, changing it to "Venimus, Vidimus, Deus vicit"[4] ("We came, We saw, God conquered"), to Hillary Clinton referring in 2011 to the death of Muammar Gaddafi by saying "We came, we saw, he died".[5]

The sentence lends itself to use in music, and has been used in several well-known works over the years, from the opening of Handel's 1724 opera Giulio Cesare: "Curio, Cesare venne, e vide e vinse (Curio, Caesar came, saw and conquered)", references in the 1940s song "These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You)" and a line ("You came, you saw, you conquered") from the title song of the musical Mame, through to modern times with such artists as Jay-Z (in "Encore"), The Hives (in Veni Vidi Vicious), Madonna (in "Veni Vidi Vici" feat. Nas from her Rebel Heart album) and others still using references to the sentence. The German Eurodance/Eurorap group Highland created an Italian/English song in 2001 entitled Veni, Vidi, Vici. The music video depicts a Roman era royal throne room, thereby attributing to Julius Caesar. (see also their other band Heiland, named after the lead singer Nicole Heiland.[6]

There are also many references in literature and film. In the animated version of Asterix in Britain, Julius Caesar exclaims "Make a note - I came, I saw and I don't believe me eyes!" in reference to a distracted Roman signaller accidentally catapaulting their own fleet. The title of the poem "Veni, vidi, vixi" by French poet Victor Hugo, written after the death of his daughter Leopoldine at age 19 in 1843, means "I came, I saw, I lived", and the first verse is "J'ai bien assez vécu...", which roughly translated is "I have lived well long enough...". Peter Venkman, one of the protagonists in the 1984 film Ghostbusters, delivered a humorous variation on the phrase: "We came. We saw. We kicked its ass!" This line was among the 400 nominees for the AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes.[7] Madonna on her 2015 album entitled Rebel Heart alludes to the saying on the track "Veni Vidi Vici". She clearly reports her struggle through music industry and press, and she ends it with the lines "I came, I saw, I conquered".

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "HISTORY OF JULIUS CAESAR". historyworld.net. 
  2. ^ Plutarch, Life of Caesar from penelope.uchicago.edu
  3. ^ Suetonius, Lives of the Twelve Caesars: Julius from penelope.uchicago.edu
  4. ^ Lettere memorabili, istoriche, politiche, ed erudite raccolte da Antonio Bulifon (Pozzuoli, 1698), vol. 1, p. 177.
  5. ^ Daly, Corbett (20 October 2011). "Clinton on Qaddafi: "We came, we saw, he died"". CBSNEWS (CBS Interactive Inc.). Retrieved 7 November 2014. 
  6. ^ "Highland/Heiland Fanclub". Facebook. 
  7. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes—400 nominated movie quotes" (PDF). American Film Institute. p. 36. Retrieved July 18, 2012.