History : Jul-Aug 2019
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC HISTORY 1 FROM THE EDITOR Amy Briggs, Executive Editor Veni, vidi, vici. I came, I saw, I conquered. Pithy, precise, parallel: The phrase was first found in the works of second-century a.d. historians Suetonius and Plutarch when they wrote about Julius Caesar’s military successes. “Veni, vidi, vici” appears in their accounts of Caesar’s lightning- fast, absolute victory over the kingdom of Pontus in 47 b.c. Rome rewarded Caesar with a triumph for that victory, and history rewarded him with something far more enduring: a catchphrase. When you start to look, “Veni, vidi, vici” (or its English equivalent) turns up everywhere. A 1724 Handel opera and the 1984 movie “Ghostbusters” both reference it. Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Nat King Cole have all crooned “You came, you saw, you conquered me,” in “These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You).” Spaghetti Westerns got in on the act in 1968 with “I Came, I Saw, I Shot.” Jay-Z’s 2003 song “Encore” employs it to remind listeners of his swift, dominant rise to fame. Victory celebrations end. Glory fades. Heroes fall. But a clever turn of phrase? That can last forever.