What military leader said, “I came I saw I conquered”?
Julius Caesar wrote this phrase in 49 BCE as a part of his report to the Roman senate, stating his and his army’s victory over Pharnaces II of Pontus.
Contrary to popular belief, the Roman general actually didn’t say these words in a public setting. Instead, this is one of the famous Caesar quotes that originated in written form.
Continue reading for more cool historical trivia about what are supposedly Caesar’s famous words.
Table of Contents
- Background Information About the Quote
- Military Leader’s Profile: Julius Caesar
- The Conquests Referred to in the Phrase
- Overview About This Battle of Zela
- Legacy and Influence
- Frequently Asked Questions
Background Information About the Quote
Many people are aware of who said this quote but don’t know its meaning. Here are 3 less-known trivia about this statement:
1. “Veni vidi vici” is a phrase in Latin.
It was the actual words Julius Caesar used over 2,000 years ago. Like many of Julius Cesar quotes in the past, the popular “I came, I saw, I conquered” statement had been translated to Greek as well.
2. Two versions of Caesar’s quote exist, but both are in written form.
Written on a placard: According to ancient Roman historian Suetonius’s “Lives of the Caesars,” Caesar paraded a placard that wrote “veni vidi vici” to announce his victory against Asia Minor (now Turkey).
Written on a letter: According to Roman writers Plutarch and Appian, Caesar wrote a letter to Rome instead.
3. Julius Caesar knew the phrase would befit a larger audience.
When Caesar said this phrase, it was just one triumph out of the 5 recent battles he won across five locations.
But researchers have discussed how Caesar intentionally used the emotion-filled quote for a mass-audience setting. Historians noted that Julius Caesar wanted people to repeat, debate, or remember his words. And he was right.
Military Leader’s Profile: Julius Caesar
Born on July 100 BC in Rome, Italy as Gaius Julius Caesar. Though his roots could be traced back to the founding fathers of Rome, Caesar’s family were well-off aristocrats (just rich enough to get private education, but not Roman-emperor rich levels).
Then 17-year-old Caesar joined a Roman political family when he married Cornelia. He left Rome for the army, came back as a military hero, and joined the government.
Julius Caesar’s ascend to power began at 40 years old once he was elected as consul and as he began his stint as Gaul province governor.
1. Julius Caesar Major Achievements and Conquests
Julius Caesar’s notable achievements are grouped under his military and political career:
- Military achievements and conquests
In over a decade, the military achievements of Caesar included battles throughout the Gallic Wars (from 58 BC to 51 BC) and Caesar’s power-struggle civil war (from 49 BC to 45 BC).
- Political achievements
As Caesar bagged victories left and right throughout the Gallic Wars rising through the ranks in the military, so did his political career.
After taking on humble roles like a military tribune, aedile, and Pontifex Maximus, his real influence in power began when he became governor of Spain and formed an alliance with Crassus and Pompey (as the First Triumvirate).
When Julius Caesar was assassinated on the Ides of March (March 15, 44 B.C.) by his political rivals, he had the title of Roman general and ‘dictator in perpetuity’ of the Roman Empire.
2. Julius Caesar Relevance and Impact in History
In Roman history, Julius Caesar used his power in enacting government reforms, enlarging the senate, and reducing Rome’s overall debt.
It’s almost 2,000 years since Julius Caesar died but his achievements are still relevant to modern society. The Julian calendar, his influence on military tactics, the innovation of a new language, and modern Roman culture are all still being talked about to this day.
The Conquests Referred to in the Phrase
Julius Caesar’s political and military career had progressively been growing for over a decade thanks to multiple conquests in Germany, England, and Egypt, among others.
But the conquest referred to in this phrase was his campaign and victory in Asia Minor. It was here where Caesar broke records and said the phrase “Veni vidi vici” or “I came; I saw; I conquered.”
The provocative phrase implied Caesar’s quick victory at Pontus over King Pharnaces II, immediately after arriving in the area for the first time. Caesar also seemed like he wanted to strike a chord with his Roman predecessors (who failed at conquering Pontus) before him.
The phrase was a memorable one, especially since Caesar stated it during his first return to Rome since the Civil War broke.
Overview About This Battle of Zela
There are not a lot of Roman quotes about war as popular as this Battle of Zela quote.
The Battle of Zela took place in 47 BCE during the struggle for power between Julius Caesar and Pharnaces II of the Kingdom of Pontus, who was fighting to expand his rule over Asia Minor (now Turkey).
Zela was the exact place this battle occurred. Today, the area is now a small hilltop town in the Tokat province of northern Turkey.
The battle ended after just 5 days of battle with Julius Caesar ending in victory.
Legacy and Influence
As a Roman leader, Caesar made it safer and more pro-people for the citizens of Rome. But this isn’t the only legacy to his name.
The following can also be traced back to Julius Caesar:
- Military guidebook: Julius Caesar wrote a couple of “Commentaries” books. “Commentaries on the Gallic Wars” and “Commentaries of the Civil Wars” are the books where he shared about his conquests, wars, campaigns, and the politics behind these.
- First newspaper: Caesar founded “Acta Urbis,” which is considered the world’s first newspaper.
- Julian’s 365-day calendar: The calendar we know today can be traced back to Caesar. He worked with Greek mathematician Sosignes to come up with the new calendar consisting of 365 days (and an extra day for leap year).
Frequently Asked Questions
Where else has this line been used?
In pop culture, the phrase has been mentioned exactly as is (or versions of the quote).
- In music, Jay-Z’s song “Encore” features the complete statement.
- In the 1984 movie “Ghostbusters, Dr. Peter Venkman exclaimed, “We came, we saw, we kicked its ass!”
What is the proper punctuation for the quote: I came I saw I conquered?
When it comes to writing both phrases – “I came, I saw, I conquered” and “Veni, vidi, vici,” grammarians debate about using either a semicolon or a comma splice (when a pair of independent clauses are incorrectly joined with a comma).
While comma splice is acceptable in this phrase, especially since it is used for dramatic effect, grammarians advise employing comma splices as little as possible.
Did Julius Caesar have other similar quotes as famous as this one?
Not all of Caesar’s conquer quotes were cemented into the history books, but these quotes are also popular:
- It is easier to find men who will volunteer to die, than to find those who are willing to endure pain with patience.
- Cowards die many times before their deaths, The valiant never taste of death but once.
- If you must break the law, do it to seize power; in all other cases observe it.
- The greatest enemy will hide in the last place you would ever look.
Discovering what military leader said I came, I saw, I conquered, and learning about the story behind it truly gives you a more in-depth understanding of Julius Caesar as a military conqueror and leader.
Julius Caesar was a celebrated Roman general and statesman whose words are still repeated, debated, and remembered to this day.
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