Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Episode 164: Veni, Vidi, Vici. I came, I saw, I conquered. Show Notes

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Bunny Trails: A Word History Podcast

Episode 164: Veni, Vidi, Vici. I Came, I Saw, I Conquered.

Record Date: Aug 28, 2022

Air Date: Aug 31, 2022



Welcome to Bunny Trails, a whimsical adventure of idioms and other turns of phrase. 

I’m Dan Pugh


And I’m Shauna Harrison

Each week we take an idiom or other turn of phrase and try to tell the story from its entry into the English language, to how it’s used today.

Opening Hook

Some statements carry through history because they are tied to a great event or a great leader. Some are just really catchy. And some phrases live on because they are so well-worded and poignant that they resonate with individuals and groups in a way that is just non-specific enough to be timeless. Our phrase this week has a little bit of everything. Today we tell the story… Veni, Vidi, Vici. I Came, I Saw, I Conquered. 


The nice thing about this phrase is that we don’t need to place it into context to know the meaning or translation. The original Latin still has the same meaning… I Came, I Saw, I Conquered. 

I’m not an expert at Latin to English verb conjugation… but thankfully, there are others who’ve shared their knowledge with the world. 

I invite you to join me for a mini lesson on Latin word structure from Melissa Brinks who discussed the phrase in her Jul 15, 2019 article What Does "Veni Vidi Vici" Mean? Why Do People Say It? This was posted on under SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips.


“Veni, vidi, vici is a Latin phrase that literally translates to “I came, I saw, I conquered." Latin doesn’t require individual pronouns, as each word is conjugated from the “to be” form (“Venire, videre, vincere”) to the first-person singular perfect indicative active form.

To break that down a little, “first-person singular” refers to the fact that the subject is “I,” while “perfect indicative active” means that the action the subject performed occurred earlier than the current time. Therefore, “veni, vidi, vici” translates to “I came, I saw, I conquered,” despite only being three words long. Because English doesn’t fold its subjects into its verbs, the phrase is a little longer in English.”

End Quote 

Melissa goes on to explain what is perhaps the most disconcerting information about this phrase… the way it was likely pronounced by Caesar. Hint, it isn’t the way we’ve all been saying it for years. Basically, it’s one letter that sort of throws things off. Vehnee, veedee, veechee or vehnee, veedee, veekee follows the Ecclesiastical Latin pronunciation while Caesar would have spoken Classical Latin… so instead, he would have said, 

/Wehnee, weedee, weekee/

I know… disturbing. 

Or perhaps it just… sounds less impressive? 

In modern English, we have a tendency to place a strength value on not just words and their meaning, but their sound as well. And the sound the letter “w” makes just isn’t all that powerful. Think of words like, Weak, Wimpy, Worthless…” That’s not a hard and fast rule… we don’t really have any of those in English. But in this case, it carries. 

Origin… was it actually Caesar? 

With a phrase this old, attributed to someone so historically famous, and with such great cadence and simplicity - we often find that the true story behind the phrase is lost to time. Either the phrase wasn’t seen in print or wasn’t attributed to the famous person until long after their death - or the popularity of the phrase kicks up around the time the famous person/event occurred, but was seen in print prior to their use of it. Other times, we find just outright contradictory information. But… not this time! This week’s episode will have us all feeling satisfied and ready to say, “Yes! That’s what I thought!” 

For this, we go to the Cambridge University Press: The Classical Quarterly, which is a semiannual publication of research papers and shorter notes in the fields of Greek and Latin language, literature, history and philosophy. 

A deep dive into the political implications of this phrase were evaluated in the 08 November 2013 paper VENI VIDI VICI AND CAESAR'S TRIUMPH*

by the author Ida Östenberg* who was listed as having an affiliation with the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. 

The article begins, 


Without doubt, veni vidi vici is one of the most famous quotations from Antiquity. It is well known that it was Julius Caesar who coined the renowned expression. Less frequently discussed is the fact that ‘I came, I saw, I conquered’ was announced as written text. According to Suetonius, Caesar paraded a placard displaying the words veni vidi vici in his triumph held over Pontus in 46 b.c. (Suet. Iul. 37.2):

Suetonius is the only ancient author who writes that Caesar paraded veni vidi vici in his triumph in Rome. The phrase does, however, appear in two other writers. According to Plutarch and Appian, Caesar, having swiftly defeated Pharnaces of Pontus at Zela in 47 b.c., wrote ‘I came, I saw, I conquered’ in a letter to Rome. Footnote 5 Both give the phrase in Greek translation, but Plutarch praises the Latin wording for its persuasive composition and brevity. Footnote 6 Florus and Cassius Dio also describe the victory at Zela in words that testify to Caesar's speed and clearly refer to his statement. Footnote 7

End quote 

I’m grateful for amazing individuals who have done so much work to research things like this. I am comfortable trusting their expertise and saying confidently that  we have some pretty decent evidence for Julius Caesar being the originator of this phrase. 

What happened after this with the phrase? 

Everything. All the time. No, really. Sort of. 

Veni, vidi, vici has never really fallen out of favor. If you search texts for the phrase, there are thousands of results from nearly every century used in the Latin in works otherwise written in a wide variety of languages. 

The phrase has been used in its original form and in satirical works, sometimes with a bit of wordplay. Well-known writers, philosophers, and historians like Shakespeare, and Plutarch are some easy examples. But I found a more obscure reference from 1590 that I wanted to share. It comes from a work by Lodowick LLOYD titled, The First Part of the Diall of Daies, Containing 320. Romane Triumphes Besides the Triumphant Obelisks and Pyramydes of the Ægyptians, Etc….

The forward reads,


vini ad te, vixi per te, spero de te

I came to you, I lived through you, I hope for you

End quote 

Shortly after this, in 1606, is the first time I could find the phrase in print in English. 


End Quote 

Victor Hugo, the French author best known for his poetry and novels, including 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' and 'Les Misérables', wrote a collection of poetry titled, Pauca Meae that was published in 1856. It was written after the death of his daughter and one piece was titled, Veni Vidi Vixi - or - I Came I Saw I Lived. The piece contrasts the joy and beauty of life and the world with his hollow existence. He ends the piece with the lines


Now my tired eyes are but half open kept,

To turn when I am called is all I can,

Wearied and stupefied, and like a man

Who rises e'er the morn, and ne'er has slept.

Idle through grief, I neither design nor care

Notice to take of envy's noisy spite.

O Lord! now open me the gates of night,

That I may get me gone, and disappear.

End quote,-Vidi,-Vixi-(French-&-English) 

Billie Holiday recorded a version of “These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You)” in 1936 which includes a play on the phrase in English. The song ends with


You came, you saw, you conquered me

When you did that to me

I knew somehow this had to be

The winds of march that made my heart a dancer

A telephone that rings but who's to answer

Oh, how the ghost of you clings

These foolish things remind me of you

End quote 

With how long ago this phrase started, I might have placed 1936 in modern uses… but we have plenty to choose from in the next 80-some years. And we’ll get to those, right after we take a moment to say thank you to our sponsors. 

A Quick Thank You


This episode is sponsored by our amazing Patrons on Patreon.

You can help support this educational artform and get awesome perks along the way! Tiers start at $3 a month, which get you our polls and community-only discussions, early access to the podcast, and the behind the scenes video for each episode so you can watch along as we make the show. 

At $10 you’ll also get original digital artwork from Shauna once a month featuring exclusive art about an idiom or other turn of phrase. At $15, you’ll also get personal on-air recognition like Pat Rowe does every episode. And of course huge thanks goes to the top spot among our Patrons, our Dean of Learning, Mary Halsig-Lopez. Thank you so much to Mary and all of our patrons. 

If you want to help create Bunny Trails week after week, whatever your budget, we are bunnytrailspod on Patreon. 


Modern Uses

The best example of how common this phrase is today shows up on social media. There are regularly somewhere between 50 to 250 Tweets an hour containing the phrase… that’s a lot!

While we may not see 250 new releases an hour, our phrase has a decent presence in the music industry. 

The 2002 studio album for the Swedish rock band the Hives was titled "Veni Vidi Vicious". I think that’s pretty clever. 

Rapper Jay-Z on "Encore" in 2004 and rapper Pitbull on "Fireball" in 2014.  both included versions of the phrase.  

Music icon Madonna released the song Veni Vidi Vici on the album Rebel Heart in 2015. The song also featured the artist Nas


… I came, I saw, I conquered

I was constant as a northern star

I had a fire burning in my heart

I never gave up fighting in the dark (yeah)

I came, I saw, I conquered (let's go)

End Quote

At Bunny Trails, we love Art! I am one of those who sort of loves a huge range of art. From the classics to the temporary chalk drawings created on sidewalks in the afternoon. 

One of our favorite places to see what is being created is online at Saatchi Art. There are quite a few results when searching Veni vidi vici. 

Veni, vidi vici LOVE NFT 201220212118 

This piece is one of 28 sculptures in porcelain by artist Kony Bak out of Germany. The actual item is not for sale, but rather a print of a photo of the object. In this case, it is a white skull floral representation pieces added. It’s rather pretty, in my opinion. 

Wrap Up

What better phrase to sum up the sentiment so many people seem to want to leave in the world. “I was here.” And even better… I won. Actually, I’m not sure at face-value if it’s how I want to be remembered… as having won, conquered? But accomplishing? … yes. I don’t think I need it etched in stone with my name attached, or anything either. :) But I hope that when I leave the world, I have a sense of completion, perhaps contribution. To my family or community. To nature or to history. To those left behind. I hope I leave things better than they were before I got there. I mean, what more can we hope for? 


That’s about all we have for today. If you have any thoughts on the show, or pop culture references we should have included, reach out to us on social media where we are @bunnytrailspod, or comment on our website


Poll time! 

In a recent poll, we asked Patrons, 

“What kind of pet person are you?” 

A whopping 80% of our Patrons said yes to the pets. 

Half of those “All the pets!”, while the other half were split between cats versus dogs.

About 20% said no pets, please. Which I think is okay. I currently don’t have any pets because I travel quite a bit. Though in the classic cats versus dog debate, I’m definitely a dog guy. 


I love animals. My heart equally wants all the pets and also wants all the animals to “Be Free!” I grew up with lots of pets… dogs, cats, hamsters, cockatiels, ferrets… my closest pet relationship was with the dog I got when I was about 12. His name was Licorice. We aren’t sure what breed he actually was, but he looked just like a Bouvier. Licorice was a fantastic herding dog - not that we ever trained him to be. He was incredibly sweet, sort of dopey, and acted a lot like a toddler. 

  • Lay on vents 

  • Excited to play - then act bored/bummed

  • Turn to jello and make me carry him 

  • Whine when someone he liked got up to leave

  • Literally hang on my ankles when I was getting ready to go to school everyday

  • Had a best friend - Cocoa - who belonged to my sister. Cocoa was half blue healer and she looked like a giant red wolf that belongs in a fantasy story.


As a reminder, our silly polls mean absolutely nothing and are not scientifically valid. But Patrons of all levels get to take part in our polls. Head over to to take this week’s poll!



Thanks for joining us. We’ll talk to you again next week. Until then remember, 


Words belong to their users. 


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