Friday, March 27, 2015

Quo Vadis?, Where are you going?...

I finished reading Quo Vadis? last week and I'm still thinking about it!  It is a great book.  If you have it on your shelf, I encourage you to get it down and read it.  This classic novel was originally written in the late nineteenth century by Henryk Sienkiewicz, a Polish Nobel Prize winning author.  It has since been translated into more than 40 languages.   

Quo Vadis? is a remarkable story set in Rome under the reign of Nero Written as historical fiction, Sienkiewicz did extensive research to be sure the historic details were accurate.  A historical note in the back of my book stated,
Before writing Quo Vadis?, he traveled to Italy several times to visit the museums and historic sites of ancient Rome.  He was thoroughly familiar with the ancient sources of the period, especially Tacitus and Suetonius, as well as the works of contemporary scholars, in particular Fustel de Coulanges and Ernest Renan.
I must confess, I did have a bit of trouble in the first chapter keeping the characters straight as many of the names were unfamiliar to me.  I remember studying Nero with the kids a few years back, but my knowledge and memory was limited.  I really appreciated the Character List found here, which shows the fictitious characters versus true historic characters.  I also read from The Story of the Romans by H. A. Guerber, reprinted by Christine Miller, to gain further knowledge of Roman history.  In addition, Cliff Notes on Roman Classics was helpful in learning about Seneca, who educated Nero, and Stoicism, a common philosophy practiced at that time.  

Quo Vadis? is an old Sonlight title, used in what was formerly Year 8, now Core 200.  It has since been replaced, initially by The Flames of Rome by Paul L. Maier, and more recently, Pontius Pilate, also by Maier, apparently due to sensual content.   I have not read either book by Maier, however, after reading Quo Vadis?, I'm disappointed that it was replaced.  I really enjoyed reading Quo Vadis? and feel it's an important piece of literature.  Beautiful Feet does still use Quo Vadis? in their high school Ancient History guide.  Their website description reads as follows:
In the dark, decadent last days of the Roman Empire, a pagan soldier sees a girl of exotic beauty and decides he must have her as his concubine. But unknown to him, Ligia is a Christian intent on living a pure life, even as Nero's ruthless persecution sweeps the city. As the lives of Vinicius and Ligia intertwine, they watch the world they know change before their eyes. While the apostles Peter and Paul seek to save the immoral city from ruin, Christians are brutally martyred in the Coliseum and Rome burns. Quo Vadis, part of Focus on the Family Great Stories collection, vividly captures all the madness and suspense of one of history's most unforgettable chapters. [It's a] Richly detailed and historically accurate picture of Rome in the time of Nero. Set against the barbarity and sensuality of Nero's Rome, it portrays the agony and the glory of the early Church. Word of caution: there are a few instances of sensuality realistically portrayed. 
I read Quo Vadis? along with a friend as part of my quest for mother culture.  We then had weekly discussion based on the questions in the BF Ancient History guide.  It was so fun reading with a buddy and it held me accountable to finish such a 'big book'.  I also joined the 2015 Chunkster Challenge and the 2015 Back to the Classics Challenge linked below.  I will use this book in the Very Long Classic category.    

Unfortunately, there are many parallels between ancient Rome and modern America.  Yet, the beautiful message of the Gospel reassures us as Christians.  I leave you with this quote that I copied into my Commonplace Book from Quo Vadis?,
....He saw a precipice before him without a bottom, a future without hope.  He was a patrician, a military tribune, a powerful man, but now he saw another power threatening him, a power which belonged to a madman whose evil actions were numerous in the past, in the present, and no doubt would be in the future.  Only such people as the Christians disdain this power and do not fear it, knowing that this power is merely temporary and ephemeral.  Sure, he could put them to death now but eventually they would overcome this evil which threatens them.  Everyone else was in mortal fear of Caesar's power but not the Christians.  They feared a much greater power than Nero's or any other on this earth.
Vinitius now fully understood the extent of the evil which ruled the Roman world....For the first time, he felt that either the world must change and be transformed or life would be impossible with such a tyrant as ruler.  He now understood that in times like these only Christians could be happy.


  1. This is a book I've never read but I've heard about now & again. I did look for a copy once but I'll have to try again. Thanks for the details in your review.

  2. I own this (my mom passed down all her old sonligjt curriculum to me which is probably why) and I've tried to start it twice but given up in the first chapter. You've just inspired me to try again. Maybe third time's a charm?