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The Civil War of the Roman Republic was started when Gaius Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon and pushed on to Rome with his army. The underlying causes had been building for decades and this had been the second time a Roman army marched on Rome. The war went fairly well for Caesar who defeated his opponents and chased his main enemy, Pompey, to Egypt where he was executed before Caesar could arrive. Caesar subsequently stayed in Egypt, involving himself in the dynastic struggle when Pharnaces II, King of the Bosporan Kingdom (centered on modern Crimea), a client-state to Rome, attacked Deiotarus in Galatia, another ally to the Romans (1, 2).
Caesar decided to face him and departed Egypt, quickly approaching Pharnaces. At the Battle of Zela (Zile in modern Tokat Province, Turkey) he managed to defeat them quite easily and the near flawless victory gave birth to the phrase (1, 2),
“Veni vidi vici”(1, 2, 3)
The phrase translates to “I came, I saw, I conquered”. It is meant to state how easy the victory was for Caesar, as simple as walk in the park. There are different accounts as to how the phrase was used though. Plutarch states that Caesar wrote to his friend Amantius, “Veni,vidi,vici” to comment on his victory (1). Appian wrote that he sent to Rome a letter with the phrase (2). Suetonius claimed that the phrase was even featured at a triumph of Caesar in Rome (3). In any event the phrase was known to the Romans and has been preserved as the record of one of the easiest victories in Rome’s history.
1. Plutarch, Caesar – Chapter 50.2
2. Appian, The Civil Wars – Book 2, Chapter 13.4
3. Suetonius, The Lives of the Caesars, Julius Caesar – Chapter 37
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