Quo Vadis: A Narrative of the Time of Nero, commonly known as Quo Vadis, is a historical novel written by Henryk Sienkiewicz. Quo vadis is Latin for "Where are you going?" and alludes to a New Testament verse (John 13:36). The verse, in the King James Version, reads as follows, "Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards."
Quo Vadis tells of a love that develops between a young Christian woman, Ligia (or Lygia), and Marcus Vinicius, a Roman patrician. It takes place in the city of Rome under the rule of emperor Nero around AD 64.
Sienkiewicz studied the Roman Empire extensively prior to writing the novel, with the aim of getting historical details correct. As such, several historical figures appear in the book. As a whole, the novel carries a powerful pro-Christian message.
Published in installments in three Polish dailies in 1895, it came out in book form in 1896 and has since been translated into more than 50 languages. This novel contributed to Sienkiewicz's Nobel Prize for literature in 1905.
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About the Author
Born into an impoverished noble family in the Podlasie village of Wola Okrzejska, in Russian-ruled Poland, Sienkiewicz wrote historical novels set during the Rzeczpospolita (Polish Republic, or Commonwealth). Part of his family was of distant Tatar extraction.
His works were noted for their negative portrayal of the Teutonic Order in The Teutonic Knights (Krzyżacy), which was remarkable as a significant portion of his readership lived under German rule. This can be contrasted with his positive portrayal of German mercenaries in With Fire and Sword. Many of his novels were first serialized in newspapers, and even today are still in print. In Poland, he is best known for his historical novels "With Fire and Sword", "The Deluge", and "Fire in the Steppe" (The Trilogy) set during the 17th-century Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, while internationally he is best known for Quo Vadis, set in Nero's Rome. Quo Vadis has been filmed several times, most notably the 1951 version.
Sienkiewicz was meticulous in attempting to recreate the authenticity of historical language. In his Trilogy, for instance, he had his characters use the Polish language as he imagined it was spoken in the seventeenth century (in reality it was far more similar to 19th-century Polish than he imagined). In The Teutonic Knights, which relates to the Battle of Grunwald in 1410, he even had his characters speak a variety of medieval Polish which he recreated in part from archaic expressions then still common among the highlanders of Podhale.
In 1881, Sienkiewicz married Maria Szetkiewicz (1854–1885). They had two children, Henryk Józef (1882–1959) and Jadwiga (1883–1969)