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Quo Vadis
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1001 book reviews > Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz

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Diane Zwang | 1247 comments Mod
Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz
A Narrative of the Time of Nero
First published 1894
Won Nobel Prize for Literature 1905

2.5/5 Stars

According to Wikipedia, Quo Vadis is a Latin phrase meaning “Where are you going?' It also may refer to a Christian tradition regarding Saint Peter. The Church of Domine Quo Vadis in Rome is built where the meeting between Peter and Jesus allegedly took place.

The story occurs in Ancient Rome at the early days of Christianity. The tyrannical Nero is the head of the Roman Empire. The novel mostly follows the love story between Vinitius, a Roman and Lygia, a Christian. The story ticks many boxes; love story, religion, catastrophe, redemption and history but I found the story slow moving and heavy on religion. Halfway through the book I didn't think very much had happened. The writing style did not work well for me and I found myself wanting to read something else. But I enjoyed the bits about ancient Rome and history. I am looking forward to watching the 1951 movie. This story may be better for me in visual form.

“I believe in God, who is one, just and all-powerful,” answered the wife of Aulus Plautius.”

“Why does crime, even when as powerful as Caesar, and assured of being beyond punishment, strive always for the appearances of truth, justices, and virtue?”


Kristel (kristelh) | 4113 comments Mod
Read 2015
A historical novel written po Polish author Henryk Sienkiewicz is set in Rome during the time of Nero. The title Quo Vadis, or Where are you going Lord? is a question that the apostle Peter asks Jesus. The novel also highlights the love between a Lygian princess and a soldier of Rome, Lygia and Marcus. I thought the story captured the reign of the Caesar’s well (when I compared it to I, Claudius. The novel is also strongly Christian message because it highlights the rule of Nero, Nero’s person, Rome’s burning and the persecution of Christians by Nero. It features the later years of the apostle Peter and Paul. Supposedly Sienkiewicz did a lot of study of ancient Rome because he wanted to get the historical facts right.
AD 57, Pomponia was indeed charged with practising a "foreign superstition" (Christianity isn’t named exactly)
rumor that Vespasian fell asleep during a song sung by Nero is recorded by Suetonius in the Lives of the Twelve Caesars
The death of Claudia Augusta, sole child of Nero, in AD 63
The Great Fire of Rome in AD 64,the fire opens up space in the city for Nero's palatial complex, a massive villa with lush artificial landscapes and a 30-meter-tall sculpture of the emperor, as well as an ambitious urban planning program involving the creation of buildings decorated with ornate porticos and the widening of the streets (a redesign which is not implemented until after Nero's death)
The suicide of Petronius is clearly based on the account of Tacitus
What isn’t supported
there is no evidence to support that Nero ordered the burning of Rome. Fires were common occurrence.
The book states that Jewish community wanted the fires blamed on the Christian, this also is not supported by evidence

OPENING LINE: Petronius woke only about midday, and as usual greatly wearied.


Karen | 258 comments A great story marred by flat characterisation and by being too long. It could have lost a third of its length and been better. I struggled to get into the book but it really kicks off after the fire that destroyed Rome.

3 stars.


message 4: by Diane (last edited Dec 18, 2020 03:32PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane  | 2042 comments Rating: 3.5 stars


Going into this book, I had no idea that it was Christian fiction. I had originally thought that it was merely a story of Ancient Rome, which didn't make me think along those lines. When visiting Rome, I marvel of how ancient pagan ruins sit alongside medieval Christian architecture. Admittedly, there is a lot I don't know about the major transition that occurred to make Rome a hub of Christianity and Catholicism.

Overall, I found the story interesting, although it stalled in places and became repetitive in others. As others mentioned, the book could have been improved by editing and losing a couple hundred pages. It is obvious that the author spent a lot of time meticulously researching this time period, people, and events. I felt the religious aspect to be heavy-handed and some of the character development could be better.


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