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“Ko Vadis”. Sienkiewicz’s greatest works and extraordinary adventures

"Ko Vadis".  Sienkiewicz's greatest works and extraordinary adventures

Enryka Henryk Sienkiewicz began writing “Quo vadis” in 1894. Initially, the novel was published in serials. It was first shown in compressed form in 1896. Already in the first weeks, the book became very popular. Quo Vadis soon made a huge career all over the world.


“Quo vadis” is set in the reality of ancient Rome during the reign of Emperor Nero. The pagan world, mixed and bloody, contrasts with the righteous and moral Christians. The main character is an aristocrat named Vinicius, who falls in love with the beautiful League. Vinicius wants the girl to become his concubine, but she refuses to do so, because, as a Christian, she is not allowed to. Vinicius decided to kidnap her, but then got injured. Ligia helped him. A feeling begins to form between the two. Vinicius, surrounded by Christians, begins to get to know them better, and finally, fascinated by their righteousness and the teachings of the Apostle Peter, he decides to be baptized.

Soon, when Nero is in Akgom, and with him is Vinicius and Petronius (Vinicius’ uncle), news arrives from Rome about a great conflagration. Nero hurriedly returns to town. Immediately, he accuses Christians of the disaster. The search for followers of Christ begins. In the midst of the fire, Vinicius tried to find Legia, but failed. During the following games, a role appears in the ring carrying a naked Legia on his back. Her servant Ursus rushes to the rescue of a man of great strength and twists the animal’s neck. Lygia is rescued and soon leaves Rome with Vinicius.

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Sienkiewicz’s inspiration

The title of the novel comes from the phrase “Quo vadis, Domine” which means “Where are you going, Lord?” Saint Peter had to put this question to Christ.

Henrik Sinkiewicz was inspired to write “Quo Vadis” while living in Rome.
– The famous Polish painter Semerdzky, who lived in Rome at the time, was my guide through the Eternal City and during one of our trips he showed me the Church of Kou Vadis. It was then that I had the idea of ​​writing a novel from that era and I was able to turn it into reality thanks to the knowledge of the origins of the Church – the writer later said.

Sienkiewicz felt very comfortable in this type of historical prose. He was perfectly acquainted with the history and culture of Rome, which he brought to life in the pages of his novel. He originally read Tacitus and Suetonius, as well as the works of historians of antiquity. He was fascinated by the paintings of Henrik Simmerdzki – very colorful and expressive. Nero’s torchlights and Christian Diers provided direct inspiration.

Henrik Sinkiewicz knew Roma well. He stayed there for a month in 1879 and three times less in the years 1886-1893. In “Quo Vadis” he tried to reflect the topography of the city very carefully.


The novel “Quo Vadis” has reached readers almost all over the world. Pope Leo XIII praised the book. The first translations of “Quo Vadis” into other languages ​​appeared in the year of its first presentation in Poland, that is, in 1896. At first, the novel was translated into English and Russian. The following year, 20 copies appeared. The largest number of editions was recorded in 1900-1952. Since then, about 20 editions of Sienkiewicz’s novels have been published each year. The National Library calculated that by 2016, Quo Vadis had been published nearly 2,000 times in 59 languages.

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H. Siemiradzki, Nero's Torches

– In Spain, it has become customary to give this book to children who receive the first communion, although the assimilation market in Latin America also contributes to great success. One of the first Spanish copies from 1900 was presented to Pope Francis by President Andrés Duda. – Janusz R. Kowalczyk writes on

In 1905, Henrik Senkiewicz was awarded the Nobel Prize for “outstanding achievement in the field of epic and the rare genius that embodies itself in the soul of a nation.” It was a Nobel Prize for lifetime achievement, not, as is sometimes wrongly claimed, for Quo vadis.

Quo Vadis has had many cinematic adaptations. The most famous during the silent film era was the Italian adaptation of director Enrico Guazzoni. Another film adapted in Italy in 1924, the film was directed by Gabrielino D’Annunzio and Georges Jacobi. In 1951, the work of Henryk Sienkiewicz was brought to the screen by American director Mervyn LeRoy, and in 1985 Italian television presented a six-episode series based on the novel. In Poland, the movie “Quo Vadis” was filmed in 2001. The director was Jerzy Koalerovich.

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