This love story is first published in 1895 in three Polish dailies. It came out as a book in 1896 and is translated in over 50 languages. Thanks to this novel, Henryk Sienkiewicz got the Nobel Prize for literature in 1905.
As I said before, this is a love story between a young Christian woman, Ligia, and Marcus Vinicius, a Roman patrician. The story takes place in Rome, under the rule of Nero.
The story starts with Vinicius telling his uncle, Petronius, about a girl (Ligia) he saw at the general’s home. He tells him that he has never seen such beauty, and asks his uncle’s help to obtain the girl.
Since Ligia is a hostage to Rome, Petronius tells Nero that she belongs to him, the Caesar. So, Nero sends his men in order to get Ligia at his home. From here, the plan is that Vinicius asks the Caesar to give Ligia to him to be his lover.
But nothing goes according to the plan. Ligia gets scared and runs away from Nero’s home, and this is where Vinicius fight for Ligia’s love really begins.
Throughout the story we get to live in Rome in AD 64. We get to witness the cruelty of Nero and even the great fire he set to Rome. The whole narrative seems to build up to the quote “Quo vadis Domine?”
If you didn’t know, this is a quote from the new testament of the Bible, where Peter is fleeing Rome and he happens to see a light in the sky. He recognizes the light as Jesus, and he asks him: “Quo vadis, Domine?” (Where are you going, God?). To which God says: “Romam eo iterum crucifigi.” (I am going to Rome to be crucified again.)
This makes Peter to go back to Rome to finish his mission.
We witness this at the end of the book, and this part made me think that I did not get the story as I was supposed to until I read this chapter.
This is one amazing story, which Henryk tried to make it as historically accurate as possible. He brings to us the birth of Christianity and the suffering of the early Christians closer than anyone else.
He also teaches us of the power of love and fate, and the things an ordinary human can go through if they know they are loved.
I recommend this to everyone, because, as James Michener said: “Sienkiewicz wrote Quo Vadis for the entire world and the world took it to its heart”.