Vi veri universum vivus vici

Discussion in 'Lingua Latina (Latin)' started by raptor, Jul 27, 2009.

  1. raptor

    raptor Senior Member

    BC, Canada
    Canada, English

    Would someone here be able to provide a gloss for this phrase? I understand the translation, and several of the individual words, but am unsure as to which cases are used, and how the phrase is so succinct.

  2. Hi raptor,

    The phrase is so succinct because Latin is such an efficient language! :)

    Vi is the ablative of vis - power (By the power)

    Veri is the genitive of verum - truth (of truth)

    Universum is the accusative of universus - the universe (or, more idiomatically to the Romans, the whole world, although the phrase is alleged to be medieval, from Marlowe's Faustus)

    Vivus = nominative masculine of the adjective vivus - alive, living

    Vici = 1st person singular perfect of vinceo - I conquer. (I conquered. Hence Caesar's dictum: Veni vidi vici - I came, I saw, I conquered)

    Interestingly, the phrase is almost onomatopoeic in classical Latin. because V can be used for the beginning of each word: VI VERI VNIVERSUM VIVUS VICI. In fact, it's almost a tongue twister.

    Wikipedia gives the translation as "By the power of truth, I, while living, have conquered the universe". I find that stilted. I think the passage is meant to convey the idea that superhuman powers are achievable by humans through truth. I prefer something like "By the power of truth I, a mortal, have conquered all creation". It's almost a variant of "Love conquers all" - "Truth conquers all". Veritas vincit omnia.
  3. raptor

    raptor Senior Member

    BC, Canada
    Canada, English
    Thanks for the cases :D I was wondering if "by the power" was the ablative, but I wasn't sure.

    As for the translation, I can see what you're saying, and prefer that one (though the first still sounds better in my mind).

    How is it onomatopoeic though? The words aren't derived from sounds as far as I know; and although there are lots of /v/s, I don't know if it really counts as a tongue twister like "Irish wristwatch" which uses /s, z; ʃ, tʃ/, as well as /ɹI/ then, where before the w is silent, /wɔ/.

    I'm not sure about Latin being an efficient language (due to the large amount of suffices required for each case, gender, and number, etc) but it definitely doesn't take up much space!

    Anyways, thanks for your explanation! I really need to study more Latin :D
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2009
  4. Oops. Why did I say onomatopoeic? Probably because I'm on holiday from the office and my brain is switched off. I meant alliterative.

    I call Latin efficient because it says more with fewer words.
  5. aviv chadash Member

    Apologies for reviving the thread, but it's probably better than starting a new one.
    I was wondering about vivus being in the nominative.
    vi viri = by means of truth
    veniversum vivus vici = I, whilst living, have conquered the universe
    or I, a mortal, have conquered the universe
    Either way, I haven't come across the use of the adjective like this. In the second one, it appears to be modifying the person performing the noun.
    So could you write:
    rosam rex sapiens portavi = I, a wise king, carried the rose;
    rosam rex sapiens portavisti = you, a wise king, carried the rose;
    rosam rex sapiens portavit = he, the wise king, carried the rose (which pretty much amounts to the same as 'the wise king carried the rose')?
    The first I don't follow...
    Many thanks in advance for any input.
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2010
  6. NonPatrician New Member

    English - American
    Thanks so much for the info even if this is an old thread. Kevin I hope you'll see this -- I'm more of a novice trying to modify the above phrase to mean:

    "By the power of truth I, a mortal, will conquer all creation."

    How would that distinction between I have conquered and I will conquer be handled?

    Thanks in advance!
  7. Grugno Member

    Italiano - Italia
    You are perfectly right. This kind of phrasal construction is called "predicative of the subject", and it works as you show. I just want to add that the verb is not "vinceo", but "vinco" (vinco, is, vici, victum, vincere). Moreover, the sentence is allitterative because Romans didn't know the difference between U and V, so everytime you find a "V" it should be better to read it as a U (which doesn't happen in the ecclesiastical pronounciation, but in the "restituta" pronounciation).
  8. Copperknickers Senior Member

    Scotland - Scots and English
    Easy. You simply change 'vici' (perfect tense) to the future tense, 'vicam'.

    vi veri universum vicam

    (or ui ueri uniuersum uicam as we should really write it if we're going to use classical pronunciation).
  9. Scholiast

    Scholiast Senior Member


    Apologies to my fellow Anglo-Scot, but Copperknickers' latest...
    ...cannot pass muster. vincere is one of those verbs with a nasal infix in the present stem, so the future tense is vincam.

  10. NonPatrician New Member

    English - American
    Thank you both (Copperknickers and Scholiast). I think I'm in love with Latin. Are there any online resources for learning from the ground up that you would recommend?
  11. NonPatrician New Member

    English - American
    Also -- on the pronunciation... Is it pronounced as written below?

    VI -- wee
    VERI -- wair-ee
    VNIVERSUM -- you-nee-wair-soom
    VIVUS -- wee-wuhs
    VINCAM -- win-cahm

    The only thing not represented above was the rolled R's... I dont know how to depict that here.

    Thanks again for your help!
  12. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    English - British
    A couple of points regarding the above: the first syllable of universum rhymes with 'oo' as in 'boot', not with 'you'.

    The last vowel of universum rhymes with 'oo' as in 'foot'.

    For the sound of 'you', Latin puts an i in front, as in ius ('right', 'law') which rhymes with English 'use'.
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2015
  13. NonPatrician New Member

    English - American
    Thanks Wandle!

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