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Sic semper tyrannis

Sic semper tyrannis

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Sic semper tyrannis is a Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 phrase meaning "thus always to tyrant
Tyrant
A tyrant was originally one who illegally seized and controlled a governmental power in a polis. Tyrants were a group of individuals who took over many Greek poleis during the uprising of the middle classes in the sixth and seventh centuries BC, ousting the aristocratic governments.Plato and...

s." It is sometimes mistranslated as "down with the tyrant." The phrase is said to have originated with Marcus Junius Brutus
Marcus Junius Brutus
Marcus Junius Brutus , often referred to as Brutus, was a politician of the late Roman Republic. After being adopted by his uncle he used the name Quintus Servilius Caepio Brutus, but eventually returned to using his original name...

 during the assassination of Julius Caesar
Assassination of Julius Caesar
The assassination of Julius Caesar was the result of a conspiracy by approximately forty Roman senators who called themselves Liberators. Led by Gaius Cassius Longinus and Marcus Junius Brutus, they stabbed Julius Caesar to death in the Theatre of Pompey on the Ides of March 44 BC...

.

The phrase has been invoked historically in Europe and other parts of the world as an epithet or rallying cry against abuse of power. In the U.S. it has particular infamy as the words shouted by John Wilkes Booth
John Wilkes Booth
John Wilkes Booth was an American stage actor who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theatre, in Washington, D.C., on April 14, 1865. Booth was a member of the prominent 19th century Booth theatrical family from Maryland and, by the 1860s, was a well-known actor...

 during his assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. It is also the official motto of the Commonwealth of Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

.

History


The phrase is attributed to Marcus Junius Brutus
Marcus Junius Brutus
Marcus Junius Brutus , often referred to as Brutus, was a politician of the late Roman Republic. After being adopted by his uncle he used the name Quintus Servilius Caepio Brutus, but eventually returned to using his original name...

, the most famous figure in the assassination
Assassination of Julius Caesar
The assassination of Julius Caesar was the result of a conspiracy by approximately forty Roman senators who called themselves Liberators. Led by Gaius Cassius Longinus and Marcus Junius Brutus, they stabbed Julius Caesar to death in the Theatre of Pompey on the Ides of March 44 BC...

 of Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire....

 on March 15, 44 BC; however, it is more probably a later dramatic invention, as Roman historians of the period did not record it. In American history, John Wilkes Booth
John Wilkes Booth
John Wilkes Booth was an American stage actor who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theatre, in Washington, D.C., on April 14, 1865. Booth was a member of the prominent 19th century Booth theatrical family from Maryland and, by the 1860s, was a well-known actor...

 shouted the phrase after shooting President Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln assassination
The assassination of United States President Abraham Lincoln took place on Good Friday, April 14, 1865, as the American Civil War was drawing to a close. The assassination occurred five days after the commanding General of the Army of Northern Virginia, Robert E. Lee, and his battered Army of...

 on April 14, 1865, in part because of the association with the assassination of Caesar. Timothy McVeigh
Timothy McVeigh
Timothy James McVeigh was a United States Army veteran and security guard who detonated a truck bomb in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995...

 was wearing a T-shirt
T-shirt
A T-shirt is a style of shirt. A T-shirt is buttonless and collarless, with short sleeves and frequently a round neck line....

 with this phrase and a picture of Lincoln on it when he was arrested on April 19, 1995, the day of the Oklahoma City bombing
Oklahoma City bombing
The Oklahoma City bombing was a terrorist bomb attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. It was the most destructive act of terrorism on American soil until the September 11, 2001 attacks. The Oklahoma blast claimed 168 lives, including 19...

.

Motto


The phrase was recommended by George Mason
George Mason
George Mason IV was an American Patriot, statesman and a delegate from Virginia to the U.S. Constitutional Convention...

 to the Virginia Convention in 1776, as part of the state's seal. The Seal of the Commonwealth of Virginia
Seal of Virginia
The seals of the Commonwealth of Virginia are the official symbols of the United States Commonwealth of Virginia.-History:In May 1776 the Virginia colony declared its independence from Great Britain. On July 1, 1776, a committee of four was appointed to make a proper seal for the Commonwealth of...

 shows Virtue
Virtue
Virtue is moral excellence. A virtue is a positive trait or quality subjectively deemed to be morally excellent and thus is valued as a foundation of principle and good moral being....

, spear in hand, with her foot on the prostrate form of Tyranny, whose crown lies nearby. The Seal was planned by Mason and designed by George Wythe
George Wythe
George Wythe was an American lawyer, a judge, a prominent law professor and "Virginia's foremost classical scholar." He was a teacher and mentor of Thomas Jefferson. Wythe's signature is positioned at the head of the list of seven Virginia signatories on the United States Declaration of Independence...

, who signed the United States Declaration of Independence
United States Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence was a statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies then at war with Great Britain regarded themselves as independent states, and no longer a part of the British Empire. John Adams put forth a...

 and taught law to Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom , the third President of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia...

. A common joke in Virginia, referencing the image on the state seal and dating at least as far back as the Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

, is that "Sic semper tyrannis" actually means "Get your foot off my neck."

The phrase is also the motto of the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 attack submarine named for the state, the USS Virginia
USS Virginia (SSN-774)
USS Virginia is a United States Navy attack submarine, the lead boat of her class and the tenth vessel of the Navy to be named for the Commonwealth of Virginia....

. It is also the motto of the U.S. city Allentown
Allentown, Pennsylvania
Allentown is a city located in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, in the United States. It is Pennsylvania's third most populous city, after Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and the 215th largest city in the United States. As of the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 118,032 and is currently...

, the third largest city in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

, and is referenced in the official state song
Maryland, My Maryland
"Maryland, My Maryland" is the official state song of the U.S. state of Maryland. The song is set to the tune of "Lauriger Horatius" and the lyrics are from a nine-stanza poem written by James Ryder Randall...

 of Maryland
Maryland
Maryland is a U.S. state located in the Mid Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and Delaware to its east...

.

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