Sic semper tyrannis

Sic semper tyrannis

[seek sem-per ty-rahn-nis; Eng. sik sem-per ti-ran-is]
Sic semper tyrannis is a Latin phrase meaning "thus, ever (or always), to tyrants." It is sometimes mistranslated as "Death to tyrants." The phrase is a shortened version of Sic semper evello mortem Tyrannis, which translated means "Thus always death comes to tyrants." It is the state motto of Virginia in the United States.


The phrase was recommended by George Mason to the Virginia Convention in 1776, as part of the state's seal. The Seal of the Commonwealth of Virginia shows Virtue, sword 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, who signed the United States Declaration of Independence and taught law to Thomas Jefferson. Additionally, the phrase is the motto of the United States Navy attack submarine named for the state, the USS Virginia. The phrase is also the motto of the U.S. city Allentown, the third largest city in Pennsylvania, and is referenced in the official state song of Maryland.


The phrase is originally attributed to Marcus Junius Brutus, the central figure in the assassination of Julius Caesar on March 15, 44 BC. The phrase however may well be a later dramatic invention. In American history, because of the association with the assassination of Caesar, John Wilkes Booth reportedly shouted the phrase after shooting United States President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865. Timothy McVeigh was wearing a T-shirt 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.


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