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Great Seal of Virginia with the state motto.

Sic semper tyrannis is a Latin phrase meaning "thus always to tyrants". It is sometimes mistranslated as "death to tyrants". It is most known as the official motto of Virginia and for its usage during the assassinations of Abraham Lincoln and Julius Caesar.



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, 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, who signed the United States Declaration of Independence and taught law to Thomas Jefferson.[1] 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 attributed to Marcus Junius Brutus, the most famous figure in the assassination of Julius Caesar on March 15, 44 BCE: 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 shouted the phrase after shooting Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865, in part because of the association with the assassination of Caesar.[2][3] 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.[4] The phrase has been used in various popular media, including television shows and books.

See also


  1. ^ Rowland, Kate Mason (1892). The Life of George Mason, 1725-1792. G.P. Putnam's Sons. pp. 264–265. 
  2. ^ Diary Entry of John Wilkes Booth
  3. ^ TimesMachine April 15, 1865 - New York Times
  4. ^ Kilzer, Lou; Flynn, Kevin (1997-12-19). "Did McVeigh Plan to get Caught, or was he Sloppy?". Denver Rocky Mountain News. 

External links

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