Et In Arcadia Ego

ET IN ARCADIA EGO

The theme of a tomb and shepherds first featured in the Eclogues V by Virgil (70bc-19bc). In these poems,, a tomb with an inscription (to Daphnis) is described to be in the ideal landscape of Arcadia in ancient Greece. In 1502 the theme was taken a step further by Italian Poet Jacopo Sannazaro in his work ‘Arcadia’, describing the ideal landscape and the underground stream. His countryman Guercino first introduced the phrase ‘Et In Arcadia Ego‘. His painting of the same name inspired Nicolas Poussin to produce his two works Les Bergers d’Arcadie and to use the phrase as an inscription on, a tomb.

The phrase is a menento mori: melancholically reminding us of death, even being present in the ideal land of Arcadia. The phrase also is claimed by some to be an anagram:

I TEGO ARCANA DEI
(begone, I conceal the secrets of God)

TEGO ARCA INDIAE
(I conceal the Ark of India,
India being the old name for Ethiopia)

TANGO ARCAM DEI IESU
(based on the addition of the word SUM to the phrase: I touch the tomb of the lord Jesus)

CRANE A DAGOBERT II
(based on the addition of the letters B and R: skull of Dagobert II)

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