A HistoricalFiction novel set in AncientRome, ''Quo Vadis'' (1896) is internationally the most well-known work of Polish writer Henryk Sienkiewicz, also known for the ''Literature/SienkiewiczTrilogy''. ''Quo Vadis'' tells the story of a romance between Marcus Vinicius, a young pagan Roman officer, and Lygia, a Christian barbarian {{princess}} raised in a Roman household. The novel is set during the events surrounding the Great Fire of Rome of AD 64, including the Roman persecution of Christians.

The name comes from the Christian legend that recounts that when St. Peter was fleeing Rome as a result of persecution, he saw a vision of [[UsefulNotes/{{Jesus}} Christ]] and asked Him, ''Domine, quo vadis?'' ("Lord, where are you going?") -- to which the reply was "I go to be crucified again." Thus realizing that he was abandoning the faithful of Rome to their fates, Peter turned around and was martyred.

''Quo Vadis'' has been adapted to film several times, including in 1951 by Mervin [=LeRoy=] (starring Creator/RobertTaylor, Creator/DeborahKerr, and Creator/PeterUstinov as Nero, with a young Creator/SophiaLoren as an uncredited extra) and in 2001 by Jerzy Kawalerowicz.

(Note that although it is quoting a question, the title does not itself contain a question mark.)
!!This book contains examples of:

* AuthorAppeal: Lygia hails from the Lugii, an ancient tribe that (supposedly) lived in present day Poland during the time of the Roman Empire, possibly an example of GeniusBonus by the author, who was Polish.
* BeastAndBeauty: Vinicius and Lygia.
* BetterToDieThanBeKilled: [[spoiler: Petronius is more than aware his fate has already been sealed, so instead he commits suicide]] while reading aloud a huge TakeThat to Nero. For a book all about Christian values, this choice is still portrayed as a noble one, rather than one of the ultimate sins.
* TheCaligula: Emperor Nero.
* ChronicBackstabbingDisorder: Chilon. After switching sides so many times it makes you dizzy and causing so much harm to all the good guys, he ends up completely broken.
* ConcertClimax: At a gladiatorial arena.
* DamselInDistress: Poor Lygia.
* DeadpanSnarker: Petronius. Which is why we love him.
* DateRapeAverted: Ursus defends Lygia from Vincius' unwanted advances.
* DrivenToSuicide: [[spoiler: Several courtiers of Nero have been, in the past. Petronius on page. Eunice, for whom he's the entire world, joins him.]]
* EverythingISBetterWithPrincesses: Lygia is a [[TheChiefsDaughter barbarian princess]].
* FaceDeathWithDignity:
** The Christians who are killed in the persecution die in such a noble way that they make the executioners look like criminals (as Petronius points out).
** [[spoiler: Petronius himself prefers suicide over what might happen to him]].
* {{Fanservice}}: For a novel with such a pro-Christian message, the author goes into quite some detail describing the Romans' debauched activities.
* FedToTheBeast: Christians are fed to massive dogs and lions in a truly gruesome scene.
* FlorenceNightingaleEffect: Vinicius was obsessed with Lygia for a long time, but after he's wounded and she nurses him (partway) back to health, he starts to see her as a person and truly care for her, rather than just lusting after Lygia's pretty looks.
* TheFundamentalist: Crispus, until [[CrowningMomentOfAwesome called out by St. Peter]].
* GentleGiant: Ursus.
* GoodIsNotSoft: Ursus is calm, gentle and devoted Christian, but he won't hesitate for a second to kill you with his bare hands if you try to harm Lygia. It's sort of automatic for him, which makes him a little AfraidOfTheirOwnStrengh.
* HappilyAdopted: Lygia, by Pomponia and Aulus.
* HappilyMarried: Pomponia and Aulus. They're a perfect family, possibly the only one in Rome.
* HappinessInSlavery: Eunice. One must admit that Petronius treats his home slaves [[DeliberateValuesDissonance pretty well]]. Also, Eunice is utterly in love with him (so much she can't stand the thought of leaving his house).
* HeelFaithTurn: Vinicius, then Chilon.
* HistoricalDomainCharacter: Petronius, Nero, Poppaea, Saint Peter and Saint Paul all play prominent roles.
* LoveAtFirstSight: Averted; more like lust at first sight, but eventually leading to True Love which [[LoveRedeems redeems]] Vinicius.
* LoveMartyr: Acte, the only person in the world who still loves Nero, having fallen in love with the good person he used to be.
* LoveRedeems: It moves Vinicius to [[CharacterDevelopment grow]] from an impetuous hotheaded warmonger into a loving, compassionate person.
* ManlyTears: The tribune of the Praetorians [[spoiler:giving the thumbs up to Ursus, Lygia, and Vinicius]].
* MyGodWhatHaveIDone: Chilon after seeing people he sold out being burned alive. The fact that they forgive him leads to his HeelFaithTurn.
* NobleSavage: Ursus.
* ProfessionalButtKisser: Nero's court. Anyone who won't kiss the aforementioned butt is liable to be DrivenToSuicide. Or worse.
* RedemptionEqualsDeath: Chilon. After he takes a HeelFaithTurn, he's tortured to death along with the other Christians.
* RunningGag: Petronius' dislike of craftsmen and him comparing others' rude or barbaric behaviour to different occupations. ("Calm thyself," said Petronius. "Thou hast the longing of a carpenter from the Subura.")
* SaintlyChurch: The early Christian church in Rome is portrayed in such a manner.
* StalkerWithACrush: Vinicius, for the first couple of chapters.
* TakeThat: [[spoiler: Petronius' suicide note]] is an enormous one to Nero. To the point of stating that his wanton slaughter and destruction of Rome is still ''way'' less abhorrent than his [[TerribleArtist art]].
* TheseHandsHaveKilled: Ursus racks up quite the body count (using just his bare hands) but he regrets every single death.
* WickedCultured: For all his faults, Nero does love poetry and music.

!!The movies also have examples of:
* AdaptationalDyeJob: Lygia is described as having dark hair in the book, whereas in both versions of the movie she has reddish-blond to [[HairOfGoldHeartOfGold straight blond hair]].
* ArtisticLicenseHistory: Petronius and Vinicius are shown playing chess, which even in primitive form wouldn't be invented for a couple of centuries after this time setting and wouldn't reach Europe until several centuries after that.
* ArtisticLicenseReligion: There's a cross at the underground Christian church service and a cross in Lygia's house. The cross would not become the main symbol of the Christian religion until a few more centuries after the events portrayed.
* AsYouKnow: "You'll spend some time with me, before rushing off to your estate in Sicily?"
* ButLiquorIsQuicker: Vincius gives Lydia a goblet of wine and calls it "the panacea for all reticence."
* EstablishingCharacterMoment: Nero singing a song horribly while carping at his lute players over how to play said song, while one slave gives him a pedicure and another styles his hair.
* FaceDeathWithDignity
* GodivaHair: Notably when Lygia is tied on the bull.
* HeadbuttOfLove: The 2001 movie
* HollywoodToneDeaf: Nero's singing.
* LargeHam: Peter Ustinov as ''Nero?'' Yes, please.
* LadyMacbeth: Nero has Pomponia executed on this excuse.
* LastSupperSteal: A live-action recreation of the painting as Peter recounts the scene to the congregation in Rome.
* MyGodWhatHaveIDone: Chilon.
* NeckSnap: Ursus does this to ''a goddamn bull''.
* PsychopathicManChild / SissyVillain: Nero as portrayed in both film versions is capricious, self-absorbed, and effeminate.
* PuttingOnTheReich: Directly choreographed from ''Film/TriumphOfTheWill''.
* ThisIsWhatTheBuildingWillLookLike: Nero with his plans of what the new Rome will look like--as long as something like, say, a fire gets rid of all the stuff already there.
* TitleDrop: As per the legend, Peter says "Quo vadis, Domine?" on the way out of town.
* WhileRomeBurns: Quite literally.