Cesare Borgia and his motto

Cesare Borgia (1475? – 1507), son of Pope Alexander VI, was one of the most prominent members of the Borgia clan.  His ambitions are clearly seen in the motto which he chose for himself and which, according to some sources, could be found on his ring and his sword: Aut Caesar, aut nihil, “Caesar or nothing” — a reference to Julius Caesar, as well as to all emperors of Rome who used his name as their official title. When Cesare’s tumultuous life came to an end, the insolent motto provided fuel for many epigrammatic assessments of his career.  Here I have only three of such epigrams, but I know for sure that there are others:

Borgia Caesar erat, factis et nomine Caesar
Aut nihil, aut Caesar, dixit, utrumque fuit

Borgia was Caesar, both in deeds and name;
‘Caesar, or nought,’ he said: he both became.

Aut nihil, aut Caesar, vult dici Borgia; quid ni?
Cum simul et Caesar possit, et esse nihil.

‘Caesar or nought,’ Borgia would say. Why not?
He was able to be both Caesar and nothing!

Omnia vincebas; sperabas omnia, Caesar;
Omnia deficiunt, incipis esse nihil.

You were defeating everything, hoping for everything, Caesar.
Now everything has ceased and you are beginning to be nothing.

Cesare Borgia has been featured in a recent TV series, so you can very easily decide for yourself whether he was more naught than Caesar.

See also:
Latin Quotes & Phrases
Latin Motto Generator

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