A Latin phrase first used by Nicolas Poussin in his painting of the same name. Shepherds gather around a tomb on which the words are written.

The phrase can have two meanings:

As you can tell, the phrase can have a bunch of meanings and evoke some fairly deep questions about the nature of Arcadian peace.

The phrase has been used by many writers, and its complex message evoked by its invocation. Notable among them are Evelyn Waugh, whose book Brideshead Revisited takes the phrase as its epigram, and Tom Stoppard, who explores the phrase in his play Arcadia.

Also is allegedly the motto of the mysterious secret society called the Prieure de Sion, and of the Plantard family, which is very important in it. Someone pointed out that it's also an anagram for another Latin phrase whose meaning is relevant to what the society seems to stand for: "I Tego Arcana Dei." -> Begone! I Conceal the Secrets of God.

The phrase was not coined by Nicolas Poussin, although it certainly does appear in a few of his significant works. There is a painting by Giovanni Francesco Guercino, dated 1618, predating Poussin's work by more than two decades, that incorporates the phrase as well. Guercino's "Et In Arcadia Ego" actually does seem to be the inspiration for Poussin's "The Shepherds of Arcadia" with shepherds contemplating a tomb with the famous phrase. It seems that Guercino was just as mixed up in secret societies, Masonic traditions, and other esoteric lore as Poussin ever was, so no real surprise there. There seems to have been no known public use of the phrase before Guercino, although the motif of Arcadia intimately wound up with it is indeed ages old.

The most enigmatic thing concerning the phrase "et in Arcadia ego" is that it contains no verb (literally it means "and in arcadia I..."). In order to translate it, therefore, a verb must be inserted. The usual one used for this purpose, and the one which Pierre Plantard implied should be there, is "sum" (I am).

This makes the phrase a double anagram, as with the sum in place it can be re-arranged to Arcam Dei Iesu tango, (I touch the tomb of Jesus the God). Rennes-le-Chateau conspiracy theorists consider this very significant.

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