The Latin phrase Si Ego Certiorem Faciam … Mihi Tu Delendus Eris roughly translates into a cliché commonly heard in the vicinity of “black” programs: “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.”
But the phrasing here is unusual because it is written in the passive voice: a more accurate translation of the Latin would be “I could tell you, but then you would have to be destroyed by me.” By employing the passive voice, the patch’s designer makes two references that would not exist in other phrasings. The first reference is to the Greek god of Chaos, Eris, about whom Homer wrote in Book Four of the Iliad: “[Eris] whose wrath is relentless … is the sister and companion of murderous Ares, she who is only a little thing at the first, but thereafter grows until she strides on the earth with her head striking heaven. She then hurled down bitterness equally between both sides as she walked through the onslaught making men’s pain heavier.”
The passive phrasing of the Latin also echoes the words of the second-century BCE Roman senator Cato the Elder, who roamed the Senate repeating the words Carthago delenda est—”Carthage must be destroyed.” In 149 BCE, Cato got his way and Rome attacked the North African city, located near present-day Tunis. Three years after beginning their assault, the Roman army overran Carthage, tore down its walls, and sold its inhabitants into slavery. After the Roman Senate declared that no one would ever again live where the city had stood, legend holds that Rome salted the earth around the city in order to ensure that Carthage would remain a wasteland.
Vigilant Citizen has a round-up of his favorite mission patches, mostly culled from Trevor Paglen's awesome book, I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have to be Destroyed by Me. (I thought I had posted about this book a few years ago, but apparently not. Anyway, it's awesome, buy it.)