What Would Caesar Do?

juliuscaesar

If a person can’t make a self-indulgent blog post on their birthday, then when can they? So, here’s a silly post in honour of my historical crush on Julius Caesar.

I was born in July, so I knew about Julius Caesar from a pretty young age, but as I got older I started realising just how awesome he was. I‘ll just put my queer theory hat aside for a minute (it’s a papier-mâché model of Foucault’s shiny head), because of course it’s silly to stick modern sexuality labels on individuals from completely different time periods, but this is a silly post. And so here are just some of the reasons why Julius Caesar is history’s most awesome bisexual.

  • During Sulla’s reign of terror, Caesar was told to divorce his wife because her family were on the wrong side. He refused, and had to flee Rome, liberally bribing people to not arrest him, and hiding out in barns. Eventually Caesar’s friends persuaded Sulla to back down, and Caesar returned to Rome.
  • On campaign in the East, Caesar went to borrow reinforcements from King Nicomedes in Bythinia, and ended up having an affair with the King. Nicomedes then gave him a fleet of ships. The affair haunted his later political career. Suetonius recounts the story of Caesar’s troops marching in his Gallic triumph chanting the following bawdy song:

Gaul was brought to shame by Caesar;

By King Nicomedes he.

Here comes Caesar, wreathed in triumph

For his Gallic victory!

Nicomedes wears no laurels,

Though the greatest of the three.

  • Caesar was also lover to Marcus Brutus’ mother, Servilia (yes, that Brutus) . On his death, he is reported to have joked, “And you, my son?” to Brutus, as a nod to the scurrilous rumours that he was Brutus’ true father. He made a joke as he was dying of multiple stab wounds on the senate floor. (He made the joke in Greek, just to be extra cool.)
  • Caesar was kidnapped by pirates. He stayed with them for 40 days while his ransom was collected, during which time he smilingly assured them he would have his revenge. When his ransom was paid, he raised a fleet, hunted the pirates down and had them all executed.
  • One of the reasons we know so much about Caesar’s life is that he wrote down all his campaigns and sent them back to Rome to prove his heroic status. He was a masterful self-publicist.
  • He constantly clashed with the conservative political faction in Rome, who eventually tried to bring him to trial while he was concluding his campaign in Gaul. Caesar considered himself a hero of Rome, unjustly treated. He felt his hand was forced by his political enemies, and so he rode his legion over the Rubicon, entering Roman soil and declaring war on his own people.

Read more about Julius Caesar in Tom Holland’s Rubicon (amazing narrative history account of the late Roman republic), Suetonius’ The Twelve Caesars, and Caesar’s own The Conquest of Gaul.

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