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Gaius Julius Caesar (100-44 BC) was, like the society in which he lived, complex and easily misunderstood. A popular pastime for hundreds of years, recently revived by the superficial specialty television historical fare we're treated to in the United States, is to criticize Caesar for all the miserable deeds he admits to doing during his career. This without any regard to whether he could have really done what he claimed, whether there is any supporting evidence that he did, or whether such things as Caesar said happened were even possible in antiquity.

What the critics often overlook is that the sole source for these admissions is Caesar's own writings (of which no copies survive from antiquity; the earliest date from almost 1,000 years after his death). It's just possible that he had some motive for making himself look larger and more menacing than other men. Shakespeare devotes some considerable space to this idea in his drama about Caesar (one of his best).

By any standard, however, Caesar was a singular individual. His self-confidence and ego were legendary in his lifetime. It's instructive to remember that Caesar built his reputation (real and contrived) by purposely doing things that other people were afraid to do.

Once, early in his political career, feelings against Caesar ran so high that Rome became too hot to hold him. He determined to disappear for a time, and set out to Rhodes where he planned upon attending a noted school in rhetoric.

No sooner had he started than his ship was attached by some of the pirates that roamed freely throughout the Mediterranean at the time. Caesar was captured and held for an enormous ransom, which his family and friends were obliged to collect on his behalf.

While this was being done Caesar spent several weeks with his captors. They found his company quite entertaining, especially the joking comments he frequently made about how he would capture and execute them.

At last the ransom was paid and Caesar was free. He abandoned his trip to Rhodes and immediately set about raising a fleet, even though he had no real experience as a sailor. Locating his former captors in short order, he fulfilled his joking promise to the last man.

-----------------A Final Thought ...

"There is nothing so absurd but some philosopher has said it."

- Cicero (10643 BC), Roman orator, philosopher