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The Twelve Caesars, Book 01: Divus Julius by…

The Twelve Caesars, Book 01: Divus Julius

by Suetonius

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Lives of the Twelve Caesars (1)

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The name of Julius Caesar is synonymous with the rise of the Roman Empire. And for good reason, as Roman biographer Suetonius relates about Caesar: “On seeing a statue of Alexander the Great in the temple of Hercules, he sighed deeply, as if weary of his sluggish life, for having performed no memorable actions at an age at which Alexander had already conquered the world.” Indeed, Caesar the general refused to stop with military victories; he wanted much more --- he wanted to be sole ruler of everything. You will not find a livelier account of the life of Julius Caesar than in Suetonius. Below are several passages from the text along with my brief comments:

“From this period he declined no occasion of war, however unjust and dangerous; attacking, without any provocation, as well the allies of Rome as the barbarous nations which were its enemies: insomuch, that the senate passed a decree for sending commissioners to examine into the condition of Gaul; and some members even proposed that he should be delivered up to the enemy.” ----------- Roman aristocrats and senators learned the hard way there are unanticipated consequences in sending out generals and professional armies to loot the world.

“In his speeches, he never addressed them by the title of "Soldiers," but by the kinder phrase of "Fellow-soldiers;" and kept them in such splendid order, that their arms were ornamented with silver and gold, not merely for parade, but to render the soldiers more resolute to save them in battle, and fearful of losing them. He loved his troops to such a degree, that when he heard of the defeat of those under Titurius, he neither cut his hair nor shaved his beard, until he had revenged it upon the enemy; by which means he engaged their devoted affection, and raised their valor to the highest pitch.”---------- Suetonius gives us a vivid account of how Caesar transformed his soldier’s allegiance to their country to allegiance to him as their commander. Ah, the power of human charisma.

“With money raised from the spoils of the war, he began to construct a new forum, the ground-plot of which cost him above a hundred millions of sesterces. He promised the people a public entertainment of gladiators, and a feast in memory of his daughter, such as no one before him had ever given. . . . He issued an order, that the most celebrated gladiators, if at any time during the combat they incurred the displeasure of the public, should be immediately carried off by force . . . . Wrestlers likewise performed for three days successively, in a stadium provided for the purpose in the Campus Martius. A lake having been dug, ships of the Egyptian fleets, containing two, three, and four banks of oars, with a number of men on board, afforded an animated representation of a sea-fight. ---------- Nothing like winning over the civilian population by providing them with entertainment on a spectacularly grand scale. And what entertainment – feasting and extreme violence, two ultimate Roman turn-ons.

“He meditated the construction of a temple to Mars, which should exceed in grandeur everything of that kind in the world.” --------- As a conquering general, one sure-fire way to silence any opposition to your plundering and brutality: link your action to a divinity and your culture’s mythology and religion.

“He accommodated the year to the course of the sun, ordaining that in future it should consist of three hundred and sixty-five days without any intercalary month; and that every fourth year an intercalary day should be inserted.” ---------- Turns out, we have Julius Caesar to thank for our modern twelve month calendar.

“It is admitted by all that he was much addicted to women, as well as very expensive in his intrigues with them, and that he debauched many ladies of the highest quality.” ---------- Is it any surprise Caesar was addicted to sex as he was addicted to the violence of battle? Sigmund Freud and modern psychology has much to say about the close connection of these two passions.

“He even suffered some honors to be decreed to him, which were unbefitting the most exalted of mankind; such as a gilded chair of state in the senate-house and on his tribunal, a consecrated chariot, and banners in the Circensian procession, temples, altars, statues among the gods, a bed of state in the temples, a priest, and a college of priests dedicated to himself, like those of Pan; and that one of the months should be called by his name.” ---------- True to form for an ancient tyrant, Caesar wanted to be granted the status of a god. I wonder what Caesar was thinking about his godlike status when he realized he was about to be stabbed to death, even by the knife of his son Brutus?

Suetonius available on-line: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/6400/6...
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  GlennRussell | Feb 16, 2017 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Suetoniusprimary authorall editionscalculated
Carbajo Molina, FrancescTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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