It is not often one comes across a man whose very name is synonymous with grandeur, power and extravagance. Of those select men, Julius Caesar is one of the greatest of them all. His contribution to history is so immense that even today we can see his actions at work.
Even the calendar we currently use is based on the one he put into effect called the “Julian Calendar. “However, there was a time when Caesar was nothing but a soldier because he sought to flee the reign of Sulla – a general who became a dictator by force and prosecuted anyone who had ties with Marius, his former adversary and Caesar’s uncle.
In his career as a soldier, Caesar served with merit in time, this earned him the second highest honour any citizen could achieve, the Civic Crown. After many years, Sulla relinquished his power as dictator and he retired from public office allowing Caesar safe passage to Rome. There he remained a few years, where he took the role of a lawyer. It was around this time he must have met Apollonius Molon, who served twice as an ambassador of Rome from Rhodes. (1)
After a failed case, he sailed to Rhodes to escape from his failure and to learn from the master orator, Apollonius Molon, who had also taught Cicero. However, before he got to Rhodes, his ship was taken by pirates and he was imprisoned. Even though at the time he hadn’t even started to fathom what his crowning achievements would be, he already had so much pride that when the pirates said they’d ransom him for twenty talents of silver he said that he was worth fifty, at the very least. (2)
While they waited for the ransom, Caesar partook in all the activities as an equal rather than a prisoner. He even took to writing speeches and poems, and whenever the pirates didn’t like them, he threatened to hang them – or worse, crucify them. The pirates, rather than take this as an insult or as a serious threat, laughed heartily and developed a liking to him.
After thirty eight days and at the loss of fifty talents of silver, he was set free. However, as soon as he was released, he amassed a small fleet and he pursued the pirates. He didn’t have to look far as he found them just off the island where he had been left. A few died in the ensuing conflict, but he captured a vast number and he recovered all of his lost wealth. On top of that, he even gained more money than what he started with because of the pirates’ treasure trove.
He ended up giving the pirates up to a jail in Perganum but the Praetor there seemed to be more interested in selling them to slavery rather than executing them. So, Caesar ended up taking matters into his own hands and he crucified all of them.
In the end, Caesar kept his word even when all the buccaneers had thought he was joking. Maybe that was what he expected, or wanted for that matter. After all, he was the first one to say “no one is so brave that he is not disturbed by something unexpected,” a lesson which would later be used by the all time master of horror – Alfred Hitchcock.
(1)Plutarch’s and Sueotonius’ accounts of the events vary in order. For this article I took the chronological order of Suetonius’ version of the story. In Plutarch’s version Caesar is captured as he returns to Rome, and then decides to go to learn from Apollonius for no particular reason.
(2)On a more serious note, a Greek talent of silver (which is the measurement Plutarch and Sueotonius use) weighs 26 kg , today (June 14th 2010) a kilogram of silver is worth $592.54 according to this website.Which totals Caesar’s ransom at about $769,912 if it were paid today in dollars.
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