Thursday, 14 April 2016

Julius Caesar and His Famous Quotes

Julius Caesar is perhaps one of the most famous people in History and one thing he is certainly famous for is his quotes, an awful lot of quotes and also misquotes. In this post I have chosen the ones that have stuck in my mind (randomly) over time and explain them, where they were said and the context of that (If indeed they were said at all). So lets just say this is the point of no return and Alea Iacta Est.


'The Die is Cast'- 'Alea Iacta Est'

You probably guessed from the end of the last paragraph that I was probably going to do this one first. 'The Die is Cast' refers to a point of no return, the die (singular dice) the action is irrevocable regardless of its consequences. This was attributed by the Roman historian Suetonius to Caesar as he crossed the Rubicon river in modern day northern Italy, from Cisalpine Gaul. Cisalpine Gaul, interestingly, was the part of Italy inhabited by Celts since the 13th century BC, even though the term is most associated with France, rather than the other parts of Gaul. This act was seen as insurrection and treason, laws were in place to prevent a coup and therefore even though Caesar only crossed with a single legion, Legio XIII, it was a virtual act of civil war.

Crossing the Rubicon resulted in Civil War (49-45 BC) with Pompey and the traditionalist Senate majority (the Optimates.) Caesar is said to have borrowed the phrase from his favourite Greek writer of comedy, Menander.

                                       Caesar pausing on the banks of the Rubicon

'I came, I saw, I conquered'- 'Veni, Vedi, Vici'

This famous phrase also originates from events mixed in with the Civil War with Pompey, Pharnaces II of Pontus (one of my favourite ancient realms, by the way) a client of Pompey was taking advantage of the Civil War. Caesar achieved a quick victory against Pharnaces II at the Battle of Zela and therefore the term refers to a quick, conclusive victory. According to the Roman historian (of Greek origin) Appian, Caesar used this phrase in a letter to the Roman Senate following his victory. Plutarch and Suetonius also mention this 'famous' quote.

                                Modern day Zile, Turkey, the site of the Battle of Zela.


'you too Brutus?'- 'Et tu Brute?'

The phrase 'you too, Brutus?' or 'and you,Brutus?' is most commonly associated with Caesar's last words. Brutus was a close an adopted close friend, yet nephew of Julius Caesar. The quotation is often used to signify the most unexpected betrayal, such as Brutus' betrayal of Caesar during the Ides of March (15 March) 44BC and his assassination.

Julius Caesar's last words are highly contentious among historians, but this phrase is perhaps mostly associated with Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar (1599) where it forms part of a macaronic phrase that finishes 'Then Fall, Caesar!'. Suetonius claimed that others had reported that Caesar's last words were 'you too child?' with the Greek phrase from which it originates having several translations. Some believe this points to Brutus being Caesar's illegitimate son. Suetonius notes that Caesar said nothing as he died, others say that he only said the phrase after recognising Brutus, meanwhile Plutarch also states Caesar said nothing and that he pulled his toga over his head after seeing Brutus as one of the conspirators.


The Death of Caesar by Vincenzo Camuccini from 1798

Julius Caesar is a man of many well-remembered words, whether he spoke them or not. Many of these phrases have entered modern lexicons, but they also tell us a lot about the man himself and his political career. Whether it is a point of no return, a statement of a swift and conclusive victory or a way to express the shock of a utmost betrayal, Julius Caesar's quotes shall remain in the human mind for some time to come,



Bibliography:
http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/358600.html
http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/vterms/g/Venividivici.htm
Image Credit goes to Wikipedia

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