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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Closing Thoughts on Caesar

Well, I had been stalled out a bit on Plutarch, so I decided to get through Caesar and move on to Augustine. Strictly as a story, I enjoyed Caesar better than the other lives covered by Plutarch in the selections.

Plutarch gives us the famous veni, vidi, vici and he notes its potential as a slogan.
On leaving that country and traversing Asia, he learned that Domitius had been defeated by Pharnaces the son of Mithridates and had fled from Pontus with a few followers; also that Pharnaces, using his victory without stint, and occupying Bithynia and Cappadocia, was aiming to secure the country called Lesser Armenia, and was rousing to revolt all the princes and tetrarchs there. At once, therefore, Caesar marched against him with three legions, fought a great battle with him near the city of Zela, drove him in flight out of Pontus, and annihilated his army. In announcing the swiftness and fierceness of this battle to one of his friends at Rome, Amantius, Caesar wrote three words: "Came, saw, conquered." In Latin, however, the words have the same inflectional ending, and so a brevity which is most impressive.
I was under the mistaken impression that this quote was one of pure triumph and had missed its dismissive tone. Once again, reading primary sources is pretty cool.

There are other zingers. After the soothsayer predicted the Ides of March would be Caesar's downfall, Caesar saw the seer on his way to the Senate saying, "'Well, the Ides of March are come,' and the seer said to him softly: 'Ay, they are come, but they are not gone.'" Plutarch does not give us "et tu Brute," but puts this as Caesar's last words as crying out "in Latin: 'Accursed Casca, what does thou?' and the smiter, in Greek, to his brother: 'Brother, help!'" The story closes with those who betrayed Caesar, like the one who betrayed Christ, killing themselves. Cassius "with that very dagger which he had used against Caesar" and Brutus by literally falling on his sword, "while a certain friend, as they say, helped to drive the blow home."

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