I do hope everyone’s Fourth of July was safe and nice. Well moving right along- let’s talk about July and the famous man it was named after!
MONTH OF JULY
The month of July, formerly known as Quintilis, was the fifth month or quintus mensis of the Roman calendar.* Quintilis was renamed July after Julius Caesar in 43 BCE; this was done after Julius Caesar’s death as an honorary gesture by his adopted son and nephew Octavian or Augustus Caesar. The reason that Quintilis was picked for Julius Caesar is due to the fact that this was the month in which Julius Caesar had been born.
*For more information on the names of days and months of the Roman calendar, see our earlier post here.
CAESAR COMES FROM….
Many people know of Julius Caesar, but not many know how or where he obtained the cognomen “Caesar.” One historian postulated that it was due to the fact that one of his ancestors was born via caesarean section. The term caesarean probably derives from the Latin verb caedere “to cut” or its perfect (past) stem caes-. The famous Historia Augusta suggests three interesting proposals:
- Julius Caesar had bright grey eyes (Latin= oculis caesiis)
- Julius Caesar had thick hair (Latin= caesaries)
- Or, Julius had killed an elephant at some point in battle (Moorish or Punic= elephant= caesai)
The latter point is considered to be one that Julius Caesar agreed or favored since there have been many discoveries of coin depicting Caesar’s name and elephants.
CAESAR THE PRIEST?
According to Paterculus’ Roman History, Julius Caesar was intended for a very different life. After the death of his father (85BCE), he was nominated by his uncle, Gaius Marius, and his political ally, Cinna, to be the new high priest of Jupiter or Flamen Dialis.** However, he was striped of this title and other honors following Sulla’s victory, because Sulla was Marius rival during a civil war. Could you imagine if he had been a priest?
** The extreme honors and restrictions of this position can be found here, and they are discussed at length.
IT’S THE PIRATES LIFE FOR ME!
Around the late 80′s and early 70′s BCE, Caesar was kidnapped by Cilician pirates and held prisoner. It is reported by Plutarch that Caesar maintained a haughty sense of superiority throughout his captivity. For example, when the pirates demanded a ransom of twenty talents (measurement explained here) of silver, he insisted they ask for fifty. After that ransom was paid, Caesar was bent on revenge. He raised a fleet, pursued and seized the pirates, and imprisoned them. However, his revenged was not done there; he had them crucified ( as he had promised while in captivity…a promise the pirates had taken as a joke). This chapter of Caesar of life has actually been taken as a topic for a Hollywood film! (More details on the film and its collaborators here).
THE MOVIES GOT IT ALL WRONG
The following clip is from HBO’s Rome series and it depicts the death of Caesar. WARNING: It may be a bit graphic from some.
On the Ides of March (15 March) in 44 BCE, Caesar was due to appear at a session of the Senate. However, the Senate was currently meeting in the Theatre of Pompey, because the old Senate House or curia was being reconstructed (Most films and TV series do not depict this difference). Furthermore, Caesar’s famous last words “Et tu, Brute?!” are actually a Shakespearean invention. Ancient Historian have never attributed him to saying anything when he dies. Suetonius reports that OTHERS said that Caesar said “καὶ σύ, τέκνον” ( Ancient Greek for “And you, child?”), but Suetonius does not actually agree or state that Caesar uttered a last phrase. Plutarch simply dictates that Caesar said nothing and was seen to try to hide himself (or shame) by covering his face with his toga.
Well, thank you for reading and have a wonderful rest of the week!