My 10 Favorite Julius Caesar Quotes
Caesar was both the epitome of a Roman noble and an extremely atypical man of his times. A paradox. He was a brilliant man, a talented and ruthless politician and a military genius. Caesar was a gifted writer, orator and lawyer. His personal life was so filled with drama and intrigue that it has fascinated millions over the generations and will go on doing so. Countless plays, books and movies have been made about him.
I have chosen the famous quotes below because I find them personally interesting and can relate them to my life and the world today or because they are academically interesting or contentious.
Perhaps the most famous of Caesar's quotes
History Channel's "Rome"
"I came, I saw, I conquered." - Gaius Julius Caesar.
Caesar said this later in his career when he was victorious in Asia (the modern Middle East/Turkey region). Caesar had defeated Pompey and his adherents after he crossed the Rubicon and took power. Pompey had aways made a big deal of his Asian victories and his reputation in part was based on those successes. Others too were famous for their military exploits in Asia (Lucullus). What Caesar was saying here is how easy it was for him to succeed in Asia. He was having a dig at Pompey and anyone else who had become famous by winning wars in Asia, as it was not difficult for him (especially when compared to Gaul). This is a typical Caesarian style of comment, in the Latin the words rhyme and are crisp and easy to say so it is grammatically concise and clever. It has more than one layer of meaning as well as being biting and somewhat arrogant - classic Caesar.
1st Century Roman Grave Relief
“The evil men do lives after them. The good is oft interred with their bones ,” - Gaius Julius Caesar
This is an interesting observation on human nature. Caesar knew that people remember negatives better than positives. He was a powerful manipulator and tinkered with many of his fellow Roman's reputations to his own political advantage. This reminds me that people always remember the mistakes I make before they remember the successes. It also reminds me to keep a balanced perspective.
“The die is cast.” - Gaius Julis Casear
This quote is contentious. Caesar is supposed to have said this after he made the fateful decision to cross the Rubicon and take Rome by force of arms, plunging the known world into civil war. It means something along the lines of 'the decision is made' or 'the chance is taken'. There are those that say he said, "Let the dice fly high". We may never know what he said, if anything, at that vital moment. We only know for sure that he took the gamble of his career and it paid off.
From the TV Series "Rome": Caesar's Speech to the 13th Legion before crossing the Rubicon
Roman boys being taught
“It is better to create than to learn! Creating is the essence of life.”- Gaius Julius Caesar
Strange as it is to think of "progress" as a concept in the ancient world, Caesar knew that it is creation that propels the human race forwards. Caesar was primarily a man of action and it is easy to see that a man like him would see doing as being more important than learning. However for mere mortals like me, it is often difficult to "do" until some learning has taken place. To me they are intertwined concepts.
“What we wish, we readily believe, and what we ourselves think, we imagine others think also .” - Gaius Julius Caesar
Caesar had a keen understanding of human nature. He appreciated the true power of the human tendency of 'wishful thinking' and used it to his advantage throughout his career. This quote is about the power of perspective. It reminds me that my perspective is not always the same as others and that I should check my objectivity or motivations, particularly when making important decisions.
An excellent book on Caesar
“If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it.”- Gaius Julius Caesar
This demonstrates that Caesar really understood the importance of power and legitimisation. Caesar had no qualms about acting outside the law when he believed he was going to win. His crossing the Rubicon and taking Rome was an example of this. First he acted, then after he won, he legitimsed his actions. He knew very well that winners write the history books.
Award Winning Documentary
“All bad precedents begin as justifiable measures” - Gaius Julius Caesar
So true. Often when I take a 'shortcut' at work because I just don't have time it creates a dangerous precedent for the next time the situation arises. I justify it because of a pressing deadline or the lack of resources. Most people, like me, prefer to do things properly, but when stressed will take other options. This is a good reminder to think ahead and not just about the task I am involved in at the time.
“Which death is preferably to every other? ''The unexpected''- Gaius Julius Caesar
Prophetic words. Caesar got his wish when he was set upon by a group of his colleagues and stabbed to death at the age of 54. It is hard to imagine that he knew the plot was afoot. The times were violent and perhaps Caesar anticipated death in battle or from some other sudden cause such as shipwreck. However, near the time of his murder, he is said to have ignored the warnings of a forum soothsayer ("beware the Ides of March") and refused an offer of bodyguards. Had he listened to the soothsayer he might have avoided his violent, unexpected death that day.
“It's only hubris if I fail,”- Gaius Julis Caesar
Hubris is overbearing pride or presumption. It was a concept often found in the ancient Greek plays. A related concept is the saying that pride comes before a fall. Caesar was making the point that if he does not fall then his pride cannot be overbearing or presumptuous. Again an example of Caesar's classic arrogance and cleverness.
"Cowards die many times before their actual deaths". - Gaius Julius Caesar
Again, this demonstrates Caesar's profound insight into the human psyche. Fear is the little death that stabs and gnaws away at people. I don't know if Caesar was ever afraid of things in the way that most people are. Perhaps his supreme confidence is what really set him apart? I will never know, but I know that he understood the way fear works in others whether he felt it himself or not.
© 2011 Mel Jay