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NIHIL NOVUM SUB SOLE

1001 deeds, sayings, curiosities and anecdotes of the ancient world

is very difficult to refute the errors

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It is very difficult to combat the rumors, especially if malicious. So today, but also in antiquity. We discuss a case that historians and the ancient chronicles collected because it affect Julius Caesar.

Julius Caesar won the award of four military triumphs for his campaigns in Europe, Asia and Africa. He  celebrated them so grand in the range of 12 days, from 21 September to 2 October in the year 46 BC. In the triumphal procession, in which the General walks through the streets of Rome dressed as the god Jupiter, his soldiers allowed some licenses because that day discipline is relaxed somewhat. Caesar had a reputation for great womanizer and his legionaries  sing in the parade, as Suetonius  says  on Caesar, 51.1:

That he did not refrain from intrigues in the provinces is shown in particular by this couplet, which was also shouted by the soldiers in his Gallic triumph:

"Men of Rome, keep close to your consorts, here's a bald adulterer.
Gold in Gaul you spent in dalliance, which you borrowed here in Rome."

Ne prouincialibus quidem matrimoniis abstinuisse uel hoc disticho apparet iactato aeque a militibus per Gallicum triumphum:
               urbani, seruate uxores: moechum caluom adducimus.
              aurum in Gallia effutuisti, hic sumpsisti mutuum.

                                                         (Published in the Loeb Classical Library, 1913)

But there was another older rumor about César. In the year 80 BC, being thus very young,  was in the court of King Nicomedes in Bithynia. It was said that, succumbed to the charms or the pressure of the king, impressed by its beauty, was invited to their rooms and participated in a banquet as his butler. The rumor spread quickly when he returned a few days later to Bithynia, according to him to demand money owed. In the context of the ancient world, especially in the East, these practices are perfectly credible. In Rome however passive homosexuality was ill-considered. Suetonius refers to this in several passages of his life of Caesar, especially in Chapter 49. It may be the quote a bit long, but it is a good example of historical gossip that seems like the contemporary people of historian.

There was no stain on his reputation for chastity except his intimacy with King Nicomedes, but that was a deep and lasting reproach, which laid him open to insults from every quarter. I say nothing of the notorious lines of Licinius Calvus:

"Whate'er Bithynia had, and Caesar's paramour."

I pass over, too, the invectives of Dolabella and the elder Curio, in which Dolabella calls him "the queen's rival, the inner partner of the royal couch," and Curio, "the brothel of Nicomedes and the stew of Bithynia."  I take no account of the edicts of Bibulus, in which he posted his colleague as "the queen of Bithynia," saying that "of yore he was enamoured of a king, but now of a king's estate." At this same time, so Marcus Brutus declares, one Octavius, a man whose disordered mind made him somewhat free with his tongue, after saluting Pompey as "king" in a crowded assembly, greeted Caesar as "queen." But Gaius Memmius makes the direct charge that he acted as cup-bearer to Nicomedes with the rest of his wantons at a large dinner-party, and that among the guests were some merchants from Rome, whose names Memmius gives.  Cicero, indeed, is not content with having written in sundry letters that Caesar was led by the king's attendants to the royal apartments, that he lay on a golden couch arrayed in purple, and that the virginity of this son of Venus was lost in Bithynia; but when Caesar was once addressing the senate in defence of Nysa, daughter of Nicomedes, and was enumerating his obligations to the king, Cicero cried: "No more of that, pray, for it is well known what he gave you, and what you gave him in turn."  Finally, in his Gallic triumph his soldiers, among the bantering songs which are usually sung by those who followed the chariot, shouted these lines, which became a by-word:

"All the Gauls did Caesar vanquish, Nicomedes vanquished him;
Lo! now Caesar rides in triumph, victor over all the Gauls,
Nicomedes does not triumph, who subdued the conqueror."

(The English translation is by J. C. Rolfe). Loeb Classical Library edition, 1913 1914.

Pudicitiae eius famam nihil quidem praeter Nicomedis contubernium laesit, graui tamen et perenni obprobrio et ad omnium conuicia exposito. omitto Calui Licini notissimos uersus:
               Bithynia quicquid    et pedicator Caesaris umquam habuit.
praetereo actiones Dolabellae et Curionis patris, in quibus eum Dolabella 'paelicem reginae, spondam interiorem regiae lecticae,' at Curio 'stabulum Nicomedis et Bithynicum fornicem' dicunt. missa etiam facio edicta Bibuli, quibus proscripsit collegam suum Bithynicam reginam, eique antea regem fuisse cordi, nunc esse regnum. quo tempore, ut Marcus Brutus refert, Octauius etiam quidam ualitudine mentis liberius dicax conuentu maximo, cum Pompeium regem appellasset, ipsum reginam salutauit. sed C. Memmius etiam ad cyathum + et ui + Nicomedi stetisse obicit, cum reliquis exoletis, pleno conuiuio, accubantibus nonnullis urbicis negotiatoribus, quorum refert nomina. Cicero uero non contentus in quibusdam epistulis scripsisse a satellitibus eum in cubiculum regium eductum in aureo lecto ueste purpurea decubuisse floremque aetatis a Venere orti in Bithynia contaminatum, quondam etiam in senatu defendenti ei Nysae causam, filiae Nicomedis, beneficiaque regis in se commemoranti: 'remoue,' inquit, 'istaec, oro te, quando notum est, et quid ille tibi et quid illi tute dederis.' Gallico denique triumpho milites eius inter cetera carmina, qualia currum prosequentes ioculariter canunt, etiam illud uulgatissimum pronuntiauerunt:

Gallias Caesar subegit, Nicomedes Caesarem:
ecce Caesar nunc triumphat qui subegit Gallias,
Nicomedes non triumphat qui subegit Caesarem.

The same Suetonius on Life of Julius Caesar, 52.3 continues now quoting again Curio, father:

But to remove all doubt that he had an evil reputation both for shameless vice and for adultery, I have only to add that the elder Curio in one of his speeches calls him "every woman's man and every man's woman."

at ne cui dubium omnino sit et impudicitiae et adulteriorum flagrasse infamia, Curio pater quadam eum oratione omnium mulierum uirum et omnium uirorum mulierem appellat.

It seems that on one occasion he took these comments with a sense of humor, if we believe what the same Suetonius tells us in chapter 22.2 where to brag about his complete victories in Gaul, told a senator that does not would be easy for a woman; Caesar quipped that:

he replied in the same vein that Semiramis too had been queen in Syria and the Amazons in days of old had held sway over a great part of Asia.

in Suria quoque regnasse Sameramin magnamque Asiae partem Amazonas tenuisse quondam.

But generally these comments referred to the issue of Nicomedes annoyed greatly Caesar and put out of their boxes and made the "mistake" to deny publicly sworing it was not true, thereby expanding and making fools hoax. Dio tells us in Roman History, 43, 20.4:

As for him, however, he was not displeased at their saying this, but was quite delighted that by such frankness toward him they showed their confidence that he would never be angry at it — except in so far as their abuse concerned his intercourse with Nicomedes. At this he was greatly vexed and manifestly pained; he attempted to defend himself, denying the affair upon oath, whereupon he incurred all the more ridicule. (Translation by Earnest Cary. Loeb Classical Library edition, 1916).

In his attempt to explain actually gave more publicity to the issue. And so it continues today. Or do we still haunts the question that really the great Caesar, when it was not so great, was really the lover of king of Bithynia?

   
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