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Friday Morning Latin Lesson, Vol CIII

July 13, 2012

We've celebrated a lot of things around here on Fridays.  For instance, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, various and sundry minor Roman holidays.  Lief Ericson Day.  Even the Ides of March.  Plus various birthdays:  mine, Hugh Hefner's and Elvis.  I think we should combine a couple of special days and throw them all together here.  What say you?  Good.  Let's go.

Today is Friday, of course, but it's also Friday the Thirteenth!  Gasp and swoon.  It's also July 13th.  The significance?  Traditionally, it's been accepted that July 13th was the birth date of one Gaius Iulius Caesar, that wee little man that brought most of the world around the Mediterranean into Roman control.

Let's start with the dispelling of rumors, shall we?

Caesar was not cut from his mother's womb.  Gaius was a popular Roman name and Iulius was his family's name, tracing their ancestry back to Aeneas (one of the founders of Rome) who was the son of Venus.  Handsome.  The name "Caesar" reflects, maybe, one of his ancestors being born by caesarean, but it could also refer to the thick head of hair that the babies were born with, their blue-grey eyes or maybe that someone down the line had slain an elephant in battle.  For reference, Julius' father was named Gaius Julius Caesar (the Elder) and his father was named Gaius Julius Caesar (the really elder), so the Caesar part had been around the family for a long time.

Ceasar also did not utter his famous words "vini, vidi, vici" upon conquest of the Gauls.  The area around the Black Sea, a place known in Roman times as "Pontus", had been a troubling spot for a while.  Previously, a man named Mithridates (read about him here) had vexed Roman dictator Pompey, who also happened to be one of Caesar's main political enemies.  It took a while for Pompey to deal with Mithridates--he was really charismatic, ambitious, owned a brilliant strategic mind, and was fucking insanely paranoid--so when Caesar arrived to put down a different rebellion, he did not mess around.  Pretty much as soon as Caesar arrived in Pontus from Egypt--where he was diddling a certain Egyptian woman--the uprising was over.  Caesar's report of "I came, I saw, I was victorious" was mostly a school yard taunt at Pompey's inability to take care of that shit effectively.

Lastly, Caesar was not the first Emperor.  At least not this Caesar.  That would be his nephew and adopted heir, Octavian who later became Augustus Caesar (and who is not a very good leader in Civilization IV, at least not in the early part where you have to fight everyone to survive).  He did set himself up to be Dictator for Life, however.  Despite the Republic still chugging along, whenever there was a crisis, political and military leaders could set aside the rule of the Senate and make themselves the Dictator, who then guided the Roman people/lands/government/military through whatever terrible thing was happening.

One interesting thing was that, after his conquest of Gaul, Caesar became more popular with the soldiers he commanded than with the rulers of the Senate--for good reason:  he was powerful and powerfully charismatic, but even better, he had the backing of one of the best fighting forces on Earth.  Caesar was warned to leave his army in the field and return to Rome.  Instead, he crossed the Rubicon (a river demarcating the boundaries of Italy at the time) with a single legion, and Civil War erupted.  When Caesar emerged victorious, he then declared that he was Dictator for Life...which he was, until March 15th, 44 BC.  That's, of course, the date when Brutus, Cassius and company decided they would try to re-establish the rule of the Republic by ending Caesar.  Unfortunately for their plans, they sparked a series of Civil Wars in which Augustus emerged as the winner and was then seated upon the throne as the first emperor.

Now, here's an interesting notion.  It's been kicked around for a while that Caesar's death on the floor of the theatre of the Curia of Pompey was not as clear cut as some would have us think.  Several people, who were not part of the conspiracy to kill Caesar, were aware of the plot, including Marcus Antonius (not the singer) who was one of Caesar's triumvirate (rule by three men).  Anthony then tried to warn Caesar, but Julius sort of...ignored him.  Caesar then went into the place where the Senate was meeting and was stabbed those infamous 23 times (though only one was deep enough to kill him).

Apparently, Caesar's health was beginning to fail--and he knew it.  While his body was beginning to decline, his mind was not; he knew that, if he were to seat himself upon a throne, he would not last long, either by being too weak to control the power or by being too sick to survive.  With that in mind, he willingly walked into the place where the Senate was meeting, knowing that he was about to be murdered.  This would go along with the notion that Caesar did not fight back much and so willingly gave up when he saw Brutus among the conspirators/assassins.

That all makes for a rather grim story to tell, especially on someone's birthday.  In lieu of the grisly--albeit, potentially altruistic--outcome, let's just get to the Latin translation, shall we?

Dies meus natalis est.  Iacite mihi dona.

Pronounced "Dee-ace may-oose nah-tah-leese est.  Ee-yah-kee-tay mee-hee doh-nah."

View the hovertext for the translation presently.

Et non obliviscere femellas.

Pronounced:  "Et noan oh-blee-wee-scare-aye fay-may-lahs.

Youthful translation in the hovertext.

As with most historical figures (for reference, see Christ, Jesus), there is some debate as to when the actual date of Caesar's birth was.  July 13th has been the traditional date for, well, a really long time.  We know that he was born somewhere near the middle of the month of July--hence the name of the month.  His heir, Augustus, gave us the name for "August".  Clever, no?  Despite there being debate and some confusion as to the date of Caesar's birth, we'll go ahead and recognize the 13th as his birthday.  If April 23rd can still be Shakespeare's birthday, then the 13th of July can belong to Caesar!

A note on the translation (aside from the caveat that I'm still learning and might not have the word order and the declensions perfectly correct...I couldn't decide on whether we should "shower him with presents" or "shower the presents upon him"), I used the term femella for "women".  It is, roughly, the word that the Romans would use for young women, as opposed to puella, which means girl, or femina which means "wife" or "woman".  I figured Caesar was probably a lech and would have approved of the younger stock.

5 comments:

Candy's daily Dandy said...

MJenks...I'm so glad that the Latin Lessons still LIVE ON!!!

you're da bomb!

Scope said...

Did you say something about shower with those young ladies? That's what my mind heard, and then it started to direct its own little screen play.

MJenks said...

I like your take on that much better, Scope. Yes, much better indeed.

Thanks, Candy. I'm still plugging away--both at the Latin and the blogging.

Scratch the hostile fay said...

Yay! Latin! :)

Frank said...

Ah I missed these Latin lessons, mostly the hovertext over pictures of scantily clad womenfolk.