From relatively humble origins, Julius Caesar became one of the most powerful people in world history. The self-proclaimed “dictator for life” of the mighty Roman Empire, Caesar led an extraordinary existence as an extremely influential and feared man. In more modern times, he has been immortalized in books, on screen, and even in a Shakespeare play. But this leader lived more than 2,000 years ago, and not every depiction we’ve come to view as fact is historically accurate. So, we’ve dug up the true, unvarnished facts about Caesar’s life: it really is a compelling tale.
For most of us being kidnapped would be a hideous ordeal. And being seized at sea by pirates would surely make the experience all the more terrifying. But Julius Caesar was made of sterner stuff. He was snatched by brigands when he was sailing across the Aegean Sea from Rome to the island of Rhodes in 75 B.C. when he was aged 25. The pirates spirited him off to their island base.
A brutal revenge
The pirates set his ransom at 20 talents; that’s about two-thirds of a ton of silver. Caesar was contemptuous of this sum, insisting that they demand 50. He also told them that after he was freed he would return and execute every one of them. The pirates scoffed at the cocksure young man’s bravado: it was a fatal mistake. For Caesar did indeed return to the island after his release. As good as his word, he captured all the pirates and had them crucified.
2. Son of Caesar
Although he had three marriages — to Cornelia, Pompeia, and Calpurnia — as far as we know those three unions produced just one child. And she was a daughter called Julia whose mother was Caesar’s first wife, Cornelia. So where did this son come from? Well, Caesar’s scarce progeny from his spouses might have been a disappointment, but there were also the children he had by his mistresses.
Prominent among Caesar’s mistresses was Servilia, with whom he had a 20-year relationship which reputedly produced three children. But the son we’re talking about had a different mother: she was none other than Queen Cleopatra of Egypt. Her son Caesarion, the result of an affair, went on to become the Egyptian king, titled Ptolemy XV. He met his violent end on the orders of Caesar’s great-nephew and heir, Emperor Augustus.