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Young Julius Caesar was kidnapped by pirates who underestimated their hostage

Goran Blazeski

Julius Caesar was born in Rome on 12th or 13th July, 100 BC in the prestigious Julian clan. His birth marked the beginning of a new chapter in Roman history.

Caesar had fought in several wars and by the age of 31 progressed within the Roman political system, holding numerous government positions under Pompey. He became a dictator of the Roman Empire in 45 BC and was called Father of his Country (Pater Patriae).

The Tusculum portrait, perhaps the only surviving sculpture of Caesar made during his lifetime. Photo Credit

The Tusculum portrait, perhaps the only surviving sculpture of Caesar made during his lifetime. Photo Credit

The life of Julius Caesar is widely popular, credited as one of the reasons that the Roman Republic actually became the Roman Empire. However, only a few are familiar with the fact when he was 25-years-old he was kidnapped by pirates.

Plutarch reports in his biography that Caesar was sailing the Aegean Sea when he was kidnapped off the Dodecanese islands by Sicilian pirates, who were notorious in the Mediterranean region.

The pirates asked for a ransom of 20 talents of silver (about 620 kg of silver) but Caesar laughed at them for underestimating him and demanded that they ask for 50 talents of silver (about 1550 kg of silver).

A denarius depicting Julius Caesar, dated February–March 44 BC; the goddess Venus is shown on the reverse, holding Victoria and a scepter. Photo Credit

A denarius depicting Julius Caesar, dated February–March 44 BC; the goddess Venus is shown on the reverse, holding Victoria and a scepter. Photo Credit

The pirates took Caesar’s advice and asked for 50 talents of silver, so he sent some of his associates off to collect the silver.Julius Caesar was never afraid, although the pirates were known for their ruthlessness and aggression, and he spent 38 days with the pirates amusing himself by participating in their exercises and games. He wrote verses and speeches and made them his auditors, while those who didn’t admire him were addressed as illiterate and barbarous.

Vercingetorix throws down his arms at the feet of Julius Caesar. Painting by Lionel Royer.

Vercingetorix throws down his arms at the feet of Julius Caesar. Painting by Lionel Royer.

In fact, Caesar treated the pirates as if they were his subordinates and would often, in raillery, threaten to hang them once the ransom was paid. Of course, the pirates hadn’t taken his threats seriously, and they even liked him, so the pirates and Caesar grew to become friends.

Eventually, the ransom was paid and Caesar was set free. He never forgot the pirates or the promise he made to them, so he raised a small fleet and went back to the island where the pirates had held him.

The pirates were still there and when he arrived, he captured them and took back his 50 talents of silver. Later, just as he had promised, he crucified every single one of them.

The senators encircle Caesar, a 19th-century interpretation of the event by Carl Theodor von Piloty

The senators encircle Caesar, a 19th-century interpretation of the event by Carl Theodor von Piloty

This important experience provided him a reputation of a person who always keeps his promises.

We have another Caesar story for you:Julius Caesar brought the first giraffe to Europe, the Romans called it a “cameleopard”

Julius Caesar would later become a dictator of the Roman Empire and a master of the Mediterranean.