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 Family Values, Roman and Republican 

March 5, 2007 
Caesar & slavesIt was around this time of year over two millennia ago — in Lent, just before St. Patrick’s Day — that Julius Caesar was struck down. Of course Rome was not yet a Catholic city, let alone Irish, but it had a powerful criminal element, its senate.

Today's column is "Family Values, Roman and Republican" -- Read Joe's columns the day he writes them.Caesar & slavesThanks to Shakespeare, the official version of the story is still familiar and easily accessible on the Internet. But the Bard’s play deals only with the last few days of Caesar’s life (plus the aftermath). It has nothing to say about what would now be the most scandalous fact of that life: Like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, Julius Caesar owned slaves.

Caesar & slavesTrue, they were probably white slaves, so Al Sharpton’s ancestors presumably weren’t among them, which may be why the civil rights leader’s name isn’t Al Caesar. Caesar, muttering his scathing contempt for cowards, showed up for work that day despite the misgivings of his bitch Calpurnia (in colloquial Latin, his “ho”) and her astrologers, as well as a homeless Soothsayer.

Caesar & slavesIt was then that the conspirators — led by Caesar’s friend Brutus (who may also have been his bastard son, being the child of Servilia, one of Caesar’s old squeezes, as Plutarch reports, though of course the media, including Shakespeare, play down such eye-popping details), Cassius, and Casca — struck. After the others had stabbed Caesar, he stopped struggling when Brutus let him have it right in the groin (another fact the media have skipped over).

Caesar & slavesRome was shocked. Caesar had just come home in triumph after vanquishing the once-popular Pompey. He’d seemed to have a promising future as dictator.

Caesar & slavesNow Brutus faced a delicate problem, challenging all his great gifts as an orator. How to placate the angry mob, which had adored Caesar?

Caesar & slavesAt Caesar’s funeral he explained that he and his fellow conspirators had felt they’d had no choice if Roman liberty was to survive. Sounded reasonable.

[Breaker quote for Family Values, Roman and Republican: Reader discretion advised]Caesar & slavesBut then it was the turn of Mark (“Born to Raise Hell,” his tattooed biceps proclaimed) Antony to do the talking. When the terms of Caesar’s will were revealed, the inebriated crowd went nuts and tore the city apart. It was the wildest St. Patrick’s Day Rome has seen to this day. He’d left every Roman citizen seventy-five — count ’em! — drachmas. And a drachma in those days, before the Federal Reserve System, was worth something.

Caesar & slavesIf anything happened to George W. Bush today (oh, heaven forfend!), how much do you think each of us would get? Not being stupid, the Romans didn’t have paper money, and their coins are still a lot more valuable than ours. So much for modern progress.

Caesar & slavesBy the time of his death, Caesar had already had two children with Egypt’s Cleopatra, the alleged “serpent of the Nile.” As Shakespeare put it, in his typically lewd way, “Royal wench! She made great Caesar lay his sword to bed: He ploughed her, and she cropped.”

Caesar & slavesThen Antony too went to Egypt and did some ploughing of his own. Two more kids. Not that Cleopatra was actually such a femme fatale, but to quote Shakespeare again, “Our courteous Antony, Whom ne’er the word of ‘No’ woman heard speak ...” I used to have a buddy like that. “I never turned any down,” he’d say. If he were here today he’d make a good Republican presidential candidate.

Caesar & slavesI doubt that John Edwards is a faggot, as Ann Coulter says, but the GOP might be in better shape if Rudy Giuliani were one. Giuliani, who is not on speaking terms with his offspring, seems determined to revive ancient Roman family values, perhaps including infanticide.

Caesar & slavesIn the heydays of the Kennedys and Bill Clinton, not so long ago, satyriasis was thought to be the Democrats’ affliction. How times do change. These days the only Republican who turns any down is that human paradox Mitt Romney, a/k/a Mitt the monogamous Massachusetts Mormon. He is still, after 38 years, in the embrace of the first and, so far, the only Mrs. Romney. Well, at least Giuliani doesn’t own any slaves, unless they are sex slaves.

Caesar & slavesIn the Harry Truman era the GOP asked the voters a simple question: “Had enough?” Well, the voters have had enough — enough, with over measure — of George W. Bush. Now the party has a new slogan: “Gettin’ any?”

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2007 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
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