Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Things Your History Teacher Never Told You About Julius Caesar

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You probably think of Julius Caesar as the guy in the toga who conquered a bunch of people,

had an affair with Cleopatra, and got stabbed.

That's the gist of the story, but it turns out there was a lot that your high school

teacher neglected to mention.

It's often said that the caesarean section was named after Julius Caesar, who was said

to have come into the world via this now common medical procedure.

But there's several small problems with that legend, starting with the fact that in ancient

Rome, women who underwent caesarean sections were either already dead or about to become

dead, because the procedure didn't usually involve sewing the unfortunate mom up again

afterward.

Considering Caesar's mom became one of his political advisers, she probably wasn't dead.

The practice of removing a baby from a dying mother's abdomen existed long before Caesar's

birth, and when Roman historian Pliny the Elder wrote about a certain Caesar who was

born by, quote, "an incision in his mother's womb," it wasn't the Caesar you're thinking

of.

It was his distant ancestor and likely the first in his line to bear that name, as "Caesar"

may have been derived from the Latin word which means to "chop, hew, or cut out."

Yikes.

Caesar did a lot of things that could be considered epic, but nothing is quite so awesome on a

resume as a skills section featuring that time he got kidnapped by pirates.

The story goes like this: En route to Greece, Caesar's ship was attacked by pirates, who

told him they'd be ransoming him for 20 talents.

Caesar was appalled, not because he was being held for ransom but because he was being ransomed

so cheaply.

The pirates were probably confused but went ahead and raised the ransom.

They were evidently very polite pirates - they treated Caesar well and laughed when he joked

that someday he would hunt them down and have them all crucified.

Oh, good times.

Then they got their ransom, let him go, and Caesar hunted them down and had them all crucified.

But because they'd been pretty nice to him when he was in captivity, he had their throats

cut first.

He was a merciful guy, that Caesar.

Before Caesar, the calendar was a mess.

It was based on lunar months, and 12 lunar months equaled 355 days.

The Romans tried to make up for the other 10 days by adding random days here and there,

but the whole process was really imprecise and the calendar was so messed up by the time

Caesar came along, January wasn't actually a winter month anymore.

Caesar was annoyed, so after consulting with Egyptian astronomers he decided to add 67

days to the current year to bring the months back in line, and then make a standard year

365.25 days long, which was the birth of "leap year".

Caesar then named July after himself, and a few years later his adopted son Octavian

took the name Augustus and eventually named August after himself, which was cool except

that meant September, which means "seven," became the ninth month and October, which

means "eight," became the 10th month.

It's like they knew that someday, no one would be speaking Latin anyway.

"Finished!"

Right.

Now dont do it again!”

Early in his life, Caesar kind of fancied himself a poet, and wrote a poem titled The

Voyage.

It described a journey from Rome to Hispania, but the work was lost in the Middle Ages because

Christian monks didn't think poetry written by a first-century B.C. Roman dictator was

really worth preserving.

Or maybe because they just thought it was bad poetry - they never really said

not directly, at least.

Other writings disappeared well before the medieval monks had a chance to declare them

bunk.

Caesar wrote a tragedy called Oedipus and a poem titled In Praise of Hercules.

While there had been plans to publish and distribute them both, those plans were squelched

by Caesar's heir Augustus, who may or may not have been embarrassed by his predecessor's

poetry.

"We wrote one last night outside the mini-mart.

Morris called it, ‘Stewart drives a comfortable car.’”

Julius Caesar might have built a mighty empire but it was at the expense of a great republic,

and there were a lot of people in his circle who really didn't like what had become of

their country.

In March of 44 B.C., Caesar's secret enemies - all members of the senate - cornered him

near the Theater of Pompey and stabbed him 23 times.

That was the end of Julius Caesarbut if it had just been one or two guys, history

could have been very different.

Roman citizens were all dying to know just how the assassination went down, and that's

probably why we have a detailed record of Julius Caesar's autopsy - the very first report

of its kind known to history.

In the report, the examining physician declared that only one of the 23 wounds Caesar had

sustained was actually fatal, which either says something about the resiliency of the

man or the not-very-impressive assassination skills of the average Roman senator.

We modern people love to imagine that somewhere in our veins runs the blood of a famous leader,

like Charlemagne, Ghengis Khan, or Julius Caesar.

And while there is actually a not-small possibility that you might be directly descended from

Ghengis Khan and a legitimate possibility that you might be descended from Charlemagne,

there is exactly zero chance you might be descended from Julius Caesar, because he had

no surviving children.

His daughter Julia died in childbirth, and her baby died soon afterward.

Cleopatra's son, the unfortunate Caesarion and supposed child of Caesar, was murdered

by the emperor Augustus when he was 17, so he left no children behind, either.

There's a possibility that Caesar's blood might live on through some unknown, illegitimate

child that history did not acknowledge or remember - in fact it's not hard to imagine

that a mother might want to hide that sort of paternal information, knowing it could

put her child's life in danger.

On the other hand, no one came forward claiming to be the child of Julius Caesar later in

life, either.

Since he was cremated, there's no bones to test and, well, basically no way of tracing

his lineage, even if it did exist.

That's a total bummer.

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