Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Betrayal

My last post was about how interesting I found ancient Roman history, particularly the period around the fall of the Republic. Little did I know then just how relevant that history was to my personal life.

One of the most intriguing series of events was around Julius Caesar. History has no consensus on Caesar - was he just a power hungry tyrant? Or was he a true patriot of Rome, taking the step he thought necessary to save Rome from herself?

We can never know the thoughts of the man, but we can judge him by his actions. The most striking to me was Caesar's leniency, his forgiveness of his enemies. As opposed to precendent, Caesar did not kill his (real or imagined) enemies.

In Caesar's lifetime, there was regular chaos of civil war. Both Marius and Sulla used their armies to kill their enemies in the streets of Rome. Most accounts of that time comment how the streets ran red with the killing of heretofore noble citizens of Rome, all because they made the hit list (proscriptions) of Sulla.

And after Caesar, the same - Marcus Antonius and Octavius Caesar issued their own proscriptions, and again citizens of Rome were killed outright, their properties taken, their families brutalized and killed, because they were a political enemy.

Gaius Julius Caesar, on the other hand, forgave those who took up arms against him. He did not confiscate their property. He did not strip them of their place in society, or even of their place in the Senate of Rome. He tried to work with them in passing new laws which even today clearly were to the betterment of Rome.

Caesar was no angel. He did use his armies to fight in the civil wars, and he did kill other Romans on the battle field. He did use his armies to intimidate the Senate and to keep the peace in Rome. But never to kill the citizens of Rome, in Rome, just because they were his political enemies.

And for this, be was betrayed yet again. Not politically, as civilized men would have it, but in blood, in his own death. By the very people he forgave and trusted again with the future of Rome. By cowards who wielded their knives not on the battlefield or even in direct confrontation, but on the very symbol of civilization and representative government, the Senate floor itself.

I gained a new empathy with Caesar today. I had a personal event occur in my life that was ironic in it's timing with my new found fascination with Caesar. It is the worst feeling imaginable to have those in whom you place your trust turn on you and stab you in the back.

While I cannot compare my feelings to those of Caesar, who was after all killed, I least he didn't have to live with the shame, humiliation, shock and betrayal for long before he died.

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