Did Caesar Say It or Didn’t He?

Did Caesar Say It or Didn't He?Julius Caesar wrote about his military experiences in straightforward Latin that sometimes translates into terse quotable sayings. Some of the sayings attributed to Caesar come from biographers. Others come from people who create fiction. Here are 10 of the sayings that have been attributed to Caesar with source and truth value:

    1. Iacta alea est,’ inquit.
      The die is cast, he said.
      Source: Suetonius’ biography of Caesar (Suet. Iul.).
      Said when Caesar had decided to cross the Rubicon. This was an irrevocable and treasonable act starting civil war. Sometimes the words are switched: Alea iacta est.
      Truth value: likely.


  • Veni, vidi, vici
    I came, I saw, I conquered.
    Sources: Plutarch’s biography of Caesar (Plut. Caes.) 50, Suet. Iul. 37.
    Said in a report of Caesar’s 47 B.C. victory over Pharnaces, king of Pontus.
    Truth value: true.



  • Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres
    All Gaul is divided into three parts
    Source: Caesar’s Gallic War (De bello gallico) 1.1.
    Caesar starts his description on his adventures in Gaul that led to its absorption by the Roman Empire, with this observation on the ethnology of Gaul, the area of modern France.
    Truth value: true.



  • “It is not,” said he, “these well fed, long-haired men that I fear, but the pale and the hungry looking.” (One translation.)
    Source: Plutarch – Antony 11.3
    Refers to Brutus and Cassius. Familiar from “the lean and hungry look” in Shakespeare’s tragedy of Julius Caesar. According to Plutarch, Caesar said this alluding to Dolabella and Antony as the fat, long-haired men.
    Truth value: maybe.



  • Fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt.
    Men willingly believe what they wish.
    Source: De Bello Gallico, Book III, Ch. 18
    Truth value: true



  • “Well, the Ides of March are come,” and the seer said to him softly: “Ay, they are come, but they are not gone.” (One translation.)
    Source: Plut. Caes. 63.6.
    Plutarch says this story is told by many. It is familiar from Shakespeare’s tragedy. The context is that Caesar has been warned to stay away from public business on that particular March 15 in the year 44 B.C. His wife Calpurnia had a warning dream. Caesar, although warned, went out for business as usual.
    Truth value: likely.



  • “The wife of Caesar must be above suspicion.”
    Source: Plut. Caes. 10.8
    Caesar divorced his wife Pompeia for her involvement in a great scandal. Caesar at the time may have held the position of high priest and may have been saying that the wife of the priest must be above suspicion.
    Truth value: likely. (What’s really debateable is the meaning.)



  • “What! art thou, too, one of them? Thou, my son!”
    Source: Plut. Anthony
    Et tu, Brute
    Source: Shakespeare Julius Caesar
    There are traditions that say Caesar made a pithy statement as he died. It is also possible that he pulled his toga around his face and submitted to the assassins as silently as possible. Caesar may have addressed Brutus as teknon Greek for child (kai su, teknon?), fueling the theory that Brutus was actually his son. Child need not mean his own, though. This particular saying is controversial therefore for what it means, like the one above, as well as for whether anything at all was said.
    Truth value: maybe.



  • “Cowards die many times before their death.”
    Source: Shakespeare Julius Caesar
    Truth value: false.



  • “Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war….”
    Source: Barbara Streisand?
    Truth value: false.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s