Circa 47 BC, Julius Caesar (102 – 44BC) the Roman general and statesman lands his craft during his invasion on Britain. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
“And the fools thought they could hold me to ransom without my retaliation.”
Twenty-five year old Julius Caesar was arrogant beyond belief. He and his party had been taken captive by Cilician pirates who had demanded twenty talents for his release. Insulted, Caesar demanded they ask for fifty and sent all but two servants and a friend out to raise the funds.
While in the pirates’ company, he continually behaved like their superior, and wanting the fifty talents delivered to them, they tolerated his demands.
Upon his release, though a private citizen, Caesar marshaled a fleet and found the pirates still anchored off the coast of Cilicia. He captured almost all of them and had them imprisoned. Almost all of them.
Natan was among the crowds watching as his former shipmates were led to the crosses for public execution. He could hear the power mad whelp Caesar screaming for them all to be crucified. The former pirate drew his cloak tighter around his body.
Then Caesar showed the pirates his unique brand of “mercy”.
Natan turned away as each pirate had his throat slit prior to being put on the cross.
“What a fool I am,” he murmured to himself. “Like Yonah, I ran away from my life. I have to go back. Hashem forgive me.”
Taking what little money he had managed to escape with, Natan booked passage on the next ship for home. Even life in the corrupt Hasmonean Kingdom was better than this. He longed to see Jerusalem again and to make an offering to Hashem in His Holy Temple.
I mentioned in this blog post that my grandson and I have been learning a little about pirates from this children’s book.
We found out that a young Julius Caesar was really kidnapped by pirates and held to ransom. The children’s book leaves out most of the gruesome details, but you can find them at Livius.org and Mental Floss. My son Michael was also quite familiar with the story when I mentioned it to him.
The tale itself is compelling but I may have failed at making it more interesting by having one of the few pirates who escaped be a Jew who had run from the corrupt rule in his homeland to become a pirate. Now, like the prophet Jonah, he returns to the life he was intended by God to live, though he’ll get home just in time to see Hyrcanus II become the High Priest and briefly the King.