Julius Caesar Raises The Ransom…. On Himself?
In 75 B.C., a 25 year old Julius Caesar (not yet dictator for another 27 years) decided to further his studies after having a career as a criminal lawyer, which was not the epic seven year (minimum) journey it is today that requires passing the bar and working for dirt cheap as a public attorney until a big firm brings you on board. Regardless, it was still pretty much a prerequisite for getting into politics, which at the time, Julius Caesar wanted nothing to do with. In order to pursue his studies, he traveled to the island of Rhodes which was part of an eastern Roman province.
During this trip, Julius Caesar was captured by Cilician pirates who ran rampant through the Mediterranean sea at the time. The Mithridatic wars between Rome and King Mithridates VI of Pontus (now known as Northern Turkey) provided a fertile breeding ground for pirate activity. Rome did little to try and stop them because the pirates provided slaves for Rome’s corrupt senators and knights, but a rich hostage like Caesar would be worth more from the ransom money than as a slave.
The pirates demanded 20 talents for his release. This was equal to about 400 kg of silver which would be about $250,000 in US dollars today. Caesar laughed at their demand and told them that they clearly did not know the value of their prisoner. He told the pirates he would in fact, give them 50 talents (or about a little over $600,000 USD) for his release! By the way, this would be the 2nd time that Caesar was held at ransom by pirates. The first was four years ago in which the pirates demanded 25 talents for his release, which he paid and went on his way.
This time, it took 38 days to get such a large amount of money together. He sent one of his followers to gather all the money while he spent the time with one friend of his, and two servants and a crew of pirates. It turned out, Caesar made himself right at home. He had such a high esteem of himself that despite being surrounded by barbaric pirates, he treated them as if they were his own crew.
He joined in all their games and exercises, just as if he was their leader instead of their prisoner. He also wrote poems and speeches which he read aloud to them, and if they failed to admire his work, he would call them to their faces illiterate savages, and would often laughingly threaten to have them all hanged. – Greek Author, Plutarch
After the 38 days, the pirates were paid and Caesar was let off the boat at the docks of Miletus. The moment the pirates let him off at the docks Caesar got a fleet together, quickly found the pirates and captured nearly all of them. He then brought them to the prison in Pergamon and since he was in the area of Asia Minor, he decided it would be appropriate to seek out the local Roman governor, Marcus Junius. Marcus did not want to execute them and was more interested in the money that could be made from selling them as slaves. Instead, Julius decided to make good on his promise to the pirates to hang them. Of course, hanging someone back then was more like crucifying, which is what he did to them, right on a nearby coastline for all the passing ships to see….
It turns out, Julius Caesar wasn’t suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, he just liked to have a good time no matter where he was.