One time, when we were in Gaul fighting the Celts over whether their name was pronounced with a hard or a soft “C,” Caesar parked his chariot in the space reserved for a local chieftain who had 20 years of service and special sticker.
“Well I didn’t see any sign on the space,” said Caesar, but the man’s feathers were ruffled over this breach of etiquette. He didn’t care if Caesar was there to make war or not, and Marc Antony’s attempts to smooth things over with a few talents of gold and some raspberry-passionfruit wine were not successful. Eager to please, Antony remedied the situation his own way, which led to even greater disappointment.
“You told me to take care of it!” Antony said, waving his hands in the air.
“Well you didn’t have to chop his head off right there in front of everyone,” said Caesar. “How can I go to the supermarket now? It’s really awkward.”
Caesar also loved going out to new restaurants. But he made it hard for everyone because he always wanted Italian.
“But we had Italian last night,” Antony complained once. “Can’t we try that new barbecue place?”
“Yes,” said Cicero, “I heard the food was good but the service slow and desserts overpriced.”
Caesar was almost persuaded, but the omens for barbecue were bad, and he made them all get Italian for the third night in a row.
There was the time he returned from Egypt and discovered that he’d forgotten to pay his credit card bill. “It was one lousy day late!” he shouted to a scribe from the bank who was recording the entire message for quality purposes. When the credit card company refused to take off the late fee, Caesar had the scribe crucified and asked to speak with his supervisor. The late fee was taken off but the interest was, unfortunately, already chiseled in stone.
Julius Caesar was so excited when he invaded Britain. He didn’t even mind all the rain. “The savages are so polite,” he wrote in his journal. His observations were so poignant and witty that I was as surprised as he was when he couldn’t get any publishers in Rome to do even a limited printing. Caesar was told that travel memoirs had been “done to death” and the market was looking for young-adult paranormal romance.
People misunderstood Caesar’s desire to become an absolute dictator. They called him a tyrant. “I’m really not a tyrant,” he would lament. “So I want to divert a river. Big deal. Look at how it bends in the map. Don’t you think it would look better if it flowed in a straight line?”
He even got criticism for changing the calendar. He was only trying to give his daughter the perfect wedding.
“Ah, you see, there’s absolutely nothing left in June,” the wedding planner said, consulting his stone tablet. “Everyone wants to get married in June. So that takes into September…”
“But I don’t want to get married in September,” his daughter said. “Daddy, you promised me I could have a wedding worthy of Minerva.”
“Did I say that? All right. And so you shall!” Caesar said, and created the month of July, thus clearing up a few more weekends for his daughter choose from. He still had trouble getting invitations printed up, though, as the scribes weren’t used to writing the name of the new month, and took several drafts to get it right.
But all things in antiquity have to end in tragedy so that writers have something to write about. I told Caesar not to go to the Senate that day. Nothing was on the agenda expect for a routine appropriations bill for vomitoria, and a total puff-piece of legislation formally recognizing that being eaten by a lion was more humane than being eaten by a bear.
“But I heard they are going to serve cake,” he said.
“Sir,” I said to him, “you are the absolute ruler of Rome, the most powerful man in the world, a god among men. You can have cake at home any time you want.”
“Yes,” Caesar said, gathering up his toga, “but the cake at home is just not the same.”