On January 1 42 BCE, the Roman Senate deified former dictator Julius Caesar. Quite an elevation for a man previously mocked as bisexual and relentlessly bottom-shamed.
However, the new god was already dead. Members of that same Senate stabbed him to death two years before. But typically, the politicians deified the warrior/politician for their own ends.
Caesar subsequently became an enduring hero of western antiquity, ranking only behind Jesus Christ for influence over future generations. Even 2000 years after his death, the Australian school curriculum celebrated him as one of the greats of ancient history. Adopting the Roman as an exemplar of western civilisation helped the former British Empire justify its colonisation of foreign lands.
But school history texts studiously ignored one aspect of Caesar’s life. His sexuality.
No 1970s teacher informed their innocent charges that Caesar delighted in the sexual pleasures celebrated in Supernaut’s popular but much banned 1976 hit, ‘I like it both ways’.
Gaius Julius Caesar
Born into the Roman nobility, Gaius Julius Caesar possessed two crucial leadership skills – ruthlessness and compelling oratory. His political and military ambition propelled him into the specially created position of dictator for life. However, a year later, a group of rebellious senators murdered him.
Powerful men inspire enmity, and enemies throw shit. Sex with men of a lower social rank caused no problem in ancient Rome. However, as John R. Clarke noted in The Roman Gaze: Vision, Power, and the Body, the freedom only extended to acting as the top.
“As long as the man does the inserting of his penis into whatever orifice, be it vagina, anus or mouth of another, he is blameless. The owner of the orifice, the receptive or ‘passive’ partner, is always to blame.”
Most of our knowledge of Caesar’s sexual exploits comes from Roman historian Suetonius. He described the ‘ruin’ of Gaius Julius when sent as a young man to the court of Nicomedes, the reputedly homosexual King of Bithynia, a region of modern-day Turkey.
“Sent to fetch a fleet, [Caesar] dawdled so long it was suspected his sexual integrity was prostituted to the king.”
Suetonius enumerated the many slurs ‘the queen of Bithynia’ later endured.
The Governor of Syria, Bibulus, originally crowned Caesar ‘Queen of Bithynia’. But General Dolabella doubled down, describing Gaius Julius as merely ‘the queen’s rival, the inner partner of the royal couch’, a concubine if you will.
The great Roman statesman Cicero wrote of Caesar losing his virginity on a Bithynian couch and later interrupted Caesar’s Senate speech enumerating Rome’s obligations to Bithynia.
“No more of that, pray, for it is well known what he gave you.”
The gossip only increased when the King of Bithynia died and bequeathed his kingdom to the Roman state.
Every woman’s man and every man’s woman
Caesar famously said following a battle, “I came, I saw, I conquered.”
But according to his enemies, it might better have been rendered, “I came, I saw, I bottomed.”
The bottom-shaming extended even to the lower ranks of the army. During his conquest of Gaul, Roman soldiers chanted during long marches, “The Gallic lands did Caesar master, but Nicomedes mastered Caesar.”
But Caesar was not immune to the charms of women, something that inspired another chant of the foot soldiers.
“Men of Rome, watch out for your wives,
We’re bringing the bald adulterer home.
In Gaul, he f_cked his way through a fortune,
Which he borrowed here in Rome.”
Caesar famously had an affair with Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt. Following Caesar’s death, Cleopatra embarked on her doomed relationship with his friend and reputed lover, Mark Antony. Antony later accused Caesar’s successor and adoptive son, Octavian, of securing his adoption through sexual favours.
Among Caesar’s other female lovers, Servilia, the mother of Brutus, Caesar’s most famous assassin, and Queen Eunoë of Mauretania.
Even his senate ally Curio admitted the great hero of western civilisation was “every woman’s man and every man’s woman.”
Read more: December 31 <— On this day —> January 2
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