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Did Julius Caesar Say it? Myth vs Fact


Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar

Question: Did Julius Caesar Say it? Myth vs Fact
"Lately, I've been coming across the quotation below on a number of websites. While attributed to Julius Caesar, there is never any citation telling the reader where he wrote it. Does anyone know? Or this an apocryphal quote?"
Ibn Tumart
Over and over again, readers of the Ancient / Classical History site ask:
Did Julius Caesar really say this?
"Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor, for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind. And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind is closed, the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry. Rather, the citizenry, infused with fear and blinded by patriotism, will offer up all their rights unto the leader and gladly so. How do I know? For this is what I have done. And I am Caesar." -- Julius Caesar
The Urban Legends Guide, who has also received many requests for confirmation about this particular quote, says that Barbra Streisand attributed the words to William Shakespeare, presumably in his "Julius Caesar."

KL47, a regular on the Ancient / Classical History forum, provides an excellent explanation of the problems with attributing this passage to Gaius Julius Caesar.

I've no idea where the quote originates from, but it contains several elements which virtually guarantee a non-Roman origin. Apart from anything else, the whole sentiment of the piece is completely anachronistic: phrases like "emboldens the blood", "patriotic fervor", and the offering up of "rights" do not sound like concepts a Roman writer would have come up with. There are also two glaring technical anachronisms for something supposedly written in the 1st century B.C.:

1) The Roman army didn't use drums and they had no military associations for the average Roman, so the phrase "bangs the drums of war" would have been virtually meaningless as a figure of speech.

2) The phrase "double-edged sword" would have been redundant in Caesar's time, as all Roman swords had two edges anyway. [The references to "twice-sharpened" swords in the New Testament actually refer to blades whose edges have been ground on both sides to make them sharper (hence the emphasis on their sharpness), but this is frequently (and willfully) misinterpreted to mean that a double-edged weapon was somehow exceptional.]

A quick check of the net indicates that the quote has only obtained currency since the 9/11 incident, suggesting that it originated recently with someone who expects the black helicopters to land in their yard at any moment.... If it came from a recognized author or playwright of literary significance, someone would have identified them by now. If it isn't an outright fraud, I suppose it's possible that the original writer meant the "I am Caesar" bit to be symbolic, but someone else thought that Caius Julius Caesar had actually written the piece himself and added the attribution.

It is conceivable that a modern translator read a passage attributed to Caesar and used a good deal of license to make it relevant for the twenty-first century, but by now someone would probably have come up with the irresponsibly translated original passage. So, to avoid any further confusion, the answer to the question, "Did Caesar say it?" is -- to the best of our knowledge -- "No."

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