We’ve all met someone that’s arrogant. The guy who brags that he’s God’s gift to women, the girl who constantly talks about how attractive she is. There’s a million of those people out there, and hell most of us are guilty of being arrogant from time to time. But have you ever met anyone that was so arrogant that they were insulted when their kidnappers demanded a ransom that they deemed below their worth? Probably not because that’s crazy, right? Who would want to pay out more to the people holding them captive? Well, this is exactly what happened when Julius Caesar, who you may remember as the person stabbed to death by his friend, was kidnapped by Cilician pirates.
The year was 75 BCE and Julius Caesar was just minding his own business sailing the Aegean Sea when he was kidnapped by Cilician pirates. At the time, the Mediterranean sea was crawling with pirates who had formed a symbiotic relationship with the Romans. Basically, the pirates gave the Romans slaves and in exchange the Romans didn’t go after the pirates. Anyways, after the pirates told Caesar that they were demanding 20 talents of silver (approximately $600,000 in today’s dollars) for his return, he laughed in their faces. Caesar couldn’t possibly believe that someone would think that he was worth a measly 20 talents. A man of his importance was easily worth 50 talents. Seeing their chance for some more easy money, the pirates eagerly agreed to the larger ransom.
During the 38 days that it took his associates to gather the money, Caesar acted as the pirate’s superior to establish dominance over them. He even demanded that they stop talking whenever he wanted to take a snooze. Much of his time in captivity was spent writing poetry and speeches, which he frequently recited to his captors. If they did not express their admiration for his poems he would lash out at them, calling them illiterate savages and threaten to have them hanged while laughing menacingly. Also keep in mind that at the time Cilician pirates were considered some of the most terrifying, bloodthirsty people in the world. But then again this was Julius Caesar and the man did not give a f*ck who you were. Caesar acted as if he was the pirate’s leader and did as he pleased.
Even though Caesar appeared to be friendly with the pirates, he was plotting his revenge. He had told the pirates numerous times that after he was released he would hunt them down and kill them all, and he was about to make good on that promise. Shortly after his ransom was paid and he was let go, Caesar raised an army and set sail to bring the pirates their day of reckoning. They must have not believed him when he said that he would come for them, because they had stayed in the exact same spot as where they held him captive. This made it incredibly easy for Caesar to track them down. He immediately captured nearly all of them and took their possessions and the ransom money he had paid them. After putting them into prison at Pergamon, he went in person to the governor of Asia, Marcus Junius, and requested that the pirates be executed. Junius, however, was more interested in selling the pirates as slaves in order to add a couple Pesos (or talents) to his own bank account. Caesar was not down with this plan, so he took matters into his own hands. He sailed back to Pergamon where the pirates were being held and prepared to crucify them. Crucifiction, you know, the same thing that happened to Jesus Christ. AKA having your hands and feet literally nailed to a wooden cross and being left to die from exhaustion and asphyxiation. Yeah, not the best way to go out. However, before this treacherous deed was done Caesar changed his mind and opted for a more merciful way to game end the pirates. Slitting their throats. Which in a way is some interesting foreshadowing to how our dear friend Caesar met his own end.
Sources/Where to head to learn more:
When Julius Caesar Was Kidnapped By Pirates, He Demanded They Increase His Ransom by Daven Hiskey on Mental Floss
Caesar and the Pirates, Plutarch of Chaeronea author of Life of Julius Caesar on Livius.org