Chapter

Prisoner of the Pirates (75–74 <span class="smallCaps">bc</span>)

Edited by Luciano Canfora and Julian Stringer

in Julius Caesar

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print February 2007 | ISBN: 9780748619368
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748670734 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748619368.003.0002
Prisoner of the Pirates (75–74 bc)

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Caesar's ship was seized by the ferocious pirates of Cilicia off the island of Pharmacussa — one of the Sporades to the south of Miletos. The most colourful account of this episode is by Plutarch. It is difficult to imagine that anybody but Caesar himself could be the source of the story. The sardonic self-confidence with which the whole episode is related must come from him. ‘The pirates demanded twenty talents for his ransom’, says Plutarch, ‘and he laughed at them for not knowing who their captive was, and of his own accord agreed to give them fifty’. He dispatched messengers from his entourage to collect the money, keeping only his personal doctor and two slaves at his side. Although a hostage for thirty-eight days while waiting for the messengers to return with the money, he quickly assumed a leading position. No sooner had he been freed than Caesar set about punishing his captors. At Miletos he fitted out some ships and moved to entrap the pirates while they still lay at anchor off Pharmacussa.

Keywords: Julius Caesar; prisoner; Plutarch; Cilicia; Miletos; Pharmacussa; pirates

Chapter.  1971 words. 

Subjects: Greek and Roman Archaeology

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