Dealing With Pirates: How Julius Caesar Handled Things

He laughed at them. And then had them crucified.

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By Robert Schlesinger, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

The dramatic rescue of Capt. Richard Phillips and quick dispatch of three of his pirate captors Sunday reminded me of another, older tale of piracy and how to deal with it.

In 75 BC, Julius Caesar was captured by Sicilian pirates, according to Plutarch. Caesar was apparently something of a charming, bragging prisoner: He told them that the ransom they were demanding was insufficient for someone of his stature. And when he wanted to sleep, he would tell them to quiet down.

From Plutarch:

For thirty-eight days, with all the freedom in the world, he amused himself with joining in their exercises and games, as if they had not been his keepers, but his guards. He wrote verses and speeches, and made them his auditors, and those who did not admire them, he called to their faces illiterate and barbarous, and would often, in raillery, threaten to hang them. They were greatly taken with this, and attributed his free talking to a kind of simplicity and boyish playfulness.

He also threatened to crucify them. When his ransom came in, Caesar was let go. He immediately raised a fleet and went after the pirates, quickly capturing them. After dickering around with the local governor over punishment, Caesar took matters into his own hands:

Caesar ... went off to Pergamus, where he ordered the pirates to be brought forth and crucified; the punishment he had often threatened them with whilst he was in their hands, and they little dreamt he was in earnest.

Give Caesar this: He was a man of his word.

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