MY DOLCE VITA, Week 18
A while back, I sent you all 37 verses on the history of Rome. Today we continue the history lesson. This time, however, I'm dedicating almost the entire thing to one man: Julius Caesar. He's such a critical part of Rome's history that I think he merits forty or so verses of his own.
The truth is, I've fallen head over heels in love with the Emperors. Not all of them, of course. I mean, I could live without Domitian, for example. He spent countless hours impaling flies on rudimentary toothpicks, a habit I find not only disgusting but also unsanitary. However, leaving him aside for a moment, there is no question that Caesar AND Vespasian AND Hadrian were men worth knowing. Biblically.
This, of course, brings to mind a dear, dear friend of mine who found herself in the uncomfortable position of being between gigs (i.e., hadn't had a boyfriend since the last lunar eclipse) and invited to a Couples' Only New Year's Eve Party. I'm not kidding. My friend, L., was distraught. What to do? Admit you're a loser and skip the dinner altogether? Bring along your best gay friend who is going through an unfortunate Barry Manilow-lookalike phase? Dig up some stranger for the occasion?
L. agonised over this decision. Finally, in a moment of sleep-deprived clarity, she identified the solution: there WAS a man with whom she was desperately in love. He was kind. He was caring. He brought flowers and gave great presents. And, to top things off, he was a DOCTOR. His name was Rex Morgan, M.D. Sexy Rexy. One slight problem: Dr. Morgan only existed in a cartoon strip in the daily newspaper. Still, he was quite a catch, albeit two-dimensional, and L. was hopeful about their prospects.
The night of the dinner party, L. dressed carefully in her new and incredibly hot outfit. She was suited and booted, and she knew it. Then, carefully trimming away the unnecessary newsprint, L. prepared Rex for the evening. This is a true story. My friend actually went to a Couples' Only New Year's Eve dinner party accompanied by a four inch rectangle of newsprint, and introduced everyone to her new boyfriend, Rex Morgan, M.D.
So what does this have to do with Roman history? Perhaps nothing. Or perhaps everything. You see, as part of the clarity I've achieved through this Midlife Renaissance, I've decided to stop despairing about having to attend events on my own. And, likewise, to stop agreeing to blind dates with men who are described (even in Italian) as "really nice once you get to know them" or, better yet, "living with his mother just 'til he gets settled in his job." FUH-GEDDA ABOUT IT.
I'm going to borrow a page from L's book and focus, instead, on the Roman emperors. Seems to me that knowing their history is a great starting place.
I would like to encourage all of you to feel free to borrow characters and heroes/heroines from history. Next time you're stuck with someone who suggests splitting the cost of that 60p bag of dry roasted peanuts, think about Caesar.
Be open-minded, however. Quite a few of these boys were what my mother would call ambidextrous (i.e., bisexual). Or they had a weird thing about dwarves. But, hey, if you're open to the possibilities...
Anyway, without further ado, here's this week's tribute to Caesar, the second in the ongoing series of The Rome Poem.
LIVING IN AN IMPERIAL WORLD&Mac183;AND I AM AN IMPERIAL GIRL
When last we met, it was ancient times Rome's Republic was nascent, barbarian; When to a family both patrician and proud Was born Julius, though not by caesarian.
A handsome lad, with elegant legs, Julius favored the toga virilis; Though his hair was sparse at an early age He looked quite a bit like Bruce Willis.
As was often the custom in middle class homes Caesar's parents arranged his engagement. He was slated to marry the wealthy Cossutia, Til he saw her and flew into enragement.
Marry that hag? That big-assed frump? A woman with a tache that needs waxin'? I'm hot, I'm Italian, I'm hung like a horse! Gimme Brittany or Miss Janet Jackson!
There was nothing to be done cept yield to his will And allow Caesar to choose his own bride. For this he selected the hot-lipped Cornelia (A babe he'd later toss aside.)
Lest you get the wrong idea, however, It wasn't all women and wine and amorè; For Caesar had politics very much on his mind, And that's at the crux of our story.
Caesar professed somewhat liberal leanings, Dictator Sulla called him a whiner; Fearing for his life amidst ample dissention, Julie high-tailed it east, to Asia Minor.
There he served Thermus, a general most fine, And in Bithynia JC's days did pass. It's said he grew close to King Nicomedes And serviced the royal up the ass.
(Yes, it's true, I swear, I do not lie; Consult Suetonius if you think me a fool. Caesar liked boys as well as chicks, And nearly went to hairdressing school.)
But even great sex couldn't dampen ambition, And when Sulla died, it was time to go home. Caesar packed up his bags and said his farewells, Then headed north and due west back to Rome.
In that fair city, in the Foro Romano, Caesar quickly earned a rep most fab. He started to orate and to talk a great game, And it's said he had the gift of the gab.
In fact, at a funeral held for his aunt Caesar did a masterful turn; He drew a connection tween himself and the gods, As he tossed out the ashes from the urn.
Talk about marketing, talk about press! Julie C was a modern invention! By drawing a line from Venus to himself, He sewed up the Republican Convention.
Anyway, tis a long story we oughta make shorter: Caesar ends up with a huge promotion. He's appointed the Aedile (Social Coordinator), In charge of Events and Public Commotion.
He stages big circuses and wild beast shows, Lions mating with boars atop rocks; Gladiators, too, in gruesome displays, (Like the nightly line-up on Fox).
In the meantime, it certainly must be mentioned, For this important to know; Caesar dumps Wife Number One at this stage, And chooses Pompeia Best Bitch in Show.
We can quickly dispatch with Pompeia, however, (Of all of his wives, she's the lesser). For it's soon discovered that Pompeia's a-cheatin' With Clodius, the famous cross-dresser.
Then Caesar takes a third wife, this time Calpurnia: Daughter of a Senatorial honcho. Okay, she's not great, but she'll do in a pinch; And can be covered in a toga-cum-poncho.
Just after the honeymoon, following a trip to Spain Caesar heads off to Gaul* for a spell. There he discovers pate de foie gras And a devotion to cheeses that smell. *France
Tis there, in Gaul, where the idea hits him first To respond to disquiet most recent; He'll take the route through Umbria, of course, And pick up real estate while the prices are decent.
In 49 BC, at the age of fifty-one, Caesar begins his attack. He leads his troops to the Rubicon stream And says, Now there's no looking back.
Down through Ravenna and Rimini, too, Joined by those who gladly give a hand-oh. Among these are Curio, and Mark Anthony, too, (Later played by a buff Marlon Brando.)
Caesar takes Rome and declares himself Tator Then hosts a palate-pleasing feast. Yet as soon as the last pescespada* is snarfed, He takes off again for the dry Middle East. *swordfish
Caesar chases Pompey, his enemy true, Down through the plains of Pharsalus. Pompey's finally slain by Ptolemy's gang, Who, though young, are sufficiently callous.
Needing money, massage and a half-decent facial, Caesar rests among Egypt's heaving throng; There he meets Cleopatra, who woos him to bed And convinces Caesar to start wearing a thong.
At last it's back to Rome with booty galore, And a head full of plans meant to fool ya: Sure he'll rebuild the Senate and retile some huts, But he'll also start the Basilica Julia.
And that is our point, and there is one, I swear; We must remember that Julie is Boss; Dictator for Life is the title he chooses He fancies himself Diana Ross.
Unbridled ambition, say detractors, sotto voce, A genuine pain in the tush. These guys believe in the Republican team, (Though they've obviously never met Bush.)
The Parthian campaign is the very last straw: Senators fear it with bile most gaseous. Hardest hit are Casca, the impoverished one, Brutus, and hot-tempered Cassius.
These three hatch a plan most devious and dire Like Rumsfield, only tougher and meaner. The trio decides to assassinate Caesar, Somewhere near Largo Argentina.
At a meeting of the Senate in a makeshift location (For the Curia is undergoing repair), Tullius Cimber takes hold of Caesar's toga, And exposes both back and chest bare.
Casca strikes the first blow, just near the throat, But he is careless and misses his mark. Caesar fights back against the blows and the stabs, At least according to reports by Plutarch.
But then Brutus does lift his knife gainst his Dad*, And that is truly the end of the day. For Caesar caves in, defeated in grief Saying, oh no, not you too, Brutè. *adopted
The Bard tells the tale of what happens next The tragedy will hardly even phase him; Shakespeare gives us Mark Anthony, bereft and in grief And has him bury Caesar rather than praise him.
The crowd rises up, realizing its loss And down the Via Sacra they howl; The murdering threesome is driven from Rome Blaming intelligence from one Colin Powell.
Within the next year many things will change: Caesar will be deified, made a God in life; Augustus will rule as Rome's first Emp Though he'll be bossed around by his fig-bearing wife.
Yes, there's Livia, Tiberius and Caligula the freak Then Claudius, who cannot say M-M-M-MAMA, (Though not the greatest emperor to stride the Palatine, He's immortalized by BBC Drama.)
After Claude comes Nero, fiddler supreme A man who craves the footlights and strobes; He later regrets giving so freely of his art Without winning BAFTAS or even Golden Globes.
Then we get the Flavians, Vespasian at the helm, Son Titus, who for Judea decidedly fidgets; Next comes Domitian, a paranoid freakazoid Who digs fat babes doin' it with midgets.
But let's stop here for the goodies come next: Such as Trajan, or Hadrian, il mio amore He'll rebuild the Pantheon and do other great works But to a man he'll give both soul and cuore*. *Italian for heart
Yes, twas ever thus and will so ever be The guys we crave and so long to do know, End up in make-up and soft Prada pumps Chasing after some lady boy's culo*. *Italian slang for ass
And that brings us back to our dinner party theme A conundrum, a mystery, a teaser; Hey, when in doubt do as I now do Invite along Julius Caesar.
© Copyright Amy Selwyn 2004