Putting on the Purple

 

Mayor: Drebin, I don’t want any more trouble like you had last year on the South Side. Understand? That’s my policy.

Drebin: Yes. Well, when I see five weirdos dressed in togas stabbing a guy in the middle of the park in full view of 100 people, I shoot the bastards. That’s my policy.

Mayor: That was a Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar, you moron! You killed five actors! Good ones.

– The Naked Gun

 

Laura Loomer, the first protester to rush the stage to interrupt the enactment of stabbing Donald “Caesar” Trump in a new version of Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar. Apparently it has been transformed into some kind of leftist/ establishment/ Deep State wish fulfillment fantasy, which in turn has predictably triggered supporters of Mr. Trump. Since Ms. Loomer first rushed the stage, other protesters have followed her lead (see here for the back story on Loomer – thereafter protesters stormed the stage againand again…). In the meantime several companies have pulled their sponsorship of “Public Theater”, the group performing the play, presumably because the actual shooting of several Republican lawmakers by a deranged Bernie Sanders supporter made it seem like a truly major publicity fail in the making. We would note the following: Normally it is actually not a  good idea to publicly suggest that one would like to assassinate the POTUS – issuing such threats is illegal and will result in a visit by national security minions and quite likely a charge. Mr. Trump appears to have become the exception to this rule – there has been a veritable flood of death threats against him on social media and elsewhere, but we have yet to hear of anyone getting into trouble over this.

Photo credit: Fox News

 

DUBLIN – Last week, a Donald Trump supporter rushed the stage in Central Park. She was protesting a production of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, in which the central character, who looked for all the world like America’s president, is stabbed to death.

The people responsible for the production had “blood on their hands,” yelled the malcontent; she claimed they were desensitizing people to violence. Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich, another Trump supporter, took up the parallel, explaining that his man was being stabbed in the back by Deep State insiders.

“Old order bent on destroying Trump,” read the headline in the London Times. The paper interviewed Gingrich, who said, “an entire establishment [is] in rebellion against the elected president of the United States.”

“It’s very serious,” he continued. “This guy’s a direct mortal threat to the system that grew up over the last 50 or 60 years and they’re going to do everything they can to try to stop him.”

 

The Trump look-alike Caesar after getting killed on stage.

Photo credit: Public Theater

 

Putting on the Purple

Like Julius Caesar, President Trump has put on the purple. He dares to rule. And now, others – jealous, fearful rivals – sharpen their knives. Here at the Diary, we too have compared the president to Caesar. We did so fancifully. Today, we take up the subject more seriously.

Is Trump a modern Caesar? Are his adversaries traitors? Or patriots? Julius Caesar was a remarkable fellow. His father died when he was 16, leaving his son with little money. Worse, he left the family on the wrong side of a civil war.

Julius had to lay low. He enrolled in the army just to put some distance between him and the ruling clique. Julius Caesar proved to be a good soldier.

One incident from his early life is worth recalling. He was captured by pirates, who demanded a ransom of 20 talents for his release. Julius was annoyed that they asked so little. He suggested that they increase it to 50 talents.

He also warned them that he would come after them and crucify them when he caught them. This is what happened. As soon as he was freed, he hired a private fleet and captured the pirates. Then, in an act of mercy, he slit their throats before crucifying them.

 

Caesar was taken hostage by Cilician pirates in 75 BC while sailing to Rhodes where he planned to study oratory (not “Sicilian” pirates as is often erroneously claimed – Cilicia was a region in Southern Anatolia, present-day Turkey). Caesar was 25 years old at the time and had just successfully prosecuted supporters of the former dictator Sulla in Rome. He was miffed that the ransom demand was so low and suggested to the pirates to increase it (note: 20 talents of silver weighed 620 kg or 1240 lb, 50 talents weighed about 1550 kg or 3100 lb). As the story goes, in the 38 days it took to get the ransom delivered (no bank wires in those days), he started treating the pirates as if they were his subordinates, insulted them at leisure and frequently told them that he would hunt them down and crucify them once he was set free. They apparently humored him because they were eager to get the money and were impressed by his impudent behavior, which they weren’t used to. Of course they didn’t take him seriously either – but Caesar reportedly kept his word and actually did hunt them down later. How much of this story is true and how much was invented as a PR exercise by Caesar himself and ancient historians is hard to say (Plutarch first reported on the event many years later).

Illustration by Cesare Maccari

 

Conquering the Gauls

Caesar’s fame and fortune came later, when he conquered Gaul. It was not like today’s bombing and droning “insurgents” in Afghanistan or Petraeus’ “surge” in Iraq.

Caesar spent years crisscrossing what is today France, battling dozens of fierce tribes. His enemies were organized… often well-led… and sometimes outnumbered him by as much as four to one.

At the Battle of Alesia, for example, Caesar took on Vercingetorix, who had unified many of the Gallic tribes against the Romans. Caesar’s troops managed to drive the Gauls back to their base. The idea was to encircle them there and starve them into submission.

Caesar built a wall around the camp – which held about 80,000 people. Vercingetorix tried to send his women and children away; he was running out of food quickly. But Caesar refused to let them pass. They were caught in the middle, starving.

Then, other tribes, allied with Vercingetorix, came to break the siege. So Caesar built an exterior wall to protect the Romans from the relief forces in his rear. But this left them trapped between the two Gallic armies.

Vercingetorix attacked from the inside. His allies attacked him from the outside. If the Roman defenses had failed, Caesar and all his soldiers would have been wiped out, killed, or turned into slaves. There was no way to escape.

But thanks to his fortifications and military discipline, the Roman position held. Later, Caesar wrote his famous account of the campaign. He came, he saw, he conquered. Now he could lead his loyal soldiers to Rome and take over the government.

 

Veni, vidi, vici… Vercingetorix, to his own vast surprise, finds himself surrendering to Caesar, ritualistically dropping his arms to the ground before the conqueror.

Painting by Lionel Royer

 

Et Tu, POTUS?

Caesar crossed the Rubicon and set himself up as a dictator, changing the Old Republic into an empire.

Then Brutus, one of his officers in the Gallic wars, joined a conspiracy to preserve the Republic; they murdered him in the Curia of Pompey. Brutus, his old comrade-in-arms, delivered the “unkindest cut of all.”

And Trump? Et tu, POTUS? At least you can’t blame “The Donald” for overthrowing the Old Republic. It’s been gone for half a century. And you can’t credit his enemies with trying to protect it. This is more like the conspiracies after later Roman emperors Claudius and Marcus Aurelius.

By then, there was no question of reviving the Old Empire. The only question then – as now – was:

Which Deep State faction will control the spoils of empire?

 

Image captions by PT

 

The above article originally appeared at the Diary of a Rogue Economist, written for Bonner & Partners. Bill Bonner founded Agora, Inc in 1978. It has since grown into one of the largest independent newsletter publishing companies in the world. He has also written three New York Times bestselling books, Financial Reckoning Day, Empire of Debt and Mobs, Messiahs and Markets.

 

 

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2 Responses to “Is Trump a Modern Caesar?”

  • Treepower:

    “Veni, vidi, vici” is correctly ascribed to Caesar but the occasion is often misrepresented. It refers to a lightning campaign in Armenia some time after his Gallic victories.

  • Kafka:

    Well written Bill.

    Of course, if we had a play of stabbing an Obama look-a-like to death in Central Park, nobody would care. Right?

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