Christ was Julius Caesar
Ms Wyke is a distinguished classicist and reception theorist. Her book is an analysis of how we have 'received' Caesar's story - from the poetry of ancient Rome to the opprobrium piled upon George W. Bush.
Any reading of Caesar's story has to have some significance for her - and the parallels between Caesar's life and that of Christ have apparently been discussed since the 1980s.
Both are accused of making themselves kings. Both are betrayed by friends. Both wear crowns of natural foliage. Both are deified after death. And there is more.
Perhaps I should have mentioned it
The transformation of Caesar's cult into that of Christ was made, it is said, in Vespasian's reign in order to encourage Jews into the Roman Empire.
In the 'reception theory' form of scholarship it is not necessary to refute such a claim, only to note it with comment.
It is highly notable - St Mark's gospel as corrupt retelling of the Roman civil war.
Read more at http://www.carotta.de/..
Read how I failed to note this received truth in the WSJ this morning below.
What Came After
The Ides of March
By PETER STOTHARD
August 18, 2008; Page A13
Caesar: A Life in Western Culture
By Maria Wyke
(University of Chicago Press, 287 pages, $25)
In May there were press reports around the world that divers in the Rhône River at Arles, France, had discovered a bust of Julius Caesar. Although the face was of a grim, careworn individual, a Roman male who did not look like any other images of the assassinated super-politician, the discrepancy was more boon than bar to the sculpture's publicists. The life-size marble head was said to have been carved, uniquely, during Caesar's lifetime by a sculptor who had actually seen the great man as he destroyed the republican government of Rome. It was thus superior to all others. The bust caused a credulous sensation and will doubtless have guaranteed the archaeological budgets of its French discoverers for decades to come.
Maria Wyke begins "Caesar: A Life In Western Culture" with a slightly earlier bust discovery. This one was found in 2003 on the fashionable Mediterranean holiday island of Pantelleria. A top fashion photographer quickly snapped a picture of it. Thus the man who famously divided Gaul into three parts, fathered a great empire and fell victim to an assassination conspiracy on the Ides of March was catapulted, as Ms. Wyke writes, "into contemporary celebrity."
For the purpose of "metabiography" -- and Ms. Wyke's book falls into that literary category -- it hardly matters whether the Pantelleria bust or any other piece of marble is a "likeness" of Caesar as we would normally understand that word. Ms. Wyke's concern is how we have created and adapted Caesar's image and historical importance over the past 2,000 years -- from Caesar's camp at Arles to Caesars Palace, Las Vegas; from Mussolini, seeking a Caesarian mandate for this own grand ambitions, to Asterix, using the Roman dictator for satirical purposes in comic-book form; from the Caesar coins minted in tribute by Brutus (before he revised his opinion) to the taunts leveled at George W. Bush as an empire-seeker in recent years.
The principle behind this kind of study is known as "reception theory." Its typical proponent is skeptical of how much we can know of what someone like Caesar and his contemporaries did and thought; a reception theorist is much more confident of how we have come to use and think about them ourselves. A comic book can thus be as important as a commander's campsite. A bust loudly but unconvincingly proclaimed by its discoverer to be authentic is as significant as a newly interpreted paragraph from "De Bello Gallico." The skill of a reception theorist such as Ms. Wyke lies in what she chooses to include and what she chooses to leave out.
The possibilities of madness are obvious. Everyone might agree on having "received," at one point or another, Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar," the 1599 portrait of the fragile Roman state. Ms. Wyke notes that the play is, as well as a magnificent piece of verse drama, a "neat counterpart to the frailty" of England's Tudor government. The Caesarian elements in the accusations lodged against President Bush may not be so useful -- for understanding Caesar or Mr. Bush.
Ms. Wyke, however, is a sophisticated practitioner of her craft, a professor of Latin at University College London and a graduate of the British Film Institute. She is the pre-eminent British authority on the relationship between modern film and classical history. She wittily describes how Bernard Shaw's distaste for the "deification of Love" in his play "Caesar and Cleopatra" was overridden for the 1945 movie version -- and for all later movie attempts on the same theme. She also notes that the Caesars Palace Casino, built in 1966 and inspired by the sword-and-sandal movies of the era, came deliberately without apostrophe: Everyone could be a Caesar.
Ms. Wyke offers a sharp analysis of how John Wilkes Booth took up the mantle of Brutus against the Caesar Lincoln -- and how Shakespeare's language was propelled into the assassination coverage by the American press. (Booth himself called the day of his attack "the Ides.") She deals briskly with how Napoleon used Caesar's example to justify and extend his emergency powers -- and how critics of Bonapartism stressed Caesar's role in turning military adventures abroad into despotism at home.
Caesar was careful with his own language. His war with his rival Pompey -- the attack he was masterminding during his sojourn by the Rhône -- is not called a "civil war" by him. That pejorative name came later. He never described the "crossing of the Rubicon" in his memoirs either. The phrase that later denoted an irrevocable step or a self-justified illegality was avoided by the man who actually crossed that stream near Rimini in 49 B.C., formally leaving the province of Gaul, where he had lawful power, for Italy, where he did not.
Ms. Wyke gives a neat account of this decisive scene in Fellini's semiautobiographical 1971 film "Roma": "We see a small army of uniformed children on a school trip to the Rubicon, where they are pestered by their pompous old school master to re-enact the glorious crossing." A rolled-up trouser leg suggests the tiny trickle of water, a handkerchief the great man's helmet. With or without the theorists, the 2,000-year old story will always find new "recipients."
Mr. Stothard is editor of the Times Literary Supplement.
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