Twelve Maxims from Caesar for the US Election Year

Posted by Barry Strauss on January 2, 2012

I asked Caesar’s Ghost to comment on the Republican primaries but he declined. “The race is run,” he said, pronouncing Romney the candidate. When I asked him to explain, he said his legate would be in touch. No sooner did he speak than an e-mail arrived with the following words of wisdom from the dictator.


“It’s no less important for a good general to win by diplomacy than by the sword.”

Translation: Don’t scare off the independents.

“Fortune produces big changes via small turning-points.”

Translation: The White House will bail the European banks out before it lets Greece threaten the U.S. economy in an election year.

“All Gaul is divided into three parts.”

Translation: If they can’t win the White House, the Republicans will settle for taking the Senate – and keeping the House.

“The enemy would have won – if he had a general.”

Translation: Obama breathes a sigh of relief not to be facing Chris Christie, Mitch Daniels, or Paul Ryan.

“I came, I saw, I conquered.”

Translation: Did Christie, Ryan, and Daniels decline to run because they feared Romney’s war chest or because they figured Obama was a cinch to win a second term?

“Pompey always put private relationships ahead of the good of the republic.”

Translation: Expect to hear a lot about the Bleak House of Bain Capital and the Crony Capitalism of Solyndra.

“For me, the dignity of the republic has always been first and better than life itself.”

Translation: “My aides will disavow any intent to call you a Mormon racist and your aides will disavow any intent to call me a crypto-Muslim socialist.”

“I cannot have members of my household accused or even suspected.”

Translation: Opposition research teams on both sides are working overtime.

“The republic is nothing, a mere name without form or substance.”

Translation:  The Republicans hope they are more than a mere name when it comes to Ron Paul and the temptation of a third party.

“The omens will be better when I wish them to be.”

Translation: The unemployment rate is as good or bad as the White House says it is. Likewise, Romney’s somewhat, er, flexible positions on hot-button policy issues mean what he says they do.

“Let us be prepared in our hearts for a battle.”

Translation: If the Iranians are serious about this, all bets about the election are off.

“Et tu, Brute?”

Translation: Since Caesar never actually said this, it’s a reminder not to let the enemy define you.

Look for Barry Strauss’s new book, Masters of Command: Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar and the Genius of Leadership, coming in May.