This Story about Julius Caesar and the Pirates is the Ultimate Lesson in Leadership
Julius Caesar may be one of the greatest leaders that ever lived. Credited as one of the reasons that the Roman Republic actually became the Roman Empire, Julius Caesar is revered for his military strength, decisive judgment, and his Latin prose. Many people are familiar with the life and even the demise of this credible patriarch, but not many know that he was kidnapped in his early twenties by pirates. This is an overlooked story that exemplifies Caesar’s leadership capabilities.
It must first be understood that this was a time when it was common for pirates to kidnap sailors. Most of them were sold as slaves or, in Caesar’s case, held for ransom. While he was sailing along the Aegean Sea, it’s no surprise that he was captured by the Sicilian pirates in the area. Unlike most people, Caesar treated this experience as a game. Caesar laughed and went willingly, demanding that the pirates request more money than their original offer because he was worth more.
Caesar’s time with the pirates was a joyful experience. He was bold and boisterous, looking at his kidnappers as equals, and it was this behavior that caused them to view him as superior. Caesar was on vacation under this “captivity.” He wrote his now-famous poetry, performing it for the witless crew, and jousting them with his words when they didn’t give him a standing ovation or claimed to not understand the words.
The camaraderie Caesar developed with the pirates mirrored the relationship between frat brothers or young friends, partying and drinking, but that didn’t stop him from exacting his revenge. When the ransom arrived, Caesar commandeered a ship, returned to Miletus to gather support, and took out his vengeance on the pirates. He murdered every last one, even against the behest of the leaders of Miletus that wanted to keep them as slaves.
Caesar was never afraid, although the pirates were known for their ruthlessness and aggression. If he feared them in anyway, he made it a point not to show it and treated them how he would any subject. Because Caesar assumed he was above them, he grew to actually be above them. It was the power of his mindset that drove him to act like a leader, even though he was merely a prisoner. It’s what saved him from slavery and allowed him to face many battles just as courageously as he faced the pirates.
Another way Caesar proved his immense fearlessness is in his promise to the pirates. He told the pirates many times that he would come back to them and kill them for stealing him away. He kept that promise. The pirates thought he was jesting in the way he usually did with them, but he was serious. This did one very important thing that planted seeds for the success of his military future ‒ it gave him a reputation.
After this experience, people recognized that Caesar is the type of person that makes good on his promise. He would do what he says he would do, and he was more ruthless than the worst killers in the area.
When looking to this story, it’s important to note that leadership isn’t simply the ability to spark action in people or to talk them into following, but it’s also proving that your words are your bond. The debate is still open if it’s better to loved or to be feared, but regardless of the answer, it’s best to speak your truth. That strength is what makes a great leader.
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