Fire Vestal Fire Pot
Fire Vestal Fire Pot


NEW: A candid interview with the Author

Part 1 (Not Included in the E-Book)

February 23, 2006

[Read this first: Added later by Author as an addendum added: Sept 21, 2006]

An important note about the term Dictator:

Julius Caesar was made Dictator at different times in his career. People, today, immediately assume that this word means tyrant or absolute ruler. But the Romans used this word differently, than we do. A Dictator was an appointed role (where complete control over the state or a campaign was given to this individual) usually assumed by one of the Consuls, and sanctioned by the Senate, during a time of emergency or trouble in the state. It lasted for a limited time (usually, until the time of trouble was past, or 6 months, the term of office of the official assuming this role); Sulla usurped this traditional role, and became Dictator for life (we may say that Sulla was a Dictator, as we define the term today: tyrant, or absolute ruler). Caesar was made Dictator during his consulship, and, also, after he won the civil war. The Senate sanctioned this office both times; the final time, they declared him Dictator for life (perpetuo, literally, "constantly"; coins confirm this), although, at first, for only ten years. They did this to call up to the people�s minds the Dictatorship of Sulla, and, thereby, discredit Caesar. They also tried to make him king (the Romans hated kings), which he refused. He probably accepted the role of Dictator perpetuo, as a good way, to allow him to non-violently enact by decree the needed reforms, which he would probably never be able to pass through the Senate without a wholesale slaughter. But he erred in underestimating how low and treacherous an opponent, the Senate could truly be. In the end, they used this, as a justification for his foul murder. Now they could say that they were liberating the people from a tyrant, like Sulla!



What is the theme of your novel?


Well, I guess it�s one family�s fight against greed and the destructive consequence, it was producing on the world. Well, first, let me say this, I would call this novel, lets see, probably an interpretive biography. The interpretation is what makes it a novel. The facts of Caesar�s life are known, not all, but enough. The motives behind the reported behavior are not known; and will never be known. The measure of the facts is quite coarse and somewhat muddled. By that, I mean we know only the overall outcomes, not the details involved. And, we have them secondhand or third hand at the least; probably no better than hearsay; by probable stooges of the tyrant Caesars, then in power. So, a new interpretation of the motives, to make them more consistent, I feel is warranted. This is what I have done. For instance, many historians say that he was packing the Senate, at the end, with friends of his from the conquered nations like Gaul. This is exactly what a Patrician Senator would love to say to keep the Senate in the hands of the Aristocracy, as they had done many times before to oppress the Plebeians (or later the common people).

I interpret his actions differently. I say he was bringing representation to the people of the provinces, so they would have a say in their own government. I base this on the fact that this is consistent with his previous actions to represent the downtrodden people of the provinces, who were being oppressed by their appointed Roman Governors. Caesar acted very consistently all his life; even in the face of the foulest of treacheries. What the historians try to say in History is primarily hearsay, and libel. This was a man that could not be bribed; he didn�t care about money. Most of his life, he lived in debt or near debt, although he was at times extremely rich, especially at the end. They couldn�t get at him in the usual way. So they libeled and slandered him with charges of Homosexuality (with the King of Bithynia). They called him the �Queen of Bithynia�. So, he made a joke of it, and played it out to the hilt.

But the people loved him. His soldiers loved him. He had a charisma about him, which made him many friends. His bravery and courage were legendary. He accepted people as they were, and was as true, as he could be to a person. He constantly protected Cicero, even though Cicero libeled him again and again. Cicero�s brother liked and admired him, and served under him valiantly.

He was what the ancient Chinese called in the �Book of Changes�, (the �I Ching�), the Superior man. He was totally in charge of himself; and having become this way, he was able to totally control his surroundings. I think part of this was the great love he shared with Cornelia, who was his female counterpart. They were so close, they probably felt each other�s moods and anxieties.


Where did you get the idea that Julius Caesar was actually as you portrayed him; I mean most people think of Caesar as a man, who was power hungry and bent on world domination?


Well, again, first of all, this is a novel; I have based it on historical facts, but no one will really ever know, what really occurred, at least as far as the details are concerned, during this early stage of his life. I believe Caesar actually wanted it to be this way, because of the very intimate relationship, he had with Cornelia. What I have conjectured fits the known facts; but flies in the face of certain historical, how shall we say, myths, which I believe the historians were fed by the tyrants, they lived under.

That is the very thing I wanted to correct; I mean the idea that Caesar was a man bent on becoming an absolute ruler. The historians, and by the way, they all lived during the time of the later Caesars, the tyrants, all seem to want to show him as you have said, power hungry and avaricious.

You must realize that these Caesars had total control of all the media and press of the day. They were absolute rulers, beginning with Caesar Augustus, Octavian. It is a well known fact that Octavian censored his uncle's writings, when he came to power; and had many of them suppressed. After all, it wouldn't be a good public relations move to show the world that the uncle, who had been deified, (Caesar was declared a God) was actually a man of the People; and wanted to restore the Republic that it had taken the People over 500 years to construct; and not only that, he wanted to open it up to the people of the world.

Another thing, the history of Rome, as shown and taught today, is shown only as a progression of a small tribe on the Tiber river, who gradually gained power, and became a world power. This is true, but the real story of Rome is the constant and progressive building of a Republic that truly represented the Plebian majority, as opposed to the Aristocratic minority. This internecine war that was constantly fought from practically the founding of Rome, for another 500 years, culminated for a time in the most advanced form of Democracy that the world has ever known.

[Later added by the Author]

(By the way, there is one book that dramatically shows this struggle, "A Short History of Rome and Italy" by Mary Platt Parmele, 1908. Everyone interested in Roman History should read this book.)

If you read the history of the Hannibalic War, by Livy, you see this truly magnificent government in action. People and Aristocrats all working and sacrificing together to overcome and triumph over a devastating enemy, which for 10 years ravaged all of Italy; yet they not only overcame this menace, but never wavered in their beliefs. And, most remarkable of all, they never once slipped into absolutism; in fact, their profound conviction in democracy often conflicted with their aim to defeat Hannibal, and probably lost them a few battles; yet, unlike their Carthaginian Plutocratic opponents, this actually gave them the flexibility to win.

By the time of our Caesar, this form of government was eclipsed by the absolutism of Sulla and the greed of the Patrician class, which was now amalgamated with the wealthy "New" men of the Equestrian class. This was what Caesar wanted to correct; he wanted to bring back that same Democracy that the Plebeians had so painfully extracted; one could almost say, squeezed out of the Patricians, over the last 500 years.

But all that I just said, doesn�t really answer your question, does it?

I think that the �why� is because his actions were inconsistent with greed or megalomania. He wasn�t the conniver that such a person that fit that description would be. He was magnanimous, true, steadfast, brave and honest. Are these the traits of a power hungry megalomaniac? No, never.


The theme you mentioned is Greed and its consequences, but you also seem to include with this, revenge and retribution; can you expand on this?


Yes, there is a difference between revenge and justice. People, who break the law, need to be punished; this is not revenge, but justice; it is what makes real freedom possible! A freedom that allows people to interfere with, or oppress other people's freedom, could never last; the society would break down. The Romans learned this early on. They were a society ruled by laws.

Now what occurred between Marius and Sulla was pure revenge or retribution. This was an example of how a society can be destroyed by tyranny; laws no longer exist; and, right and wrong no longer matters; only the whims of the tyrant or clique in charge. Caesar was constantly exposed to this in his youth; he showed, how much he hated this, by the magnanimity, he showed to his enemies later on; almost, to his own detriment. His distinction between Justice and vengeance was real; but, in many ways, his Justice could seem harsh; but he also knew, who he was dealing with and their attitudes, so you can be sure, if he made an example, which seemed harsh, it was this idea of Justice and a knowledge of the people, he was dealing with, which motivated him. You see many of the nations and peoples of that time, especially the barbarian peoples to the North of Italy, saw any magnanimous gesture as a sign of weakness in the perpetrator. Almost like a naughty child, if you let him get away with something, without spanking his bottom, he takes it to mean that you will always let him get away with it; so he does it, over and over again.

Caesar felt that a harsh example, the first time, would end that disregard of the law for good. Later historians in judging his actions often failed to realize this, or, to take into account, the times and circumstances.


There is another unusual point you seem to want to show in your book, namely, the importance of the women in Caesar's life. In fact, you seem to almost make this their story. Can you expand on this?


Well, one thing, I think that all Historians and biographers of Caesar will admit is that he was an extraordinary man. Saint or Devil, this will probably be argued to the end of mankind; but no one, with any sense, will deny that this was an amazing man. Amazing men, such as he, are made; they don't spring full born, from the brow of Zeus, to use a well-worn clich�.

Caesar lost his father early, in his teens; even Marius died when he was still a teen; Caesar grew up in a household full of strong Italian women, and there is little doubt that they had a great effect on him. In my own experience, having been raised by an Italian mother with probably the same hereditary makeup [northern Italian] as Aurelia, I think she had a great effect on him. Also his aunt Julia definitely had a great effect on him, after all, she was the woman who handled one of the most obstinate men in Rome for some 50 years, Marius! You see, the Romans were Italians, even if at times they tried to hide it with myths about Troy and whatever. They, like all Italians, made the family a very important part of their lives; this is why they more or less worshipped their ancestors, and their lineage.

Caesar also had sisters; so, he was totally surrounded by women all his young life. You know the Romans made much of the "Patria Potestas" or the power of the Father and Husband; but like all Italians, you know, who really ruled the Roman house... the mother or wife!

All the historians of Caesar make much of the funerals, he gave his Aunt and wife; this is what got me thinking as to the real force behind his force. Romans had impressive funerals for impressive people, so, I said to myself, there was more here than meets the eye at first glance. An old woman, like aunt Julia, had plenty of time to become impressive; but Cornelia was still in her twenties; why would he make such a spectacle for her; all right, he loved her; but still, why such a public spectacle, when otherwise, she is barely mentioned anywhere else? And if he loved her, wouldn't privacy fit better? All this got me thinking, she must have been something very special.

Along with this was his daughter Julia. Pompey the Great adored her, and she him; she seemed to be a very "take charge" type of woman, like her aunt Julia; in fact, there seemed to be here, this very same type of relationship, as there had been between Marius and aunt Julia. All these things made me realize that these women were a great force behind the man Caesar. I wanted to make their parts known, because just now, we are starting to recognize the great contributions that women make that are rarely acknowledged; often they are the anonymous force behind great movements. It just seemed to me that they should have their day.

Another thing, what Caesar did... defying Sulla, when he commanded him to divorce Cornelia; even Pompey divorced his wife, when Sulla told him to. Pompey had already defied Sulla on several occasions before this, for very much less important matters. It seemed to me that Caesar's defiance just didn't fit unless this was a very special love, between these two. It immediately reminded me of Dante's love for Beatrice. A "twin soul" spiritual type of love; such a love has been known even as far back as the ancient Greeks. Plato mentions such a love in the dialog in his "Symposium". Such a love unites the people involved in an all-encompassing way. They feel almost as though they are one person, instead of two. Probably this was the love (real or imagined) between Helen of Troy and Paris. I suddenly realized that this was the love that Caesar and Cornelia experienced; this would fit with the elaborate funeral that he gave her. I also felt that Cornelia and like her, her daughter Julia, were active women, so I included them in the Carian adventure in the book.


Another character in the story, who seems to play a large role in Caesar's life, is Cornelia's brother Lucius Cinna. Was he a real historical character, or just a made up one?


No, no all the main characters are real life people in Caesar's life taken from history. Also, all the main events are taken from actual historical facts; I only added the details, which as I said before, no one will ever really know for sure.

Getting back to your question, no, Lucius Cinna (the son) was real, and, just as in the story, he tried to make an abortive attempt at bringing back a resurgence of the Marrian or people's party, in which Caesar did not take part; which to me, at least, seemed to be quite strange indeed. Suetonius, (for our Readers: this is one of the primary biographers of Caesar) mentions this, and also says that he was later admitted back into Rome at the behest of Caesar, who seemed to have pulled some political strings with the Senate to do this. I felt that there was no doubt that he was probably involved in the Carian adventure, so I included him in the story; I think quite likely in his proper role.


In the Afterthought for your book, where you primarily defend your assumptions for the basis of the book, you mention some rather unique views on the social conditions of the period, in which the book is set, especially on the matter of slavery; perhaps, you could expand somewhat on this topic.


Why yes, of course. You see slavery was at this particular period in history a worldwide phenomenon. I think that you would be quite put out to find a country or group of people that did not engage in it at that time. The why of this is probably unanswerable, but very likely was, as with most human failings even to this day, the result of greed.

The foulest of foul human institutions seem to have all emanated from this one cause, and slavery was probably the foulest. The "quick buck" is probably the goad to all these types of things.

The gladiatorial games were also probably continued for this same reason, although their origin probably was concerned with religion. I think that most people of good sense, and Caesar was probably among the most sensible, viewed slavery as something they couldn't do anything about, but, in a way, they could make the best of it; I mean by that, that they could use it as a sort of social tool, which could channel off criminals and would-be criminals (perhaps defeated soldiers) into useful work for the state or private individuals. You see, this wasn't a thing they had a choice over; slavery existed and they probably thought it would always exist; so it was a compromise, a way to make the best of a bad situation.

You must also realize that soldiers and politicians were probably more at risk, than anyone, because of the risk of losing in battle.

Now I applied this same idea to the gladiatorial games, but with these, since they seemed to have so much appeal amongst the common people, (why, I don't know, perhaps misery loves company) I think that the rulers also viewed this as a pacifier, to calm the angry mobs, and keep order. I mention in my Afterthought that this was much like TV is today, and it was. Again why? Why did people line up to watch executions right up to the turn of the twentieth century, in the good old USA? You see people don't change much, do they? I don't know! Perhaps, if we hadn't invented movies and TV, it would still be going on, unfortunately, people love to watch violence! Anyway, this is what I meant, when I said, they were social tools.


I like the cover picture for your book; it seems to be symbolic; is it?


Why yes, it is. I put it together from public domain material, which is very old. But yes, it shows Caius and Cornelia facing each other with the Eagle of the Legion between them. It symbolizes the great anomalous situation between their love and their situation in life. On the one hand, the state is what unites them, and unifies their view of life; but on the other, it is the thing, which keeps them from enjoying the great love, they share, and the family life, they most enjoy. It is their agony and ecstasy. Their love was the kind, which was all consuming; yet it occurred between two people, who were bound so fully to their places in the world, it left them little time to enjoy it. If Caesar had known, he would have her for only some fifteen years, I wonder if he would have even bothered with the duties that life had conferred on him. In one way his story is a triumph; but in another, it is the greatest of tragedies.


The last chapter �The Beginning� also seems to be symbolic, is it?


Yes, the tree that Julia comments on, is symbolic of the Caesar�s themselves, a family that would not give up. Well, you might say, he did give up to them, when he let them kill him on the Ides of March.

I don�t think so. Caesar, at that point, had gone as far as any man could go. As he lamented to the spirit of Cornelia, in his soliloquy in the first Chapter, the problem was not one, which a man, or for that matter a society could fix; it was one of spirit. As he said: "Only the Gods could deal with it." Here, it foreshadows the coming of the change, which Christianity would bring. A religion based on Love and Charity, which would perhaps change the outlook and perspective of men�s hearts.

But getting back to the symbolism, as he and Julia look down over the panorama of Rome, they view a thunderhead departing as the sun breaks through the clouds, and Rome shines like a precious jewel in the morning sun. This is "the beginning" that the chapter is named for; the beginning of his rise, almost like a meteor, to the heights of Power. But also, the transformation of Rome into an Empire, whose culture would spread to build the modern Europe, we see today; and even the United States, whose government it was modeled on. Oh, the fruits would not be seen for almost fifteen hundred more years, but the seed was planted by him, then and there.

Was Caesar a failure? I think not. He had followed the tenants of the ancient Philosophers, as Timenes of Tyana, in the book, had suggested to him; he had tried. That is all that a man can do. Success and failure are immaterial to the spirit. If we try the very best we can, as Caesar did, that is all that matters.

I like to think that he faced death that morning of the Ides of March as he had faced it everyday of his life, head on. The cowards faced him with their daggers, but none of them looked him in the face, because as Militetes said, in the book, �bad people fear people with true hearts.� They stabbed him scores of times because they themselves could not believe, he could be killed; that is how much, they feared him. They feared him, as children, who have disobeyed their parents, fear their parents; as evil fears good. With every wound, he felt himself that much closer to those he loved; till he fell at the feet of Pompey�s statue; his recalcitrant son in law, who he still loved. No, I think his death itself was a triumph; his greatest triumph!


By the way what is "the Dragon�s corner"?


Ahh! [laughter] Well, actually, that�s what I named my kitchen, which I just remodeled. I like dragons a lot, and I have many wooden dragons, displayed there; hence the name!

Did you know (as an aside) that the Roman Army depicted the dragon, at least during the Empire, on a pennant they used for training. Or, for that matter, that a Roman Army, probably under Marc Antony, after Caesar�s death, was mentioned as being sighted by a Chinese Army in Chinese literature, although they avoided each other!


Well, Mr. Macaluso, thank you for your thoughts; although, I do have one last question. I noticed that the horse named Maculosus has a name very similar to Macaluso, is there a connection there?


Well, I thought, you might catch that. Well, maybe, I did get a little carried away there, but you know Maculosus is Latin for "Spotted one" (masculine), actually, "Spot", as Little Julia would say. What better name for a spotted horse? But to answer your question, no, no connection, except perhaps a little vanity in the writer!

More Excerpts added 3/18/2006


When Caesar is in Athens, talking with Timenes, he asks him about the existence of absolute evil, how does this fit in with the novel?


Well, He and Cornelia have taken up the challenge of trying to create the world that Cinna (Cornelia�s father) and they dreamed of. Caius is trying to solidify the assumptions, he has come to on a practical basis, also on a theoretical basis.

He has grown up with the savagery and chaos that the evil of greed has created in both his nation and his family. It has resulted in the death of almost all the male members of his immediate family. His heart tells him what the problem is, but being the intellectual and practical man, he is, he looks further to reason to see, if, perhaps, there is another cause. Perhaps, religion can provide an answer; although he is an agnostic at heart, he has still deep within him a belief in a power that furthers the �Good� throughout the universe. Perhaps, he thinks there is also a power that furthers the evil in the world.

But Timenes shows him, using the dialectical reasoning of the Greek philosophers that this is not the case. The problem lies in the will of man itself; that through interaction with an inharmonious world has been perverted to an evil will, that causes not only the evil will, but also causes the dysfunctional world that originally created it.

I think that we should note that in their discussions, nothing is said about how to go about resolving the problem. Timenes shows what must be done, for instance, factions should be broken, and laws must be passed that do not benefit any particular group; he says that every possible method must be used to restore reason and justice. But exactly how is not specifically mentioned. The furthest that Timenes will go in this direction is his statement that if you follow what is in your heart, you will never be very far off the track. He also hints that constant requestioning is needed in showing that what you find there is indeed that which follows the �Good�. He mentions that following the �Good� is not easy, but, also, it is not impossible. Caius resolves to make an effort to combat the evil that he perceives has caused the problems in Rome. He resolves to follow the �Good�. Again, the means are not specified, except that when he �assumes power�, which would be to become Consul in the normal course of events; but I think, he knows more than even this is needed.

This brings us to question the first chapter, where he decides that all his efforts at rectifying the problems that Rome and the world has experienced was in vain. He has in effect fought the evil with the very same means that the evil ones used against him. This has not seemed to work, since the freedom that he wanted to spread and instill in the world, can only be kept by the benevolent dictatorship, which he has instituted; in essence, he must do that, which all his principals tell him not to do, in order to keep these principals enforced. His conclusion is that the matter is beyond the bounds of human reason. He has tried and toiled as far as human efforts can go; if he continues to keep the world at rest through the efforts of his legions, then he has in essence denied the very principals he has fought to establish.

Of course, after Caesar�s death, Augustus was in effect carrying on the status quo in a tyranny, which would continue for the next four and one half centuries, progressively decaying till the complete collapse and the introduction of Christianity. But this is beyond our story.

I will say though that these are still problems that are present today. Christianity has brought in the correct perspective, which the ancients did not have. But look at what immediately occurred with the growth of Christianity; people immediately replaced the temporal dictatorship with a spiritual one. The result was a dark age, where not only physical, but spiritual bondage occurred; in essence, all freedom was lost! Not until the renaissance was a way shown which led to where we are today. But alas, are we just back again to where Caesar was in his day? We have that new perspective of the heart, that Caesar in his day, had only a vague insight into; but we seem to have forgotten it, or maybe we just ignore it. I don�t know; as Timenes said, following the �Good� is not easy, but, then again, it is not impossible.


I know you don�t want to get into any relevance that this story may have as a reflection on the current world situation, but there is a real similarity between this particular time in Rome�s history, and what is happening today. Would you care to amplify this?


Well, you know, I�m presenting a story, which is at a unique time in history, and has some far reaching relevance, because of the similarities you mention. I think, I�ll only mention what these are. At this time, Rome was showing what some authors refer to as a �democratic imperialism�. It was conquering barbarian nations and colonizing them. The reason for this was quite simply greed. It was a way for politicians and the Equestrian �New� men to get rich fast. Caesar saw that this was inevitable, so he thought, perhaps, he could actually make this a good thing, instead of a travesty of the democracy that Rome offered. He wanted to reform the system, and give direct representation to those that were given the franchise. This would take away all the power that the Aristocracy, or I might say Plutocracy, had gained. Caesar saw Rome as offering a system of government that would give the people in these conquered states more freedom, not less, because all of these states were under tyrannies of Nobles or Kings or Warlords. But, he also saw that the colonial system that Rome had, was flawed; and that�s what he was in the process of trying to fix, at the end.

Now the parallel to today�s world isn�t so hard to see; I�ll just say that greed is still very much at work today.

Also, I think, there is another thing that should be mentioned here. I don�t know if you are familiar with the old long shore man philosopher from the sixties, Eric Hoffer, but, anyway, he termed our age the �Age of the Masses�. He was writing during the sixties, but he said that just about everything then was mass this, or mass that; mass culture, mass media etc. Well, I think that today this is even more so, at least, appearance-wise. Well, Caesar�s age was basically the age of the Aristocracy, the minority that dictated to the masses. What I tried to show was that Caesar planted the seed back then, for this modern age of the masses. If he had not lived, we may never have had the society, we have today. And even today, if we don�t do something to offset the role of the special interests in our society, we may go back to that age, he tried to end. Perhaps, what we should strive for, in this Twenty-first century, is the age of the �Meritorious Masses�. Where everyone does his part to promote a better society through merit; and merit alone.

[The following is somewhat repetitious, but the author feels it has merit, so he includes it; added 5/19/2006]

Let me say one more thing about why I think that Caesar was very modern in his outlook. The Aristocracy or Nobiles of that time saw the world only through their selfish greedy view of things; they saw the world as a tool for them to create more wealth and power. The people existed only for their betterment. Their expansion of the Republic represented a way for them to achieve that goal. Caesar knew this, and also knew what he was up against. He could not change society; or the views of those in power; but, what he could do was to bring justice and equity to the system. He tried to build a system that could, in a way, fix itself, by giving the people more say into the matter of how the system changed, and who changed it. As Dictator, (through force) he began these reforms; not because he wanted it to be this way, but, because it was the only way. And even then, he was constantly checked in his advancements. His outlook was universal, and would have bettered all mankind. This was what made him so advanced for his times.

But, alas, the selfish partisan ways of his fellows was not so easily swept away. In the end, he had, in effect, seen the only way open to him was the way ("might makes right"), which contradicted his own principals . This tragedy was the tragedy of mankind itself. Today mankind is falling right back into the same pattern. Greed and selfish partisanship is again enveloping the world more than ever. Under the guise of freedom for all, the few are again monopolizing the globe for their own agendas. The widespread misery and wars, we see today, are again the result of this same cause.

Author's Interview Continued: Part 2



Originally Published:

October 11, 2007


March 6, 2017