All manner of betrayers
I couldn’t sleep last night. Or rather, I’d fallen asleep with the four year old reading Enid Blytons, Famous Five (Five on Kirrin Island again). I’d like to say we were elegantly curled up in an insta-worthy pose… but really when my wife prodded me awake (which was remarkably gentle by her usually aggressive standards) I was lying facedown in my own drool, my arm contorted awkwardly underneath my body, prickling with pins and needles.
I tried, after brushing my teeth and messing around with the Basset hound (who was feeling especially indecisive about where he was going to bed down for the night), going back to sleep… but the great betrayer (ie my mind) was having none of that.
So instead I flipped to the chapter on Cato in Ryan Holidays new book ‘Lives of the Stoics’. (I’d been saving it for a special occasion) I’m not reading Lives it in any particular order… which is likely infuriating for some.
I love Cato. It would be difficult for me to rank my stoics in any order of preference. But Cato is definitely up there near the top.
This rabbit holed me into reading about Porcia, who was Cato’s daughter, who I’d only ever had a vague Shakespearian sense about. She was married to Brutus (of et tu Brute? fame) in case you’re wondering. Which led me to me to read about Cassius (whom I had once played in a school play and always had a soft spot for). Cassius was a follower of teachings of Epicurus, which I never knew before…
… which led me to Dante’s Inferno. (as one might expect it might do)
The ninth circle of hell is reserved for the betrayers. This particular sub basement level is actually a frozen lake called Cocytus. People who have performed some sort of treacherous act are frozen in ice here, some partially, some completely. (I always had this conceptualization that hell should get hotter the further down one got… apparently I was wrong)
In any event Satan, as you might expect, is right down here at the bottom. (when he’s not managing Facebook) Gnawing on Judas Iscariot… and also flaying the skin off his back. BUT… on the left and right of Satan ALSO getting their comeuppance are the other two great betrayers… Brutus and Cassius.
Apparently Dante was particularly fucked off with them for killing Julius Caesar.
Which I thought was really… um… weird.
That someone might imagine Julius Caesar as some sort of good guy.
I mean I suppose there are people out there that have fond imaginings about Alexander the Great. Or Napoleon Bonaparte. Or… Maximilien Robespierre… Or Adolf Hitler… Or Mao. So I guess this really shouldn’t surprise me.
Still, it worried me. In a sense that I can really empathize with Cato, Brutus, Porcia and Cassius and their endeavors to rid themselves of an egomaniacal tyrant. In the eyes of some at least, this puts you in the same league as the betrayer of Christ.
Apparently some of the senators were so bad at stabbing Julius Caesar they actually stabbed each other or themselves by accident. For some reason I imagine Mitch McConnell trying to stab someone… and I start laughing. So things probably haven’t changed all that much. Which is both reassuring… and also I suppose, not.
Personally I would have sat Caesar down and maybe chatted about his imperial autocratic tendencies, his evisceration of the Republic and his war crimes in Gaul. And if that didn’t work get him in an arm lock and make him say ‘uncle’. (or the whatever the latin equivalency is)…
… it might have worked.
I can be very persuasive. Especially when I start my patented high pitched mewling noise. Sometimes combined with throwing myself down on the ground in the middle of the supermarket aisle.
It’s unlikely Cato would have approved of my methods though. He was likely quite stern.
Stoicism is all about practice though… and less about perfection. So I feel I still have a shot.