Veni, vidi, vici

For some reason that quote has always sounded very sexual to me. Okay, so it’s not that hard to imagine. I came. I saw. I conquered. When Rome first came out and I was immersed in the world of LJ, I made a series of icons about the hotness of Antony. It was an animation that cycled through his hottest pictures (though sadly not the full frontal) with the words “Veni… vidi… vici.” My my, I’m a slut for history.

It is in that spirit that I bring you another top ten list. My top ten people from history.

10. Shakespeare

shakespeare

Shakespeare is obviously sexy. You only have to read a few lines of his plays to know that. The man practically created the idea of love (except not really… as I’ll get to with number 5!) In my mind, Shakespeare is always played by Joseph Fiennes, brooding and creative in Shakespeare in Love. I tend to always view historical characters in their potential interesting historical fiction. Stories about Shakespeare’s life are always full of intrigue, lust, adultery… all of the wonderful things that made Shakespeare in Love one of the best chick flicks ever made.

9. Leonidas and Gorgo

leonidas

I have to admit that my love for Leonidas really didn’t surface until after seeing 300. But the truth about 300 is that while it’s “accuracy” may be questioned, the idea of it is true to the sources. What I mean is that if Herodotus or Thucydides could have made a movie about Thermopylae, it would have been exactly like 300. The story of Thermopylae was never history. Almost immediately it was myth.

Besides the rippling abs and small loincloth of 300, Leonidas was a Greek hero the likes of which they had not seen since Homer’s Troy. Of course, until the Persian Wars they hadn’t seen a war quite like Troy either. Leonidas, the Agiad King at Sparta (Sparta always had two kings, from two royal lines), led his men into war with all the courage, bravery and self sacrifice of the Spartan mirage. A Spartan man was not afraid of anything. Had Leonidas meant to lead his men to death? Probably not. Did 300 Spartiates fight off millions of Persians? Not at all.  Counting the Spartans helot slaves, and the fighters from other Greek city states, there had to be at least 3000 men at Thermopylae. And remember, they lost. All the same, it makes for a great heroic tale of the Spartan courage. After all, the statue dedicated for Thermopylae reads,  “Go tell the Spartans, passerby: That here, by Spartan law, we lie.”

And Gorgo? Remember that gorgeous scantily clad chick in 300? That’s Gorgo. The daughter, wife and mother of Spartan kings. She was a phenomenal woman, who kicked some major ass. Not quite like in the movie, but in her own way. When she was a child, she was listening to a meeting between her father and a man who was trying to convince him to support the Ionian revolt against Persia. When things had gone to far, she interrupted them. “Father, you must make this man leave before you are corrupted,” she said. From that moment on she earned the respect of the historical sources. She’s one of very few historical figures actually mentioned by name in Herodotus. She’s the epitome of a Spartan woman, the way Leonidas exemplifies Spartan men. The Spartan woman did not mourn the death of her husband, brother, son or father in war. Their philosophy? Come back with your shield or on it.

8. Hamnett Kirkes Pinhey

hamnett

Here’s where you get a little bit of history of the Ottawa area, pets! I know you’re all so excited. Hamnett Kirkes Pinhey was a merchant in England, who made his fortune early in life and retired at the age of 35. Frustrated by his inability to climb the social ladder in England, he decided to move to the colonies. So he petitioned for land in Canada, claiming that he had been  a spy for England to the King of Prussia during the Napoleonic Wars. He got his land grant and headed on his merry way.

He built his home on overlooking the Ottawa River. It was the most impressive building for miles, and Hamnett Pinhey was the wealthiest man in Carleton County. He was the unofficial patriarch of the area, often lending money to poorer settlers or overseeing public schools. He built a church, the first in the area, on his own property which he donated to the Anglican Church. He was a Great Man, with capitals, mostly doing all of these things to increase his own status in the community.

But he wasn’t bad looking for a settler, and he sure had class. Plus, he was rich. Which is always a bonus.

7. Delilah (and Samson)

samson-and-delilah

I guess here the term “historical” is used lightly. Biblical I guess would be better, but I’ve been inclined to think of the bible as mythology much like Hesiod’s Works and Days. Anyway, that’s not the point. The point is that the story of Samson and Delilah is by far one of the most compelling, a favourite subject among authors, poets, songwriters and artists. Samson was seemingly invincible, but Delilah learned his secret. When he was asleep, she cut his hair and thus robbed him of his strength. It’s sexy. Who knows why she did it. Who knows why he let her. But it’s a great story. The downtrodden women of the bible are my favourites, Jezebel and Delilah especially.

6. Julius Caesar

caesar

The very man who spoke the words that gave this post a title! Interesting fact, to those of you who don’t speak Latin… in Latin, the “v” is pronounced with a “w” sound, essentially making the quote “Weni, widi, wici,” which doesn’t roll of the tongue in quite the same way.

Anyway, apparently Julius Caesar said a lot of famous things. Another of his is “The die is cast.” I think Julius Caesar is like a god. I mean, he’s the beginning of the Roman Empire. He’s… invincible! He dares to do what no other man in Rome will. I have to say that I’m guilty of always first thinking that JC stands for Julius Caesar and not Jesus Christ…

Caesar’s early death makes him a hero. He didn’t live long enough to fail, and thus he is eternally infallible.

5. Ovid

ovid

By far my favourite Latin writer. And definitely one of my favourite poets of any language. Ovid was an artist in a way that writers weren’t before him. Ever since Homer, literature had steadily been moving towards the point of artistry, and indeed a lot of the credit can be given to others like Sappho and Virgil. But Ovid was the first to use a complex theme in his work, the Metamorphoses. He pushed the limits of literature as everyone knew it. His writing is unique because it’s actually good by modern standards. Which is to say, it’s still interesting.

Plus, he wrote on things like love and sex (he has a bunch of erotic poems) and got himself exiled.  He also coined the phrase “make love not war.”

“And what other treasures may not be hidden under that summer dress? Feeling hot? Would a cooling breeze be welcome? There, let me fan you a little. Or is the heat all in my own?” Amores, Book 3

4. King Arthur

king_arthur_3

I have to say that even in First Knight when you’re supposed to go for Richard Gere as Lancelot, I went for Sean Connery as Arthur. I have always had this unwavering image of King Arthur as a good king, as brave and loyal. And thus always thought Guinevere was a whore. Who would chose Lancelot over Arthur?

I think my love for Arthur started with the Sword in the Stone… but it continued to Mists of Avalon, King Arthur, First Knight… Merlin… I think I’ve seen every movie relating to Arthur and read quite a few of the books.

Arthur represents, to me, the traditional Great Leader. The way a King should be. Ushering in a golden age. Unifying the kingdom. He’s a hero, and one not quite as long ago as the Greeks and Romans I usually go for.

3. Cleopatra

cleopatra1

The ultimate seductress. Sources generally agree that Cleopatra was not a looker - how could she be with the infamous Ptolemy nose? But Cleopatra was undeniably sexy. Proof? She, a client Queen, made lovers of two of the most powerful men in Rome, Caesar and then Antony. She seduced them. She used them. And all the while she was a surprisingly good queen, the only one in generations who had bothered to actually learn Egyptian. She spoke 7 different languages, she was supposedly very smart and no one was as charming as she. The story goes that she wagered Antony she would give him the most expensive party in history. At this party, she took a pearl that was apparently worth the value of 15 countries and dissolved it in a glass of vinegar, then drank it. It is, apparently, still the most expensive meal in history.

Cleopatra is intriguing in every possible way and her life is the best of stories, from her birth to her dramatic suicide.

2. Marc Antony

james_purefoy6

Marc Antony was a great general. He lacked the politics to be a great leader. He really did best when Caesar was alive, he wasn’t cut out to beat Octavian at the games of political intrigue. When it came to war, he should have beaten Octavian. He was the better general. But Octavian knew his weaknesses and largely had Agrippa leading his armies for him. And so Antony was defeated.

But even Plutarch, though happy to point out all of Antony’s flaws, says that he was very attractive, with “a noble dignity of form.” Antony is more often than not portrayed as the man’s man, very rugged and tough. Like in the tv show Rome, he was supposedly into all sorts of debaucheries.

I like to believe that Antony and Cleopatra were in love. Real love, not political love like her and Caesar. I think this mostly because they were probably the only ones who could give each other’s charm a run for it’s money. But I bet she missed the intelligent conversation from her days with Caesar.

1. Alexander the Great

alexanderandheph

Oh Alex. My love. In the theory of reincarnation, they say that if you identify strongly with a character from history, you were either that person or a person close to them in a past life. I don’t know if this is a legit theory, but I love it. I was definitely either Alexander or his lover Hephaestion in a past life. Their love is so touching. They had been friends since boyhood, and modelled themselves after Achilles and Patroclus. Everyone knew that Hephaestion was the love of Alexander’s life. The only close rival was his horse, Beucephalus.

I don’t know why I love Alex so much, or why I feel the need to call him “Alex” as is we were friends. But he’s the ultimate Greek hero. And like Achilles, his early death ensures his fame. Alexander was unstoppable. He never lost. He never gave up. He conquered further than any Greek had ever dreamed. And he was hot. I just know it.

“They say Alexander was never bested, except by Hephaestion’s thighs.” - Alexander, the movie.

5 Comments

  • By Fae, May 22, 2009 @ 8:28 am

    Hahah, thanks for the early morning laugh at that last quote.

  • By Sebastian, May 22, 2009 @ 9:59 am

    Educational AND funny. Hooray! My knowledge of history is still so sorely lacking, thanks to my shitty school education of the subject — or rather, the lack of.

    You certainly have a thing for powerful men. Well, I think most people do — not surprising, really…

    I would’ve ranked Shakespeare a lot higher, and really… King Arthur? He didn’t even DO much, he’s just some character that featured in a myth or two — but he didn’t do anything particularly exciting, did he?

    The English myths suck I guess…

  • By Court, May 22, 2009 @ 12:54 pm

    Ha, a slut for history. I am so gonna use that!

    (also, an ideal man would vidi vici veni, if you know what I mean…)

    (unless I’m translating that wrong, which is very likely, given that the only latin I know is Amo Vium. Hahahahahaha)

  • By Hezabelle, May 22, 2009 @ 6:13 pm

    I can’t rank Shakespeare higher, Seb, because my knowledge of his is so vague.. it’s really limited to movies and a couple of English classes in high school. Also, he’s too recent. I like my powerful men at least 1000 years old. And King Arthur is awesome. And real, if you believe the movie!

    Court - I saw, I conquered, I came? Brilliant. And omg, I had almost forgotten amo vium. You parents must’ve thought we were the weirdest children…

  • By Cleopatra, April 23, 2012 @ 1:41 am

    Elizabeth Taylor portrayed her as a queen who seduced many great men. History shows her to be ruthless, but a generally well-liked, leader. Who was the Queen of the Nile? Although she has been glamorized in the movies, books and plays, Cleopatra remains one of history’s most enduring figures.

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