Did Caesar say “I could kill you faster than I could threaten to kill you?”

By: | Post date: 2017-05-11 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Ancient Greek, Literature

At a first stab (so to speak):

Plutarch • Life of Caesar

After this speech to Metellus, Caesar walked towards the door of the treasury, and when the keys were not to be found, he sent for smiths and ordered them to break in the door. Metellus once more opposed him, and was commended by some for so doing; but Caesar, raising his voice, threatened to kill him if he did not cease his troublesome interference. “And thou surely knowest, young man,” said he, “that it is more unpleasant for me to say this than to do it.”

ταῦτα πρὸς τὸν Μέτελλον εἰπών, ἐβάδιζε πρὸς τὰς θύρας τοῦ ταμιείου. μὴ φαινομένων δὲ τῶν κλειδῶν, χαλκεῖς μεταπεμψάμενος ἐκκόπτειν ἐκέλευεν. αὖθις δ’ ἐνισταμένου τοῦ Μετέλλου καί τινων ἐπαινούντων, διατεινάμενος ἠπείλησεν ἀποκτενεῖν αὐτόν, εἰ μὴ παύσαιτο παρενοχλῶν· „καὶ τοῦτ’“ ἔφη „μειράκιον οὐκ ἀγνοεῖς ὅτι μοι δυσκολώτερον ἦν εἰπεῖν ἢ πρᾶξαι“.

The Greek literally says: “and little boy, you are not unaware that it would be harder for me to say it than to do it.”

The quote is attributed to an “official at the Roman Treasury” (I could kill you faster than I could threaten to kill you.) Plutarch says: “When the tribune Metellus tried to prevent Caesar’s taking money from the reserve funds of the state, and cited certain laws, Caesar said that arms and laws had not the same season.” I guess that makes Metellus an official at the Roman Treasury.

Can I say? Apparently Carlin is a podcaster who tries to make historical figures sound sexy and badass, but I don’t think he’s improved on the original.

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