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Mosquito

Caesar - personality

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Yes, but qualities NN listed as a psychological disorder were still shared to some extent by the Roman aristocracy, and indeed by most of the pre-Christian aristocracies in the greater Indo-European world that I am aware of.

 

But almost ALL psychological disorders are "only a matter of degree." The difference between a phobia and apprehension is "only a matter of degree." The difference between depression and sadness is "only a matter of degree." The difference between anxiety and being nervous is "only a matter of degree." But these differences in degree matter when they are taken to an extent such that they interfere with normal social relationships and work. The fact is that Caesar's vanity (to take just one aspect of his character) was taken to a degree that harmed himself and the republic.

 

More generally, though, I agree with you that Christianity--with its celebration of humility, for example--has made it difficult to see Caesar as his contemporaries might have. But even from within Greco-Roman thinking (e.g., Aristotle, if you want a non-Stoic view), there was an acknowledged distinction between humility (bad), pride (good), and vanity (bad). And one doesn't have to be a Greek to figure this out.

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"You may not appreciate the precepts of Stoicism, Ursus, but it was the dominant world-view in Rome, espoused by everyone from slaves like Epictetus to emperors like Aurelius."

"...is just dumb." Agreed? Nonetheless I shall take up the matter of 'everyone' with Dr. Johnsom.

 

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"More generally, though, I agree with you that Christianity--with its celebration of humility, for example--has made it difficult to see Caesar as his contemporaries might have."

Rather, a historical certainty!

 

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"I understand that some of you are fans of that darling of Venus,...." Et tu MPC?

 

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FYI, insanity is both a legal and medical concept.

 

The wind bag.

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FYI, insanity is both a legal and medical concept.

 

If "insanity" is a medical concept (like "angina"), you should be able to find the term in the diagnostic manual used by psychiatrists (DSM-IV). You can't--because insanity is not a medical concept. You might as well talk about "mental cooties".

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:oops: Medical term is 'dementia'. MPC, will you ever forgive me? (Same thing though.)

 

And the first two items on my prior post were a 'gotcha' thing. Sorry to all.

Edited by Gaius Octavius

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What is the truth concerning Caesars epilepsy?

According to HBO Rome GJC went to extreme lengths to cover up his ailment. In the words of gossiping Atia "By which God?" [is he cursed with epilepsy].

But the extracts from ancient sources in some of my books make it seem that Caesars condition was common knowledge.

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And while we're on this topic, I wonder what everyone has to say about the hypothesis that was put out a few years ago about the insanity and erratic behaviour of many Roman politicians (esp.emperors) being caused by lead poisoning because of the profusion of lead piping in Roman civic life? :oops:

P.S This is no joke. Someone really did put forward that theory

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And while we're on this topic, I wonder what everyone has to say about the hypothesis that was put out a few years ago about the insanity and erratic behaviour of many Roman politicians (esp.emperors) being caused by lead poisoning because of the profusion of lead piping in Roman civic life? :oops:

P.S This is no joke. Someone really did put forward that theory

 

That lead poisoning theory has been around for a while. I believe that it has been debunked. Water really didn't travel very far in the lead pipes.

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One cannot apply modern psychoanalytical concepts to a person in the ancient world, and any attempt to do so is fruitless. That way, madness lies.

 

Really? So no one in the ancient world was schizophrenic? No one in the ancient world was depressed? No one in the ancient world had anxiety? Or a nervous breakdown? Did you ever read about Bibulus' complete breakdown after the murder of his sons? In describing Bibulus, should we resort to quaint Victorian concepts like "melancholy"? Are we to assume that Elagabalus was just having a "bad day"?

 

Now, now, Cato - that is not quite what I'm saying (I can't speak for anyone else) and I think you know that. ;) Of course people were schizoid, of course men had cancer etc. Why I said it was pointless to speculate was that even with modern methods of psychoanalysis, diagnostics etc. under the proper clinical settings, it is not that simple to reach a diagnosis. How on earth can we expect to do it from two millennia away? Our ancient sources write of Bibulus - so we can accept it. Our ancient sources write about Caesar's epilepsy (or some such affliction) - so we can accept it. But Mosquito was asking for an analysis of Julius' personality, and in order to 'analyse' that we can only use our modern concepts with our modern prejudices. And for what it is worth, even modern psychoanalytical methods are sometimes dubious. With clinical medicine we are on much surer ground, but even if we were to apply these, we have to rely on symptoms or signs reported by the ancients who may not have had a clear understanding of them in the first place.

 

I understand that some of you are fans of that darling of Venus, but to think that Caesar is not only beyond the realm of normal moral judgment but also beyond the realm of even medical judgment, that's taking special pleading to a whole new level.

 

By saying that it is useless to try and analyse Julius from two millennia away, does NOT equate with my thinking he is beyond moral or medical judgement. I am not leaping to anyone's defence. I should clear up here and now that I, personally, am not Julius's biggest fan! Gus is my man :oops:

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But Mosquito was asking for an analysis of Julius' personality, and in order to 'analyse' that we can only use our modern concepts with our modern prejudices. And for what it is worth, even modern psychoanalytical methods are sometimes dubious. With clinical medicine we are on much surer ground, but even if we were to apply these, we have to rely on symptoms or signs reported by the ancients who may not have had a clear understanding of them in the first place.

 

But the ancients didn't need to understand the symptoms, just to report them accurately. If they accurately report the symptoms of (say) malaria, that's all we need--not that they understand what malaria is, how it is caused, and so forth.

 

Nor do I agree that with clinical medicine we're on much surer ground. Studies show that when hypothetical physical symptoms are given to medical doctors to diagnose (e.g., the symptoms of heart attack and angina) and hypothetical psychological symptoms are given to clinical psychologists to diagnose (e.g., the symptoms of depression and anxiety), the two groups provide equally reliable diagnoses (i.e., there is a high likelihood of agreement among independent raters), both groups recognize the same types of cases to be borderline ones, and both groups recognize the same types of cases to be prototypical. If the categories of one group were less well-defined than the other, this could not be the case. For example, take the hypothetical, poorly-defined category of 'cooties': using such a nebulous category, it's highly unlikely that independent raters would agree about what it is, who has it, who might/might not have it, and who very definitely has it. (Granted, I don't know what the state of British clinical psychology is, so your mileage may vary there; the studies I'm citing were conducted in the U.S.)

 

In any case, I think Neil's assessment of Caesar's personality is probably right, but it's difficult to say for sure. I take seriously Augusta's point that remote diagnosis is very difficult. For example, we're still not even sure what the plague was that killed Perikles and the other Athenians.

Edited by M. Porcius Cato

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When hypothetical diagnoses are made, they are made without prejudice as to person. These should be qualified as the 'patient', himself, is not examined. I am sure that one would not accept the 'tele-diagnosis' of a doctor. If we are to accept what ancient authors say, then how many of Cicero's hands were cut off? So many times, in this Forum, one author is posed against another. One of the members of this board diagnosed me as megalomaniacal. She wouldn't bet a groat on that though. From two millenia away, one may opine, but not judge conclusively.

 

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As to lead in the water, sorry, no citation.

 

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As for using HBO Rome as a reliable source, I think not.

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When hypothetical diagnoses are made, they are made without prejudice as to person. These should be qualified as the 'patient', himself, is not examined.

 

Yes, I agree, but the validity of a given diagnosis is irrelevant to the reliablity of a diagnostic category. My point about hypothetical diagnoses was only to show that the diagnostic categories of physical ailments (like heart attacks) are no more or less reliable than diagnostic categories of mental ailments (like depression). If you want to argue that all remote diagnoses (physical or mental) are uncertain, I'm in 100% agreement. If you want to argue that only mental diagnoses are uncertain because mental disorders are a myth or purely subjective, I'm in 0% agreement. Do you understand this distinction?

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MPC, agreed. So, where does that leave us with Caesar's mental state and his ultimate cause of death?

 

Can we agree that Caesar's murderers were a bunch of cowards?

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If you want to argue that all remote diagnoses (physical or mental) are uncertain, I'm in 100% agreement. If you want to argue that only mental diagnoses are uncertain because mental disorders are a myth or purely subjective, I'm in 0% agreement.

 

My thoughts entirely. One may deduce quite correctly that an historical figure was jaundiced, because his skin was said to have turned yellow. Whether or not he had pancreatic cancer or an inflamed gall bladder, however, is the element which is uncertain. Mental illness is open to exactly the same kind of scrutiny; Caesar's antics may have had a delusional element, in which case he may have been schizophrenic, or ( my guess) down to personal self - aggrandisement based on a desire to have power, and be venerated. Mental health diagnosis is far from subjective, as it is required to undergo the same scientific process as any other discipline.

 

As to wether or not this discussion is fruitless and pointless, that may well be the opinion of some. But if even one person on this forum finds it interesting to debate, then it is far from a useless exercise. We are all here to pool our knowledge and answer questions, and to me a mental health worker offering an insight into the personality of an ancient figure is no different to a builder offering an opinion on how hypocausts were constructed.

 

Getting back to Caesar, his actions were largely responsible for wrecking a stable system of government 500 years in existance, and that to me renders his personality as fertile ground for a good, fun debate! :D

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Fair enough. We have had a nice debate. Lest we go around in circles, I would appreciate it if the parties involved here would sum up and indicate if any of their opinions were altered as a result of this debate.

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