Sicilian pirates ruled the Mediterranean in the 1st and 2nd century BC. In 75 BC, they kidnapped Julius Caesar and held him for ransom. Insulted by the amount of money they demanded, Caesar ordered them to double it. The payment, he declared, should be fit for an emperor.

I see your 20 and raise you 30!

Julius Caesar wasn’t any geek off the street. His high status should fetch the exorbitant price it deserved. Julius scoffed at the 20 talents of silver the pirates demanded. 

20 talents of silver are equal to roughly $600,000 in today’s money. A man such as himself was worth at least 50. Caesar sent off some of his sailors to retrieve the ransom money. The task took 38 days. Caesar made the most of it.

Quiet up there!

A Caesar as Caesar-y as Julius didn’t have an off switch. Only two servants stayed behind with Caesar, but that wasn’t nearly enough to tend to his royal-sized ego. The man refused to bow down. He acted more like a captain than a prisoner. 

When Caesar wanted to sleep, he’d yell at the deckhands to be quiet. Caesar wrote poems and speeches and would recite them to the crew. He’d yell at them if they didn’t applaud. The pirates grew to respect him, and treated him more like a comrade than a prisoner.

Revenge is sweet!

It wasn’t all fun and games in captivity. Caesar didn’t appreciate being held against his will. He promised to hunt the pirates down and have them crucified. When the ransom was paid, and Caesar was set free, he promptly raised a small fleet and tracked down the pirates.

The Cilicians were caught off guard. They hadn’t taken the threats seriously. Caesar’s men captured them, took back the money, and kille d them. Even Caesar has a heart. He passed on the torture and went straight for the kill.