Quitting while the road is hard. Julius Caesar’s encounter with Alexander the Great


Imagine that if you were to see a glimpse of the future, what would you see? How about if you saw yourself. Would you see a person who has achieved greatly, or a person who gave up every time something got hard, or you got tired and wanted to go to sleep. Here is a story from the Roman historian Suetonius. It details a day of what happened when Julius Caesar saw a statue of Alexander the Great at the Temple of Hercules.

VII. Spain fell to his lot as quaestor; when there, as he was going the circuit of the province, by commission from the praetor, for the administration of justice, and had reached Gades, seeing a statue of Alexander the Great in the temple of Hercules, he sighed deeply, as if weary of his sluggish life, for having performed no memorable actions at an age at which Alexander had already conquered the world. He, therefore, immediately sued for his discharge, with the view of embracing the first opportunity, which might present itself in The City, of entering upon a more exalted career.

In the stillness of the night following, he dreamt that he lay with his own mother; but his confusion was relieved, and his hopes were raised to the highest pitch, by the interpreters of his dream, who expounded it as an omen that he should possess universal empire; for that the mother who in his sleep he had found submissive to his embraces, was no other than the earth, the common parent of all mankind.

In case you did not understand that, what happened was when Julius Caesar saw a statue of Alexander the Great, he fell to the ground and cried. For here was Caesar, age 32, seeing a statue of a man who conquered the “known” world by age 29. At the age he was, Caesar felt he had done nothing with his life compared to the legends of his time. Little did he know that by the time he died, he would have doubled the size of the Roman world, would have a month named after him, have his name become a title of power that is used up to this very day. He could have quit when he saw the statue of Alexander. He had a rich wife and a family that was quite well off. He could have just retired from his job as a quaestor, moved to a villa and die from old age. Instead he took that pain and turned it into a empire. Instead of him dying in front of the statue of Alexander the Great, he died in front of a different statue decades later, after changing the world forever.

So I ask what would happen to your future self if you just give up now because the road is hard and unpaved? Chances are you will doing nothing great and finish your goals of life.


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