Parallel Lives: Caesar by Plutarch

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"For My Part, I Had Rather Be The First Among These Fellows, Than The Second Man In Rome"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Julius Caesar, ambitious even as a young man, is on his way to take a position in the province of Spain. Caesar is at this time disappointed in his career. He feels that he has not accomplished much. He realizes that Alexander, at his age, had conquered many nations, while he himself has done nothing memorable. His comment to his men brings to mind Milton's Satan, who says, in Paradise Lost, that he would rather rule in Hell than serve in Heaven Plutarch thus describes Caesar:

In his journey [to Spain], as he was crossing the Alps, and passing by a small village of the barbarians with but few inhabitants and those wretchedly poor, his companions asked the question among themselves by way of mockery, if there were any canvassing for offices there, any contention which should be uppermost, or feuds of great men one against another. To which Caesar made answer seriously, "For my part, I had rather be the first among these fellows, then the second man in Rome."