Gaius Julius Caesar was in a bad mood. He had not slept well. Since becoming Perpetual Dictator of the vast Roman Empire he had had nothing but trouble. The Gauls would not settle down. Foreign invaders were clamoring to enter the city, claiming asylum from oppression in their home countries. There were rumors of unhappiness amongst some of the Senators. It was more than a man, even so great a man as Caesar, could handle.
"Time for breakfast, darling," said the lovely Calpurnia. "You were tossing and turning all night so I made a special wild boar and cheese omelet for you."
"Good, I was getting tired of oatmeal!" he grunted.
"Did you have a bad dream again, O Divine Leader?"
"I did!" Caesar cried. "I dreamt that old goat Vercingetorix was raising hell again up in Gaul, fomenting another revolt."
"Oh, but darling, he's still in prison, remember? He can't do anything to hurt you anymore." She gently smoothed his ruffled hair, and led him to his couch for breakfast.
"Well, I'm going to have him executed. Then he will truly be out of my life."
A sudden rapping at the door disturbed Caesar just as he began devouring his omelet. "Who in the world can that possibly be at this hour?" he said, as Calpurnia hurried to the door thinking he was already crabby enough and the continued knocking would only make him more so.
"Why, it's Cicero and Publius and a bunch of other Senators," she exclaimed brightly. "Please enter, noble Senators. The great Caesar awaits you herein."
The group looked around timidly as Caesar shouted, "What do you want?"
"Are you coming to the Senate today, noble Caesar?" asked Cicero. "There is something you need to see."
"It is horrid! Despicable!" shouted Publius. Another dozen Senators also voiced their distress.
"I might," said Caesar, "what is so terrible that I must see it?"
All the senators answered at once, clamoring for Caesar's presence that very day. Calpurnia covered her ears as their complaining grew in volume:
"He's a complete buffoon!" "A barbarian!" "Such a person should never be allowed in the senate, or even in Rome!" "He disgraces us all!" "Noble Caesar, only you can put a stop to this!"
Ignoring his omelet, Caesar looked up at them in amazement. These stoics, these principled men of the empire, had never become so unhinged. Despite his misgivings, he agreed to go and see for himself.
What he saw when he entered the Senate chamber was truly as horrible as the Senators had described. He covered his eyes in disgust.
He saw a Senator, a relatively new member of that awesome body, addressing his colleagues. He recognized him as a rustic from one of the western provinces. The man stumbled in his speech, and rambled in idiotic nonsense phrases. The audience smiled at each other in ridicule, their faces red from withholding their laughter at the spectacle before them.
But as bad as was his demeanor and speech, what was even worse was what he was wearing. His tunic and toga did not have the broad purple stripe required of Senators and relegated only to them. His toga was tattered and stained as if he had just competed in the games. It wasn't even a proper toga, more like an animal skin and, worst of all, he wore something like a hood on his head. He looked like a robber, a barbarian, a beggar, a thief, a renegade, a bum. He looked every bit as disgusting as the Senators said he would.
Caesar advanced and wrapped his mighty hands about the man's neck. He shook him violently from side to side, lifting him off his feet in the process.
The senators cried out: "Caesar, you'll kill him! Let him go and we will chase him out of the Senate."
But Caesar was not through venting his rage. He threw the man to the ground and shouted, "How dare you come into the senate dressed like that! You desecrate this sacred place! You dishonor these noble men who have dedicated their lives for the good of the people of Rome! You are a foul excrement on the streets of this hallowed city, and you even smell like it!"
The senators shifted on nervous feet. But Caesar continued.
"Have you no respect? No regard for Rome, the greatest city the world has ever known? The mightiest, the most powerful, most feared empire on earth? You, who have somehow bought yourself a seat in this Senate, are not wanted here. You are not worthy of the name of Senator, or even of the name of Roman citizen."
The Senators were beginning to enjoy this tirade. Caesar went on.
"By my power as Dictator for Life and by authority of the Senate and People of Rome, I hereby strip you of your senatorial position. Furthermore, you are no longer a Roman citizen. You are an outcast. Stand up! Tell me your name!"
The man scrambled to his feet. "Virmelior," he croaked.
"Vir Melior," Caesar thought for a second, then erupted. "Betterman! Hah! You think you are a better man than these noble Senators? You are not worthy to be in the same room with them!"
Cicero turned to his colleagues and, pointing to Caesar, said "Our Caesar is a leader worthy of the city of Rome. This is how a great empire reacts to foolish behavior, not by coddling it but by correcting it in the most forceful way. We must have standards of behavior, and of dress, and proper comportment. Otherwise we are no better than the barbarians."
The senators advanced with knives unsheathed as if to stab Betterman right on the senate floor. But Caesar stopped them. "Put your knives away," he said, "save them for another day."