Whoosh! Issue 27 - December 1998


IAXS project #424
By Freb Hunt-Bull
Copyright © 1998 held by author
1551 words

Bitter Lessons (01-06)
A Woman's Affections (07-09)
Crucifixion (10-11)
A Brutal Legacy (12-13)
Better Lessons (14-17)
Conclusion (18-19)

Divide and Conquer:
Xena's Lessons from Caesar

After sitting on this thing all day, I need a pillow!

Caesar has his own Destiny.

Bitter Lessons

[1] Julius Caesar is Xena's most long-standing enemy. Early in her career as Warrior Princess she tried to hold Caesar for ransom, only to be betrayed and almost killed by him [DESTINY (36/212)]. Xena has fought him on the battlefield [THE DELIVERER (50/304); A GOOD DAY (73/405)] and in a more clandestine campaign [WHEN IN ROME... (62/316)], yet he was once her lover. Perhaps it is because she once wanted to love him and join forces with him that Xena, far from rejecting what Caesar represented, chose to become like him after he betrayed her.

[2] The episode DESTINY (36/212) identified Xena's early meeting with Caesar as a turning point in her life. After Caesar, she changed from the defender of Amphipolis to the "murdering harlot" first introduced in the Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (HTLJ) episode, THE WARRIOR PRINCESS (H09/109).

[3] When she first meets Caesar, Xena is still mainly interested in protecting her homeland. Her men bring a captive Roman soldier to her - he is Caesar, not yet famous but with a very high opinion of himself. Xena decides to ransom him, urged on by Caesar's assurance that he will fetch as much as 100,000 dinars.

[4] Xena takes Caesar on her pirate ship, where she begins to fall in love with him. She offers to join forces with him, thus making an "unstoppable team". When she turns him over to the Romans in exchange for his ransom, they promise to meet again. Unfortunately, when they do, it is on Caesar's terms. He boards her ship and defeats her men. In chains, Xena and her pirates are taken to a beach to be crucified. As Xena is hoisted up on a cross, Caesar commands his soldier to break her legs with a sledgehammer.

[5] Xena escapes with the help of her friend M'Lila, but Caesar's men hunt her down again, and kill M'Lila. This is the critical moment in Xena's personal history. Xena fights off the Roman soldiers in a rage and declares, "A new Xena is born tonight, with a new purpose in life: Death".

[6] Rage at Caesar's betrayal leads Xena to her "new purpose in life". Like Callisto, who made herself into a Warrior Queen even more bloodthirsty and dangerous than the Warrior Princess, Xena sets out to become a more ruthless conqueror than Caesar. In Xena's debut on HTLJ, she tries to defeat Hercules by employing tactics similar to those Caesar had used on her.

A Woman's Affections

[7] In the HTLJ episode that introduced her, THE WARRIOR PRINCESS (H09/109), Xena tells her lieutenant, Estragon, "A true warrior would understand that you demoralize and weaken before you destroy". Xena's approach to demoralizing Hercules is to seduce his best friend, Iolaus, and trick Hercules into killing him. "When Hercules realizes that he's killed his best friend," continues Xena to Estragon, "he'll be ripe for slaughter".

[8] Xena's plan borrows from Caesar in two ways. First, Xena romances Iolaus while planning to kill him, just as Caesar feigned an interest in Xena while planning her betrayal and death. Second, Xena employs Caesar's divide-and-conquer tactic (Caesar explains this strategy to Gabrielle in THE DELIVERER [50/304], and tries to use it on Xena and Gabrielle in that episode as well as in WHEN IN ROME... [62/316]). Xena separates Hercules and Iolaus in order to destroy both.

[9] Betrayed by Caesar, Xena learns from him to use love and sex as a weapon. In THE WARRIOR PRINCESS (H09/109), Xena motivates her soldiers by holding out the reward of her love. She sends her lieutenant, Theodorus, after Hercules. It is a suicide mission, but he accepts it out of love for her. The episode implies that this "sex-ploitation" of her men and the trivial imparting her affections are tactics she uses frequently.


You help put the 'brut' in 'brutal', Brutus!

Caesar checks out his handiwork on a soon-to-be-fully-crucified Xena.

[10] DESTINY (36/212) presents Xena's crucifixion at the hands of Caesar as the defining moment in her life as a warrior. Caesar's betrayal and torture is what created the "Bad Xena". Again, Xena chooses not to reject but to adopt her enemy's brutal methods.

[11] In THE WARRIOR PRINCESS (H09/109), Hercules' first encounter with Xena's work is a field of crucified villagers. Xena and her army have killed every single man in an attack on a village, and the bodies are left pinned on a variety of farm equipment, strewn as far as the eye can see. This scene is later repeated in the alternative timeline of the HTLJ episode, ARMAGEDDON NOW II (H73/414). Xena, still the evil Warrior Princess in a world without Hercules, has become the tyrant of Corinth. Outside the gates of the city, Iolaus finds fields of the crucified victims of Bad Xena. Worse yet, in ARMAGEDDON NOW II, Bad Xena orders the execution of the rebel Gabrielle, who, in that alternative world, never befriends Xena. Not only does Bad Xena have Gabrielle crucified, but she orders Gabrielle's legs broken.

A Brutal Legacy

[12] Not long after meeting Caesar, Xena's army destroys a village called Cirra. A surviving girl, Callisto, grows up with a purpose in life similar to the post-Caesar Xena's. Like Xena herself, Callisto chooses to model herself on the enemy she longs to destroy. Callisto wants to become a Warrior Queen even nastier than the Warrior Princess she blames for her family's death.

[13] The crucifixion motif comes back to haunt Xena. In the episode CALLISTO (22/122), Xena's new nemesis attacks and destroys villages, crucifying not just the men, but women and children, as well. We get an inkling of how upsetting Callisto's methods were to Xena in THE FURIES (47/301) when Xena, plagued with madness, accuses a group of innocent villagers (consisting, ironically, of only women and children) of committing this very atrocity. In the otherworldly Illusia in THE BITTER SUITE (58/312), Xena again is confronted with this particular torture as she is hung on a cross and an image of Gabrielle threatens her legs with a sledgehammer.

Better Lessons

Oh, man, that Italian food is just too spicy!

Caesar suffers a minor setback at the conclusion of WHEN IN ROME...

[14] Fortunately, crucifixion and betrayal were not Caesar's only legacies to Xena. After her reformation, she continues to use some of the techniques the Roman general had used against her.

[15] In DESTINY (36/212), Caesar takes advantage of his capture by Xena. In convincing her to ask for a huge ransom, he is planning to pad his own pockets. Once he betrays Xena, he uses the ransom money to finance the military exploits that will bring him power in Rome.

[16] Xena too has used being captured for her own ends. In THE BLACK WOLF (11/111), she gives the trick a clever twist by pretending to pretend to be captured. She hires herself out to King Xerxes, claiming she will help find the rebel leader if he puts her in prison with the rebel band. Xena then uses her position in the dungeon to help the rebels escape. In THE DIRTY HALF DOZEN (49/303), Xena also stages her own capture so she can get inside Ares' pawn's fortress.

[17] Xena also uses this technique to get revenge on Caesar. In WHEN IN ROME... (62/316), Xena stages an assassination attempt on Caesar. He throws her in jail, where Gabrielle is waiting for her with Vercinix, the Celtic hero they have come to Rome to rescue. Once inside jail, the Warrior Princess naturally has little trouble getting her friends out.


[18] Xena emerges from her first tangle with Caesar a changed woman. She hates him, but chooses to be like him...or worse than him. Her campaign of terror borrows Caesar's own tactics. Years later, Callisto follows the same path, modeling herself on her hated rival, hence also following in Caesar's brutal footsteps. Xena's crucifixion in particular continues to haunt her. Yet, Xena has also been able to put some of Caesar's lessons to a better use and even use them against him. Xena has learned to use such tactics not to emulate Caesar, but to thwart him.

[19] By his next appearance, in A GOOD DAY (73/305), Xena seems much less 'personal' in her response to Caesar. This time he is simply an opponent in war. She plays Caesar and Pompey off one another to save Greece from conquest. This time Xena's defense of her homeland did not lead her down the path to tyranny. She has long since stopped trying to be a more brutal general than Caesar. She is instead a smarter one.


Freb Hunt-Bull Freb Hunt-Bull
Freb Hunt-Bull was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in 1967. Since 1991 she has had to live in the United States, while her husband, fellow Xenite Nicholas Hunt-Bull, earned his doctorate in philosophy. Freb, meanwhile, has become a web designer, harpist, ministerial wannabe, and mother of year-old Conor James. She writes for fun and future ambition. Her family also includes three cats, including the Amazon warrior, Hippolyta.
Favorite episode: A DAY IN THE LIFE (39/215)
Favorite line: Miss Artiphys: "I'm no princess. I'm a queen." HERE SHE COMES... MISS AMPHIPOLIS (35/211)
First episode seen: HOOVES AND HARLOTS (10/110)
Least favorite episode: CRADLE OF HOPE (04/104)

Return to Top Return to Index