I appreciate history from all historical periods but I have always been especially interested in ancient Mediterranean cultures. Although I am fascinated by ancient Egypt, I became totally entranced by ancient Rome after reading the "Masters of Rome" series of novels by Colleen McCullough and in particular the life of Julius Caesar. McCullough's novels, "The First Man In Rome", "The Grass Crown", "Fortune's Favorites", "Caesar's Women", and "Caesar", made this complex personality come to life. He was not the cold and calculating tyrannical conqueror often depicted by various historians apparently with their own political axes to grind. He was a tender lover, a skilled orator and advocate, a talented poet and historian, a consumate politician, and a man with integrity as well as cunning.and military genius.

Because of my admiration for him, I decided to use my skills as a computer systems designer to resurrect Caesar by way of an artificial intelligence program developed by Artificial-Life, Inc. Caesar may answer your questions and even display a website with more information .

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Gaius Julius Caesar was assassinated on the Ides of March, 44 B.C. At that time, Rome was still a republic. There were no emperors or Christians. The Colloseum had not yet been constructed. Octavian, his heir and the future Augustus, was still an unmarried boy of nineteen studying rhetoric in Greece. Agrippa, Octavian's childhood friend, had not yet commanded a fleet. Caesarion, Caesar's son by Cleopatra, still lived as coruler of Egypt with his mother.

Although Caesar studied classical history and rhetoric, as a Roman patrician, Caesar's education would not have included indepth studies of ancient tribal groups who exerted little political or military power from a Roman perspective.

To preserve Caesar's cultural context, I have concentrated on restoring the memories Caesar held during his lifetime. Therefore, he will have no knowledge of modern civilizations, people that were born after his death, or events that occurred after his assassination. His characterization is based on his portrayal in Colleen McCullough's "Masters of Rome" series ofRoman matron novels.

Caesar's memory is based on a java application. Visitors with a MacIntosh computer must use either Internet Explorer version 4.x or newer or Netscape version 4.7 or newer. Otherwise, he will simply tell you he knows nothing about your topic. Visitors with Windows computers may use either Internet Explorer or Netscape versions 4.x or newer.

Caesar is very much a work in progress so please be patient if his memory is a little sketchy right now. For those of you who might be interested in the steps I go through to "refresh" Caesar's memory, here is a "brief" description. The artificial intelligence program that Caesar uses is based on Natural Language pattern recognition which uses a combination of subject and keyword patterns with synonym filters and activation levels. I usually begin by composing a generic answer that would be suitable for the most frequently asked questions about a particular topic then work my way backwards to more specific answers.

For example, if you ask him what he thinks of Pompey the Great, he will reply with a general assessment of his talents and personality. I trigger this remark with a simple wildcard under the subject heading Pompey which tells the program to activate this response if the word Pompey is used in any question and is not superseded by any other pattern matches or responses with a higher activation level. If you ask Caesar how he defeated Pompey at the battle of Pharsalus he will reply differently because I have targeted the keyword "defeat" in combination with "Pompey" and prepared a different response (displaying a different web page as well). If Caesar had had multiple confrontations with Pompey I would have also used Pharsalus but it was the climactic confrontation so I don't include it to keep the script as streamlined as possible.

Activation levels are established by considering the specificity of the topic. For example, the topic "Romans" may have an activation level of 3000. Politicians, a subset of Romans, may be assigned an activation level of 4000. Pompey is a specific Roman politician so his activation level may be set to 5000. Prioritizing topics like this helps to ensure a more accurate response. For example, if someone asked Caesar "What did you think of Pompey as a politician?" I would want Caesar to answer with a response specific to Pompey not with a more generic response about Roman politicians in general.

I also must evaluate possible synonyms. In Pompey's case I must add Pompeius and Magnus to the synonym filters in case someone asks the question using Pompey's formal name or cognomen. I also try to anticipate common misspellings. The program also cannot match contractions so I must add the possesive of Pompey to the filter table as well. One thing I discovered by studying the conversation logs of interactions with visitors who speak British English is that I needed to add filters for the British spellings of such keywords as color (colour) and favorite (favourite) . In developing his responses, I try to include his actual words whenever possible. For example, in his response about the Gauls, I use an opinion that he stated in his commentaries on the Gallic Wars. In selecting web pages to display, I also review dozens of web pages trying to find a page as specific to the topic as possible with reasonable credentials.

To help control the enormity of the task of recreating his knowledge about not only events and people but a myriad of ancient cultures he encountered, I try to keep Caesar's context in the timeframe of his lifetime. Therefore, I usually do not include information about emperors that reigned after his death or events that occurred after 44 B.C. Likewise, the other day someone asked him about the biblical Sampson. Although Sampson lived before Caesar, the chance that Caesar would study the history of an (in Caesar's viewpoint) insignificant tribe would be slim. Therefore I develop responses that try to steer the questions back to the appropriate context. I have just started to include sections in response to Latin phrases. I'm afraid it has been years since I have studied Latin so I'm pretty rusty. At present, he has a response to "veni, vedi, vici" but few others.

I truly hope Caesar will be a collaborative learning project and other history enthusiasts will help me rebuild his memories by conversing with Caesar (I study the resulting conversation logs) or sending me suggested questions, replies, and web page references. Suggestions may be sent to: mharrsch@oregon.uoregon.edu.

In addition to McCullough's novels, I also enjoyed "Memoirs of Cleopatra" by Margaret George, reading Caesar's own commentaries and Plutarch's biographies of significant Roman figures (including Caesar) on the Internet Classics Archives, "The Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome" by Lesley and Ray Adkins, "Caesar" by Christian Meier, and "Cleopatra" by Ernle Bradford as well as the PBS presentation of "I, Claudius" adapted from the works of Robert Graves.

Surprisingly, with the exception of a number of dramatizations of William Shakespeare's play "Julius Caesar", there have been few major film productions depicting the more positive aspects of the Roman world. I assume this stems from the significant influence of Christianity in American culture. The Romans were portrayed mostly as villains in the productions I remember from my childhood such as "The Greatest Story Ever Told ", "The Robe", "The Silver Chalice","Demetrius and the Gladiators", "Ben Hur", and "Spartacus" as well as the television productions of "A.D." and "Massada". Caesar was a sympathetic figure in "Cleopatra" but Marc Antony was portrayed as a lovesick lush even though history tells us that, though he lacked the military genius of Caesar, he was a courageous officer and truly devastated by the loss of his commander, kinsman, and friend. Even though I enjoyed "I, Claudius", it too concentrated primarily on the villainous side of Roman power and politics.

I think the Romans were no more corrupted by power than many other civilizations throughout history including our own. The Ptolemy dynasty in Egypt was frought with patricide and fratricide. Some historians suspect Alexander the Great may have had a part in the assassination of his own father, Philip of Macedonia (although most blame it on the intrigues of his mother Olympias.)

I do not excuse the brutality of Roman entertainment but doesn't our own entertainment reflect a passion for the paramount struggle of life and death? Fortunately, we have the technology to depict it without actual loss of life. If anything, I think this aspect of their culture reveals their esteem for courage, bravery, and fortune (at least before the games were subverted for politically-sanctioned genocide near the end of the Empire) with the participation in an actual life and death struggle the ultimate expression of an individual's worth. Roman consuls like Marius and Caesar were wildly popular with the average Roman citizen because they had forged their careers in the flames of brutal, physical conflict, not strictly political intrigue (although they engaged in it as well), and demonstrated repeatedly their willingness to offer the supreme sacrifice.

I would be interested in any further information about prophesies relating to Marius and Caesar (Plutarch notes the importance of the Syrian prophetess, Martha, to Gaius Marius but does not give any hint as to the content of any actual prophesies although McCullough's vision of probable prophecies certainly would have fit well with the historical events). I am also interested in any ancient references to Caesar's appartion appearing to both Octavian and Brutus the night before the battle of Phillipi. Plutarch refers to the appartion as an "evil spirit" but does not identify it as Caesar.

I hope you enjoy your encounter with my "virtual" Caesar. The image of Caesar was derived from a graphic of a marble bust of him that I colorized with Photoshop then loaded into a program called Digital Faceworks which enabled me to apply an animation template to his features and generate various expressions. His artificial intelligence SmartEngine is based on Natural Language pattern recognition originally developed at M.I.T. back in the '60s. He is similar in ability to the familiar "Ask Jeeves" search assistant. If you have favorite web sites depicting Roman culture, I would appreciate hearing about them so I may incorporate them into his "consciousness."

Another website you may find interesting is Fantastic Rome, an annotated bibliography of SF/Fantasy novels and short stories featuring Ancient Rome and the Fictional Rome database. Caroline Lawrence has written a series of detective stories for young readers set in ancient Rome. They are also included in this list of other books about ancient Rome written for young readers.

Other works I have in progress include an illustrated and annotated ebook of Plutarch's biography of Caesar in Microsoft Reader format.

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Last revised: 3/14/01