What Does Caesar’s Wife Must Be Above Suspicion Mean?

Caesar’s Wife Must Be Above Suspicion Meaning

Definition: People associated with public figures must not be suspected of being a part of any wrongdoing.

This expression is a complete sentence by itself. It has been interpreted in several different ways, but most often it means that people associated with public figures cannot do anything that would shame that public figure.

In another interpretation, it has also meant that people who are associated with public figures cannot be held responsible for things those public figures do.

However, the phrase may also be used to refer to women. In this case, the phrase means that women cannot be held responsible for what their husbands do. Therefore, women must be “above suspicion” for anything their husbands (or other men around them) are responsible.

Either way, this phrase teaches that people must be responsible for their own actions, and people around them cannot be held responsible for those actions they did not commit. It also teaches that people in positions of power must wield that power responsibly and not commit any wrongdoings.

Origin of Caesar’s Wife Must Be Above Suspicion

famous quotes about caesarThis phrase comes directly from a story about the Roman ruler Julius Caesar.

A man named Publius Clodius Pulcher sneaked into a party with the intention of seducing Caesar’s wife, Pompeia. This led to Publius’s arrest and trial.

After the trial, Caesar divorced Pompeia. When people questioned what this might have had to do with the trial of Publius, Caesar said,

  • “My wife ought not even to be under suspicion.”

Because Pompeia was under suspicion of illicit behavior, Caesar felt that he had to divorce her to protect his dignity.

This origin story fits with one of the ways the phrase is used today. Over time, however, the phrase has come to mean many different things, some of which are unrelated to Caesar’s original interpretation.

Examples of Caesar’s Wife Must Be Above Suspicion

meaning of caesar's wife must be above suspicionSomeone might say that a governor and his wife must not be in office anymore after the wife has done something reproachful.

It could be said,

  • The governor’s wife must be above suspicion, so they must not be in office anymore.

More Examples

  • The theme of the narrative is prompted by Lady Little likening her husband to Coesar because he insists on the death penalty for a man, and therefore, following Lady Little’s flirtation with Ronald Perry, Sir Arthur tells his wife that she, like Caesar’s wife, must be above suspicion. –New York Times

Summary

The phrase caesar’s wife must be above suspicion can mean a variety of different things.