THE ASSASSINATION OF JULIUS CAESAR
It is the 15th March 44 BCE and Julius Caesar has declared himself dictator for life. There are many who are unhappy with this move and are seeking to end his leadership and his life.
Caesar had led his army across the Rubicon River into northern Italy plunging the Roman Republic into a civil war. Caesars army defeated the army of his rival but not before Pompey managed to escape to Greece. Caesar chased his man down defeating his armies as he went before finally catching up with him in Egypt, well, not the man himself but his severed head, which was delivered to Caesar, instead of an extended hand of friendship, by his new ally Cleopatra. After polishing off all other rivals in North Africa Caesar returned home in a victorious mood. With all this power going to his head it is at this point he decided to announce his ruling for the entirety of his life.
All this is not going down well with no less than 60 members of the senate who decide the only way to deal with a problem like Caesar was to finish him off once and for all. At first they meet in secret. They kept it to small groups so that suspicions were not aroused.
They tossed a few ideas around between them as to what would be the best way to do it, maybe as he walked along his favorite walk? No. How about during elections when he would have to cross a narrow bridge by himself? No. Maybe during game season while a couple of Gladiators cut themselves to pieces? No. Eventually they settled on an idea, they would do it during a session of the senate. He would be vulnerable there with none of his friends to help him.
Finally it came to the big day, the Ides of March. As Caesar was getting ready for a special meeting of the senate, that he himself had called, his wife Calpurnia begs him not to leave the house. She tells Caesar she has had bad dreams and that they are omens. It falls to his protégé Brutus to convince him to leave the house. Unbeknown to Caesar, Brutus is one of the conspirators. According to Nicolaus of Damascus Brutus says to Caesar ‘what is this Caesar, are you a man to pay attention to a woman’s dreams and the idle gossip of men? The session has been waiting for you since early this morning.’
Caesar is convinced by his ‘friend’ and heads for the senate. Before he is to go in his priests bring him his sacrifices to make. The offerings do not go well and portent bad omens. They hurriedly do more sacrifices but again they do not bode well.
Caesars friends, clearly worried, beg Caesar to put the senate off to another day but again Brutus steps forward;
‘Come good sir, pay no attention to the babblings of these men and do not postpone what Caesar and his mighty powers have seen fit to arrange. Make your own courage your favourable omen’
With these words Brutus took Caesar by the right hand and Caesar followed him silently into the senate.
The senate rose to honour his position when he entered and those who were to partake in his murder stood closest to him. Tillius Cimber whose brother had been banished stood next to him.
Then it began, suddenly the protagonists drew their daggers and rushed Caesar. He received 23 stab wounds in total. Marcus Brutus was wounded in the hand during the melee. An autopsy was performed and it was discovered that only the wound to his chest would have been fatal. In fact he may have lain on the floor, at the foot of Pompeys statue, for a long time before death finally took him. If it did, in fact, take him a while to die then that would make Caesars last words according to Shakespeare ‘Et Tu Brut?’ null and void. In fact many contemporary writers did believe his dying words as ‘you too child?’ but many more including Suetonius and Plutarch wrote that he said nothing at all. After Caesars murder most of the conspirators had to flee Rome on account of public outrage. Caesar had chosen his great nephew, Octavius, to succeed him despite having a legitimate son by Cleopatra. Octavius became The Emperor Augustus.