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The Assassination of Julius Caesar

60 second histories
by: Squaducation date: 15 Mar

Power always does funny things to people. The struggle for power and democracy has thrown up extraordinary events and the 15th March 44BC is one of the best remembered.

At the age of 55 Julius Caesar was the most powerful man in the civilised world. Having defeated Pompey, amongst others, he had been a dictator for 5 years. However this brought resentment from many in the senate and a warning from the auger Spurinna to “Beware the Ides of March.” Caesar himself was well aware of the threats from the senators but was so sure of his position and so certain of the respect and awe in which he was held that he had even dismissed his Spanish bodyguards.

On the morning of the 15th he was ready to go to the senate but his friends were alarmed at the rumours and tried to stop him going. His wife, Calpurnia, begged him not to go and held him back referring to visions she had in a dream. Even Caesar’s doctor thought he should not go as he was suffering from a bout of dizziness, of which he was prone. His great friend Brutus changed his mind. “Are you a man to pay attention to a woman’s dreams and idle gossip of stupid men and to insult the senate by not going out? They have been in session waiting for you.”

Thus by mid-morning he had set off. He saw Spurinna and said “The Ides have come!” Spurinna replied prophetically, “Yes, but they have not gone.” He was handed a note on which details of the plot were written. He never had the chance to read it. When he entered the Senate the senators rose in respect when they saw him.

At this point Tillius Cimber, whose brother had been exiled by Caesar, approached with a request from his brother. He grasped the mantle of his toga and spoke to Caesar who himself wanted to get up to speak to Cimber but was prevented from doing so. Caesar became annoyed and at this stage the conspirators unsheathed their daggers and rushed at Caesar. Sevillius Casca aimed to strike him on the left shoulder above the collar bone but missed. Casca then shouted in Greek to his brother who drove his sword into Caesar’s ribs. Cassius slashed at his face and Decimus Brutus pierced him in the side. Cassius tried again but succeeded only in catching Marcus Brutus on the hand. Minucius hit at Caesar and caught Rubrius in the thigh. Caesar fell at the statue of his old friend, rival and son-in-law Pompey. He had covered his head and feet with his toga. Everyone then had a go at him and he received 23 blows. His last words it seems were not as has often been said but could have been “You too, Child” referring to Brutus betraying him. The Roman historian Suetonius, on the other hand, thought he said nothing as did the Greek historian Plutarch. The blow that killed him was one to the chest and Brutus caught him in the groin.

The majority of conspirators fled as the public were not impressed with what they had done. Most were dead within 3 years and Brutus himself committed suicide.  In Dante’s picture of Hell he is seen in the lowest circle along with Judas hanging from Satan’s mouth. Caesar’s adopted son, his great nephew Octavian, took over and became Augustus – the first Roman Emperor. Caesar had changed the world. The corrupt and incompetent government had been replaced with one that lasted 500 years in the West and nearly 1500 in the East.

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