Saturday, 30 July 2005

The assassination of Julius Caesar



On the 15th March 44 B.C (Ides of March), Julius Caesar was assassinated. Suetonius, not surprisingly, gives us a detailed account of those events.

"As soon as Caesar took his seat the conspirators crowded around him as if to pay their respects. Tillius Cimber, who had taken the lead, came up close, pretending to ask a question. Caesar made a gesture of postponment, but Cimber caught hold of his shoulders. 'This is violence!' Caesar cried, and at that moment, as he turned away, one of the Casca brothers with a sweep of his dagger stabbed him just below the throat. Caesar grasped Casca's arm and ran it through with his stylus; he was leaping away when another dagger blow stopped him. Confronted by a ring of drawn daggers, he drew the top of his gown over his face and at the same time ungirded the lower part, letting it fall to his feet so that he would die with both legs decently covered. Twenty-three dagger thrusts went home as he stood there. Caesar did not utter a sound after Casca's blow had drawn a groan from him; though some say that when he saw Marcus Brutus about to deliver the second blow, he reproached him in Greek with: 'You too my child?'
The entire Senate then dispersed in confusion and Caesar was left lying dead for some time until three slave boys carried him home in a litter, with one arm hanging over the side."

10 comments:

orangeguru said...

Bloody traitors!

Alterior said...

I know, it is so horrible. I watched a film on tv the other night about him and when it showed the assassination scene I cried and cried...couldn't stop crying. They just kept stabbing him and stabbing him. What a terrible way to go. Betrayal is horrendous..

Light said...

His assassination was the best thing that could've happened to him.

Had he not been killed, before too long he would have been just another Marius or Sulla. His early death coupled with his rapid rise to power has meant he, like Alexander, is still regarded as a legend.

Alterior said...

So, you reckon Octavian was better than Caesar?

James O said...

Have you read Christian Parenti's book with the same name as your post? It sites Ceaser's murder within the political struggles of the late Republic. In his interpretation Ceaser's murder was the assassination of a popularis who represented the common people by the representatives of Rome's ruling class.

Also:

'Infamy, infamy, they've all got it in for me'

Alterior said...

Yes, I have read Michael Parenti's book which poses a very interesting viewpoint. Yes, I believe Rome's ruling class were not too hapopy with Caesar who did not cater specifically for their interests alone, as they would have liked him to have done. I think the Principate that Octavian (Augustus) set up was disastrous in many respects, even though it led to the Roman Peace...

James O said...

I think the distinction between Ceaser and Augustus is that, while both were seeking to preserve Rome's great power status, and the existing balance of class power within Rome, Ceaser attempted to do this through reform and empowering the plebians against the nobility, whereas Augustus bought off the common people with 'bread and circuses' and left Rome's social structure unchanged. Augustus' achievement was to preserve the existing power of Rome's ruling class whilst at the same time permitting the entry of the 'new men' who had been excluded from power by the Republican aristocracy.

There's been some good left-wing Roman history written recently along with Parenti's book, there's Therese Urbanzyck's 'Spartacus' and Neil Faulkners' 'Apocalypse' and 'The Decline and Fall of Roman Britain'. Theyre worth reading.

Alterior said...

Thanks for telling me about those books. I will try and get them on Saturday.
As for your views on Augustus, I agree with you one-hundred percent.

Light said...

Octavian was a much better politician than Caesar; he was also aware of his weaknesses and not afraid to rely on his friends to compensate (I'm thinking particularly of his appalling soldiering skills, and his reliance on Agrippa in this area).

Basically, I view Octavian on a par with Henry VII; not an innovator, but a very necessary ruler at a time of chaos in that he brought stability.

Cato said...

Caesar was without doubt one of the greatest politicians and generals who ever lived. But he was never a liberal reformer. He was a hardened cynic who lusted for power and would stop at nothing - violence, murder, war, theft, bribery, adultery - to become the leading man in Rome. He was a hardened cynic who fostered mob violence and electoral bribery in Rome and undermined the freedoms and checks and balances of the ancient Roman Republic at every step of his long political career. Abroad, he misused his governorship in Spain, used mob violence to suppress opposition to his consulship in 59BC in Rome, recruited additional armies without authority and launched an illegal and genocidal war in Gaul. Marching on Rome from Gaul, he ransacked the Treasury after seizing the city and, having defeated his great rival Pompey and the conservative senatorial faction, he set himself up as Dictator In Perpetuum ("dictator for life"). Before his assassination, he had his statue carried in religious processions alongside those of the pagan gods, and placed another statue of himself in the chamber of the old kings of Rome. His deputy Mark Antony became priest of a religious cult dedicated to Caesar's own person. To paraphrase a later emperor, Caesar was slowly turning himself into a god-king. This is not the career of a liberal reformer.