This week in history: The assassination of Julius Caesar

By Cody Carlson

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, March 12 2013 4:30 p.m. MDT

Eventually, Caesar emerged triumphant in the civil war, and Pompey was murdered while seeking asylum in Egypt. Most of the senators returned to Rome, with the promise that Caesar would exact no reprisals upon them. With his domination over the city and the Senate complete, Caesar eventually was given the title of perpetual dictator, though he was careful to reject the offer of a crown when publicly offered. As much as Romans may have loved Caesar, the one thing they could not abide was the thought of a king.

Many senators secretly despised Caesar, believing that he had destroyed the republic through his actions. Marcus Junius Brutus had been a senator and friend to Caesar for years, though he had sided against him when Caesar marched on Rome. He had taken Caesar's amnesty when he returned to Rome, though his convictions demanded he continue to oppose Caesar secretly.

Writing in the 1st century A.D., the Roman historian Suetonius tells us Caesar had been warned by an augur named Spurinna that a great danger would befall him by the Ides of March. On that day he said condescendingly to the prophet, “The Ides of March have come.” To which Spurinna replied, “Yes, they have come, but they have not yet gone.”

Suetonius goes on to describe the assassination on the floor of the Senate: “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 postponement, 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 ….”

The conspirators then leaped upon Caesar and plunged their daggers down as well. Suetonius states that there were 23 dagger wounds in all upon the dictator, and then wrote: “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 death of Caesar only ushered in a new series of civil wars between the conspirators and those loyal to the memory of Caesar, notably Mark Antony and Caesar's adopted son, Octavian. Eventually Antony and Octavian would fight each other, and upon his victory Octavian would proclaim himself Augustus and usher in the period of the Roman Empire. The day of the Roman Republic as it had been was over.

Cody K. Carlson holds a master's degree in history from the University of Utah and currently teaches at Salt Lake Community College. He is also the co-developer of the History Challenge iPhone/iPad apps. Email: ckcarlson76@gmail.com

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