History of Assassinations Roman Emperor Julius Caesar Part 1

About the assassination of Roman leader Julius Caesar, history and accout of the conspiracy and murder.


The Victim: GAIUS JULIUS CAESAR, consul, commander in chief, and, from Feb. 14, 44 B.C., dictator perpetuus ("dictator for life") of the Roman Republic.

The Date: Mar. 15, 44 B.C.

The Event: The conspiracy to assassinate Caesar began soon after Feb. 15, the day on which he dismissed his private bodyguard of Spanish veterans.

Caesar was due to leave Rome on Mar. 18, to conduct a war against Persia. Cleopatra was living in Rome, and there were rumors that he planned to rule the empire with her from Alexandria. Ever since December, 45 B.C., the Senate had been decreeing him extravagant honors. Many of these were provocations designed to force his hand.

Relations between Caesar and the Senate were further strained by public demonstrations in which he was hailed as king. A prophecy had been "discovered" in the national archives to the effect that only a king could conquer the Persians. It was known to be forged. His enemies claimed Caesar was responsible.

On Feb. 15, Caesar was crowned with a royal diadem at an outdoor religious festival. He refused the honor, but not before Gaius Cassius, whose position as magistrate required him to sit near Caesar, had snatched the diadem from his head. Cassius had fought for Pompey (Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus) in the recent civil war, which Caesar had won after defeating Pompey's forces.

Not long after, Caesar scheduled a meeting of the Senate for Mar. 15, ostensibly on routine business.

Cassius, who had been working to unite the opposition, persuaded his brother-in-law Marcus Brutus that Caesar's real agenda on Mar. 15 was to have himself declared king. Brutus, a strong traditionalist who held the most important Roman judgeship, agreed that assassinating Caesar was now the only honorable course.

With a respected figure like Brutus at its head, the conspiracy quickly grew to about 60 people, of whom about 20, all senators, were to do the killing. A major piece of luck was the recruiting of Decimus Brutus (a distant relative of Marcus), who was not only a former officer in Caesar's army but a friend who enjoyed the freedom of his house. The meeting of Mar. 15 seemed the ideal occasion, for they planned to transfer power immediately to the Senate. To establish collective responsibility, each assassin was to produce a dagger from his robe and stab Caesar in turn.

The night of Mar. 14 was a windy one. Caesar was awakened by the doors and windows of his bedroom blowing open. He heard his wife, Calpurnia, groaning in her sleep. When morning came, she implored him not to attend the Senate that day; she had dreamed he lay dead in her arms. Caesar, not usually superstitious, was shaken; he, too, had had strange dreams, and felt unwell.

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