Throwback Photo: The Gruesome Murder Of The Roman Emperor, Julius Caesar
Here is a throwback photo that explains the gruesome murder of the Roman Emperor, Julius Caesar.
Long before the day he was assassinated, Caesar had been warned by a soothsayer named Spurinna that the Ides of March (March 15 on the Roman calendar) held great danger for him.
On that day in 44 B.C. Caesar’s wife Calpurnia, troubled by the prophecy and by a nightmare in which she saw her husband murdered, urged him to cancel a scheduled meeting of the Senate and stay home instead.
The painting is “The Death of Caesar” by Vincenzo Camuccini (1804).
Caesar had agreed to do so, until Decimus Brutus, one of the senators conspiring to murder him, convinced him to go forward with the meeting. On his way there Caesar encountered Spurinna and remarked, “Well, the Ides of March are come.” “Yes, Caesar,” Spurinna is said to have answered, “come, but not yet gone.”
Caesar, who had been declared Rome’s dictator for life the previous year, entered the Senate Meeting Room in the Pompey Theater at about 11:30 a.m. and took his seat, unaware that among the hundreds of senators assembled there that morning, there were about 50 who were conspiring to murder him.
The conspirators, who called themselves “the Liberators,” believed Caesar to be a tyrant, feared his ever-increasing power, and were convinced that he was planning to declare himself King of Rome. For the sake of the Republic, they had resolved to assassinate him.
After Caesar was seated, Lucius Tillius Cimber approached him, purportedly to present a petition. When Caesar waved him away, Cimber reached out and pulled down Caesar’s toga, exposing his neck. It was a prearranged signal to attack.
The conspirators suddenly rushed in, drawing daggers from beneath their togas. They pounced on Caesar, who shouted in surprise, “This is violence!” He rose and grabbed Casca, one of the men stabbing at him and cried out, “Casca you villain, what are you doing?” As the daggers of the other assassins began to find their target, those may have been his last words.
The historian Suetonius reports that as Caesar was being stabbed repeatedly, he pulled his robe over his head to shield his face and fell to the floor with a groan. By other accounts, upon seeing his friend Marcus Junius Brutus among the assassins, Caesar said, “You too, my child?” (Immortalized by Shakespeare as “Et tu, Brute?”) Either way, stabbed 23 times, Julius Caesar bled to death on the floor at the feet of his assassins, while the rest of the Senate fled in panic.
In the aftermath of the assassination, Rome was plunged into civil war. Instead of being regarded as heroes, as they had hoped and expected, the “Liberators” were vilified, particularly by the Roman lower classes, with whom Caesar had been very popular. Within two years, nearly all of them were exiled or dead. And perhaps ironically, after Caesar’s chosen heir Octavian emerged victorious in the civil wars, he was given the title “Augustus,” and he became the first Roman Emperor.