This week in history: Julius Caesar murdered

15 March 2015

By Pan Macmillan

15 March 44 BC: Julius Caesar mudered

Emerging victorious from the civil war that raged from 49-45 BC, Caesar had made himself consul and dictator of the Rome, a position he claimed for life in 44 BC. Worried about his ever-increasing autocracy, a group of disgruntled, aristocratic senators, led by Cassius and Caesar’s own protege, Brutus, plotted to assassinate him. Supposedly warned by a soothsayer ‘to take heed of the day of the Ides of March’, Caesar met his death on that day, 15 March, in the senate house. The bloody circumstances of his murder were later set down by the Roman historian, Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus.

In his book The Twelve Caesars, Suetonius wrote that:

‘As he took his seat, the conspirators gathered about him as if to pay their respects, and straightway Tillius Cimber, who had assumed the lead, came nearer as though to ask something. When Caesar with a gesture put him off to another time, Cimber caught his toga by both shoulders. As Caesar cried, 'Why, this is violence!', one of the Cascas stabbed him from one side just below the throat. Caesar caught Casca's arm and ran it through with his stylus, but as he tried to leap to his feet, he was stopped by another wound. When he saw that he was beset on every side by drawn daggers, he muffled his head in his robe, and at the same time drew down its lap to his feet with his left hand, in order to fall more decently, with the lower part of his body also covered. And in this wise he was stabbed with three and twenty wounds, uttering not a word, but merely a groan at the first stroke, though some have written that when Marcus Brutus rushed at him, he said in Greek, 'You too, my child?’

All the conspirators made off, and he lay there lifeless for some time, until finally three common slaves put him on a litter and carried him home, with one arm hanging down. And of so many wounds none, in the opinion of the physician Antistius, would have proved mortal except the second one in the breast.’