Political Perception, Conspiracies and Violence

On this day in 44 BC, a conspiratorial group of self-titled “Liberators” stab Julius Caesar to death in a location adjacent to the Theatre of Pompey on the Ides of March. Caesar, the dictator of the Roman Republic, had recently been declared such “in perpetuo” by the Senate of the Roman Republic.

This ascension and perceived slights and jealousies made several senators fear Caesar wanted to overthrow the Senate in favor of tyranny. The conspirators were unable to restore the Roman Republic, and the ramifications of the assassination led to the Liberators’ civil war and ultimately to the Principate period of the Roman Empire.

On the date and time in question, according to Plutarch, as Caesar arrived at the Senate, Lucius Tillius Cimber presented him with a petition to recall his exiled brother. The other conspirators crowded round to offer their support. Both Plutarch and Suetonius say that Caesar waved him away, but Cimber grabbed Caesar’s shoulders and pulled down Caesar’s toga. Caesar then cried to Cimber, “Why, this is violence!” (“Ista quidem vis est!”). At the same time, Casca produced his dagger and made a glancing thrust at the dictator’s neck. Caesar turned around quickly and caught Casca by the arm. According to Plutarch, he said in Latin, “Casca, you villain, what are you doing?” Casca, frightened, shouted “Help, brother!” in Greek (“ἄδελφε, βοηθεῖ”, “adelphe, boethei”).

Within moments, the entire venal group, including Brutus, were stabbing the dictator. Caesar attempted to get away, but, blinded by blood in his eyes, he tripped and fell; the men continued stabbing him as he lay defenseless on the lower steps of the portico. According to Eutropius, sixty or more men participated in the assassination. Caesar was stabbed 23 times.

Suetonius relates that a physician who performed an autopsy on Caesar established that only one wound, the second one to his chest that pierced his aorta, had been fatal. This autopsy report, the earliest known postmortem report in history, describes that Caesar’s death was mostly attributable to blood loss from his stab wounds.

The result unforeseen by Caeser’s assassins was that his death precipitated the end of the Roman Republic, not entirely dissimilar from a more foreseeable, disastrous consequence visiting some modern-day Republicans.

Author: Bill Urich

A tail-end baby-boomer, Bill Urich was born in Cleveland to a grade school teacher and her Navy vet husband, and reared in Greater Detroit. Working his way through school primarily at night, Mr. Urich holds a Bachelor’s in Journalism, Phi Beta Kappa, and a Juris Doctorate from Wayne State University. In his legal career he has acted as an assistant state prosecutor, city attorney, special prosecutor, mediator, magistrate, private practitioner and mayor of Royal Oak, a large home-rule city in Michigan. Mr. Urich continues in private practice and municipal prosecution, is on faculty to DePaul University, pens regular contributions to political publications, and remains active in selected campaigns and causes related to labor, social and criminal justice. A father of three mostly-grown sons, he spends his precious free time on family, friends, the pursuit of happiness, beauty and truth, three rescue cats, and fronting the rock band Calcutta Rugs from behind the drum kit.

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