Et Tu Brute?: The Assassination of Julius Caesar

Beware the Ides of March!

That’s what old dears in the shops would be murmuring at me anyway while I wait to pay for my Monster Munch’s (mmmmmm)

On a more important note..Ides of March..that was pretty important to Romans.The Ides of March is a day on the Roman calendar that corresponds to 15 March. It was marked by several religious observances and became notorious as the date of the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BC.

The Ides of March is kind of like our more modern VE Day in Europe when the Allies officially won WWII and the German dictator Adolf Hitler committed suicide. Rome’s dictator, Julius Caesar did not commit suicide however, he was brutally assassinated.

The Attack

caesar assassination funny

When your peeps get organised…it’s hard to stop them!

“The Senate rose in respect for his position when they saw him entering. Those who were to have part in the plot stood near him. Right next to him went Tillius Cimber, whose brother had been exiled by Caesar. Under pretext of a humble request on behalf of this brother, Cimber approached and grasped the mantle of his toga, seeming to want to make a more positive move with his hands upon Caesar. Caesar wanted to get up and use his hands, but was prevented by Cimber and became exceedingly annoyed.

That was the moment for the men to set to work. All quickly unsheathed their daggers and rushed at him. First Servilius Casca struck him with the point of the blade on the left shoulder a little above the collar-bone. He had been aiming for that, but in the excitement he missed. Caesar rose to defend himself, and in the uproar Casca shouted out in Greek to his brother. The latter heard him and drove his sword into the ribs. After a moment, Cassius made a slash at his face, and Decimus Brutus pierced him in the side. While Cassius Longinus was trying to give him another blow he missed and struck Marcus Brutus on the hand. Minucius also hit out at Caesar and hit Rubrius in the thigh. They were just like men doing battle against him.

caesar killed

Under the mass of wounds, he fell at the foot of Pompey’s statue. Everyone wanted to seem to have had some part in the murder, and there was not one of them who failed to strike his body as it lay there, until, wounded thirty-five times, he breathed his last. ”

ceasr death

Check out the HBO series Rome‘s version here

Et Tu Brute?

In terms of famous last words, Julius Caesar’s supposed “Et tu, Brute?” may be the most well known of any in history. For context, William Shakespeare would have us believe, Julius Caesar, in his final moments called out: “Et tu, Brute? Then fall Caesar!” to his longtime friend Marcus Junius Brutus, prior to succumbing to stab wounds inflicted by Brutus and co-conspirators in the Senate house.

Shakespeare’s rendition of Caesar’s last words has received popular canonization – entering the vernacular alongside other literary imports from Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Julius Caesar such as “Beware the Ides of march!”, “Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war!”, “Friends, Romans, countrymen lend me your ears!” and “Sic Semper Tyrannis!”

As Caesar professed to love Brutus as a son, and had been Brutus’ political sponsor, “Et tu, Brute?” has become a popular literary trope expressing shock at the betrayal of an ally. Popular reception notwithstanding, however, “Et tu, Brute? Then fall Caesar!” is one Shakespearean exclamation that should provoke historical indignation. According to the Roman Historians Plutarch and Suetonius, the former of whom wrote “Life of Caesar” and “Life of Brutus”, the inspiration for The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, these famous words are a historical fiction.

The Aftermath of Caesar’s Death

A bitter power struggle broke out after his death, which led to the end of the Roman Republic. Caesar had been popular with the middle and lower classes, who became angry that he had been killed by a small number of aristocrats. They turned into a mob at Caesar’s funeral and attacked the homes of Brutus and Cassius.

Caesar’s heir Gaius Octavian, who was his great-grand nephew, played on this discontent and raised an army to fight the troops gathered by Brutus and Cassius.

The 18-year-old initially worked with Marc Antony to defeat this army. He then had to fight Antony who had teamed up with Cleopatra to make Egypt a base from which to take over Rome. They were defeated and Octavian became the first Roman emperor, taking the name Augustus.

On 1 January 42 BC, Caesar became the first historical Roman to be deified, being granted the title ‘the divine Julius’ posthumously by the Senate.

For more on Julius Caesar be sure to check out my blog “Imperator: Life of Julius Caesar”

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