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The real death of Julius Caesar: 23 cuts and two wounded assassins

by Team Techvilly
The real death of Julius Caesar: 23 cuts and two wounded assassins

Far from being theatrical, the Roman dictator defended himself from the attack of the senators with an awl and managed to wound Marco Brutus, the most emblematic member of the conspiracy, in the thigh

Casca stabs Julius Caesar in the neck, and the others join him in the action, finishing with Brutus. Caesar then says: “Et tu, Bruté?”, which translates to “And you, Brutus?” “You too, Brutus? –. This is how William Shakespeare –inspired by the version of the historian Suetonius– stages the death of the Roman dictator and the final stab wound of Marcus June Brutus , son of Servilia (lover of Caesar), in one of his most famous tragic works. However, any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental. After receiving 23 wounds, although paradoxically only one of them was fatal, it seems unlikely that he still had the strength to launch such a theatrical quote. On the contrary, Caesar managed to defend himself for a few seconds and wounded Brutus in the thigh with an awl . Already mortally wounded, he covered his face with his robe in a last attempt to dignify his appearance.

Born on July 13, 100 BC. C, Gaius Julius Caesar had a much more conventional political career than has traditionally always been considered. After the death of the dictator Sulla, who was suspicious of Julius Caesar because of his family ties with Gaius Mario , the young patrician practiced law for a time and went through different political positions. In 70 BC, Caesar served as quaestor in the province of Hispania and later as curule aedile in Rome. Given to go into debt to gain the sympathy of the people, Julius Caesar’s generosity became famous in the city and allowed him to be elected praetor urbanus in 63 BC by obtaining more votes than the rest of the candidates for the praeture. His political career, not in vain,he made a definitive leap when he was elected consul thanks to the support of his two political allies – Gnaeus Pompey Magnus and  Marcus Licinius Crassus – the men with whom Caesar formed the so-called  First Triumvirate . At the end of the consulate, he was appointed proconsul of the provinces of Transalpine Gaul, Illyria and Cisalpine Gaul, from where he returned as a great military hero who had managed to subdue the Gallic peoples.

The end of the Triumvirate gives start to the civil war

Crassus’s death in a disastrous campaign against the Parthian Empire shattered the Triumvirate and pitted Pompey against Caesar. After a civil war that lasted four years, César returned victorious to Rome at the end of July 46 a. The total victory of his faction gave Caesar enormous power, and the Senate was quick to legitimize his position by appointing him dictator for the third time in 46 BC. C. for an unprecedented term of ten years. The benevolence shown by the dictator, who not only spared the lives of most of the senators who had opposed him during the war but even gave them political posts, was revealed over time as a major political mistake. Most of the 60 senators implicated in his assassination had previously been granted amnesty by the dictator.

Marcus Junius Brutus , nephew of  Cato “The Younger” , had fought alongside Caesar in Gaul –who was linked by friendship and a delicate kinship, his mother was the dictator’s lover– and later against him during the civil war. For his part,  Gaius Cassius Longinus , perhaps the main leader of the conspiracy, served as his legate after first fighting on the side of Pompey. Another conspirator,  Gaius Trebonius , had served for many years in Julius Caesar’s high command in the Gaul campaigns. Neither gratitude nor friendship dissuaded the conspirators from their intentions, who claimed to have killed the tyrant to safeguard the Republic ., and yet they only managed to hasten the downfall of an institution that had been floundering for a century. His end was in sight since Hannibal’s final defeat  had required seeking internal enemies.

But beyond the political issues, which had as a background the struggle between different families of the aristocracy, the assassination of the dictator hid a symbolic factor. Julius Caesar claimed descent from the Kings of Alba Longa – a city absorbed by Rome shortly after its foundation – and for this reason he used to wear a long-sleeved tunic and red leather half-calf boots. For his part, Brutus belonged to the lineage of Lucius June Brutus , who around the year 509 BC ended the last king of Rome, Tarquinius “The Proud” ., although certainly among many of his contemporaries there were doubts that the statement was true. The image of a group of senators finishing off the man who supposedly aspired to become king, the tyrant, prompted the most hesitant conspirators to commit assassination, in addition to conquering the imagination of Shakespeare .

The day of the assassination: “Beware of the ides!”

The day before the murder, the wife of César Calpurnia Pisonis had supposedly had a nightmare in which she realized that her husband had been murdered. Since Calpurnia was not given to superstition, it is said that the dictator relented to stay at home and sent a message to the Senate to inform them that ill health prevented him from leaving his home to conduct any public business. However, Tenth Brutus –another of the conspirators– finally managed to convince Caesar to go to the chamber, since in a few days he was going to be absent from the country and he had to leave political affairs conveniently tied. It has also been considered, according to tradition, that the Greek teacher Artemidorusdelivered a manuscript to Caesar at the door of the Senate warning him of the conspiracy, but he did not get to open it in time.

Until the beginning of the year 44 BC, Caesar had also had the protection of an escort of Hispanic auxiliaries, but he had discharged them as a demonstration of political normality as soon as the Senate approved taking an oath of allegiance to him. On March 15 of that year he went to the Senate with no more protection than the company of his closest collaborators. Once inside the public building, the conspirators took it upon themselves to take Marco Antonio to a secluded place. The assassins were aware that Antony, in addition to being faithful to Caesar, was a corpulent man and given to fits of rage . Before the senatorial meeting began, the conspirators huddled around the dictator, pretending to ask him for various favors .Lucius Tilio Címber , who had served under Caesar, demanded that he forgive his brother who was in exile. As the Roman dictator tried to calm the group, Cymber pulled Caesar’s toga and showed his bare shoulder: it was the agreed signal. Casca drew the dagger from him and stabbed him , but was only able to scratch the dictator’s neck. According to some accounts, Caesar grabbed Casca’s arms and grappled with him, trying to deflect the dagger.

Marcus Brutus was one of the last to stab Caesar, with a wound to the groin

The Roman general not only defended himself for a few seconds from the attacks, but was able to take out a sharp style (an awl) and wound several men, at least two, including Brutus in the thigh. After Casio’s attack, the other conspirators joined the fight, giving Caesar numerous thrusts and slashes . Only two senators present tried to help the dictator, but they could not break through. Without it being possible to verify, since the sources present different versions, Marcus Brutus was one of the last to stab Caesar , with a wound in the groin, and to whom he would have addressed the famous “you too my son”. With 23 stab wounds in his body -although only one really deadly-,Julius Caesar covered his head with his purple tunic in a last effort to maintain dignity and collapsed next to the pedestal of the statue of Pompey, his once greatest rival.

Panic spread through the room, the senators who did not have blood on their clothes fled the place immediately. For a time, all of Rome was stunned without deciding if this was the beginning of a new civil war or the origin of the celebrations for the death of a tyrant. Antony met with the conspirators in private and obtained permission for Caesar to have a public funeral in the Forum . In line with the famous speech that Shakespeare put into the mouth of Antony in his drama, Caesar’s loyal friend took advantage of the act to extol the virtues of the late dictator, while launching veiled reproaches at the conspirators, “the most honorable men ». The culminating moment of the funeral came when Antonio read César’s will aloud., which included the donation of extensive gardens along the Tiber to the people of Rome and a cash gift to all citizens. After the announcement there were riots and attacks on the homes of the conspirators. Paradoxically, the loyal supporter of the dictator Helvio Cinna was assassinated that day by the mob who mistook him for one of the conspirators, Cornelio Cinna .

Since the will was made public, Julius Caesar’s great-nephew Octavius , aged 18, assumed the role of adopted son of the dictator and changed his name to Gaius Julius Caesar Octavius . At first he fought alongside the Senate and several of the conspirators against Antony, who soon drew to his side the legions still loyal to the memory of Julius Caesar. Not surprisingly, Gaius Julius Caesar Octavian – the future Emperor Augustus – ended up joining Antony and Lepidus, another of Julius Caesar’s faithful, to form the second Triumvirate and hunt down the murderers of the Ides of March. Within three years, virtually all the conspirators were executed without even the slightest shadow of suspicion.the famous clemency of the tyrant they had worked so hard to eliminate.

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