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Roman History: Why Julius Caesar Was Assassinated Essay

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Updated: Oct 26th, 2021

Introduction

Julius Caesar was both a politician and a strong leader for the Romans, who were responsible for the changes in the history of the Greco-Roman. He was able to create a very strong ruling system with his admirable courage and strength, which made him a strong dictator. Julius Caesar’s dictatorship acted as a pivot of Rome’s transition from being a republic to an empire.

Julius Caesar was born in Rome on July 13 in 100 B.C. and died as a result of an assassination plot against him by the “liberators” in 44B.C. His father died when he was 16, and his mother brought him up. His mother was very influential in Caesar’s life. From a noble Roman man, Julius Caesar was elected in various political positions in Rome and fought many battles until he assumed the title of a dictator in 48 B.C. Julius Caesar’s generalship is considered one of the greatest military rules in the world.

He had three marriages; Cornelia Cinnila, Pompeia, and Calpurnia Pisonis.

He had two children of his own (Julia and Caesarian) and an adopted son (Octavianus) who succeeded Julius Caesar in becoming Emperor Augustus. Julius Caesar used his power to implement reforms, relieve debts, revise the calendar, build a forum, Lulium, and enlarge the senate. He was assassinated by members of his senate, well known as the “liberators’ in 44 B.C. The day of his assassination is referred to as the Ides of March (March 15) according to the Roman Calendar. Many scholars have presented different theories that explain why Julius Caesar was assassinated, and in this paper, the three sides of the argument will be discussed. This will then allow me to state the most sensible argument in my view.

Discussion

Argument 1

One argument that explains why Julius Caesar was assassinated originates from Cassius Dio’s views. In this argument, Julius Caesar’s behavior while in the Temple of Venus Genetrix justifies why the senate planned to assassinate him. Julius Caesar, during his rule had been given many honors, which included Pater Patriae (father of the fatherland), Pontifex Maximus (Highest priest) and Dictator.

These titles were bestowed on him by the senate. One day in 44 B.C., the senatorial delegation went to inform Caesar that they had given them a new honor. Upon their arrival, Caesar was in the Temple of Venus Genetrix. It was expected that Caesar stands up, but instead, he sat. The senators felt offended, and this happening seemed to increase their anger towards Caesar. However, while Caesar’s supporters stated that he had failed to stand because he had a sudden attack of diarrhea, the opponents objected and said that he had walked home unaided and could not have had the attack hence disputing this claim.

In addition to this, the argument supports Caesar’s honorary titles continued to anger the senators. At some point, a crowd had shouted to Caesar, “King.” Furthermore, Mark Anthony, a co-consul with Caesar, had attempted to place a throne on Caesar’s head, which he turned down. It was the view of some senate members as inappropriate for a mortal man to get so many honors. The senate members were not happy with Caesar’s many titles and honors that threatened to give him much great power with time. Caesar’s behavior in the temple was observed to be a result of his pride in what he had achieved. Consequently, Julius Caesar’s behavior in the Temple of Venus Genetrix and his many honors angered the liberators, who decided to hatch a plot in order to assassinate him.

Argument 2

This argument provides an opinion that Julius Caesar was not actually assassinated by his political rivals but instead passively orchestrated his own murder.

Caesar planned his murder because his epileptic attacks were increasing, and to Caesar’s view, these attacks threatened to diminish his legacy. Julius Caesar is said to have had four well known epileptic attacks, which indicated that they were complex partial seizures. The different occasions when Caesar experienced epileptic attacks include; when he was listening to an Oration by Cicero, in Corduba (Spain), near Thapsus (North Africa) and also in the senate when he was offered the Emperor’s crown. In addition to this, Caesar is said to have experienced seizures during some military campaigns.

This argument is supported by seizures that were also observed in his son Caesarion, his great–great–great grandnephews (Caligula and Britannicus). Julius Caesar’s condition of being epileptic evidence has originated from the ancient sources of Pliny, Appianus, Suetonius, and Plutarch. Julius Caesar continued to experience epileptic attacks as a ruler of the Roman Empire, which kept on increasing with time. Therefore, Caesar did not want his increasing epilepsy to damage his much respected and well-acquired legacy. This made Caesar plan his murder to look like an assassination, and it is believed that Julius Caesar engineered and welcomed his death. An investigation led by Col Luciano Garafano, a commander of Italian Carabinier’s northern Forensic investigation unit, supports this view. According to the report, Caesar was a well-prepared general who was always well informed, and it is unlikely that he didn’t know of the assassination plot. Furthermore, he ignored very relevant warnings that were earlier given to him. Examples of warnings he had received include his wife’s plea not to attend the senate due to her dreams; he ignored the priests/ soothsayer’s warning, he dismissed his bodyguard during his walk to the senate, and even ignored a warning note he had received. Some believe that he could not have ignored all these warnings unintentionally but instead knew about the plot since he had planned his murder.

Argument 3

The third argument indicates that Julius Caesar was assassinated through a plot hatched by a group of 60 senators who were led by Gaius Cassius and Marcus Julius Brutus. These senators plotted in order to ensure that Caesar’s powers that were increasing would not become very strong with time. They feared that Caesar’s power would someday enslave the Roman citizens, a possibility that they felt they could not tolerate, Julius Caesar was elected to the consulship and was nominated as a high priest of Jupiter, later becoming a strong dictator of the Roman Empire. Julius Caesar was a powerful and intelligent general who won many battles against his rivals. For instance, Caesar conquered Gaul using his powerful legions and defeated Pompey despite his numerical advantage (high number of infantry). He further defeated the Ptolemaic forces in 47 B.C. in the Battle Nile, won the battle of Zela (Middle East), and gained victory over the forces of Metellus Scipio in Thapsus (46 B.C.). Caesar acquired great power and honor from his achievements, that the Roman people viewed him as their hero and supported him greatly. The senators were very disturbed by the title “king’ which was proposed to be given to Caesar some and even branded him as a tyrant. During his rule, he was appointed a dictator and later nominated for nine one-year terms. This made Julius Caesar a dictator for ten years, during which he was given many titles or honors.

According to Suetonius, Lucius Cotta’s proposal that Caesar is granted the title ‘king’ marked the peak when ‘liberators’ were motivated to assassinate Caesar. The ‘liberators’ group was made up of 60 senate members and used to assemble secretly in order to plan how to kill Caesar when he sat in the senate. During the Ides of March, Julius Caesar was stabbed by the ‘liberators’ to death.

This argument has been put forward by Plutarch, one of the ancient scholars, and it makes the most sense to me. This is because, Julius Caesar as a general and a political leader, showed his great ability, intelligence, and determination to have earned him great power. His great leadership skills enabled them to implement extensive reforms in Roman society and government. These reforms did not go well with the ‘liberators’ who envied Caesar’s well-acquired power. They were of the opinion that if they allowed Caesar to continue ruling, he would implant an evil in their democracy.

The liberator’s leadership inadequacy indicates strongly that Caesar was the greatest leader amongst them all. This could have been a strong source of their reason to kill Caesar. The ‘liberators’ displayed their leadership inadequacy after Caesar’s death. They were unable to step in or organize the government, indicating that they were men of no importance without Caesar. They allowed Mark Anthony, who was Caesar’s most faithful general, to seize power because they were obsessed with their own inferiority. They turned Caesar’s heir Octavian against Mark Anthony because he was young, and they thought they would control him. This indicates that the senators’ thirst for power must have led to Julius Caesar’s assassination. This argument makes more sense and seems more likely to have to be a reason for Caesar’s assassination than the other two arguments.

Did the “liberators” act out of Fear, Idealism, or Jealousy?

The “liberators” is a term used to refer to the 60 members of the senate who took part in the assassination of the Roman Dictator Julius Caesar in the year 44 B.C. Though various arguments have indicated varying reasons on why the liberators killed Caesar, their activity seems to have been greatly motivated by fear and their thirst for power.

Their greatest fear was Caesar’s ever-increasing power during his rule.

For instance, the proposed use of the word “king” to refer to Caesar expressed honor and great authoritative power that was accorded to the. In Rome, a democratic system of governance was advocated for by the senators. In order to stop dominance in power Caesar, they sought to stop a “tyrant’ by killing him.

Their thirst for power was well shown when they supported Octavian to succeed Caesar, not because he was Caesar’s appointed heir but because he was too young, and they wanted to control him due to his young age. The senators overlooked Octavian age and kept increasing his power into a senator and a Consul to ensure Mark Antony, who they did not like, would not rule.

Octavian was officially acknowledged as “son of God,” with the senators believing that they controlled him, only to be proved wrong later. Octavian seized total power control and formed a tyranny – Roman Empire. He became Emperor Augustus.

References

Arthur, H. and Hamilton, W. 1908.Plutarch. Lives of Illustrious Men (529) V3.John Dryden Books. Caesar’s-Assassination of Julius Caesar on the Ides of March. 2008. Web.

Michael, P.2003. The Assassination of Julius Caesar: A People’s Ancient History of Rome. The Journal of the Florida Medical Association 82(3): 199-201.

Tom, L. The Daily Telegraph Monday 2003. Et Tu, Brute? 2008. Web.

Rosalie, B.and Charles, B.1998. Ancient Romans: Expanding the Classical Tradition. Oxford Printing Press. Oxford.

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