The Bloody Assassination of a Roman Dictator "Julius Caesar"
The Bloody Assassination of a Roman Dictator “Julius Caesar”

The Bloody Assassination of a Roman Dictator “Julius Caesar”

Patrick Lynch - May 24, 2017

The Bloody Assassination of a Roman Dictator “Julius Caesar”
Painting of Caesar. History Hustle

The Ides of March

Much is made of the omens surrounding the death of Caesar. One of the most famous is the warning from the soothsayer, Spurinna. At the festival of Lupercalia on February 15, 44 BC, Spurinna outlined his concern for the dictator after Caesar sacrificed a bull with no heart. The following day, he oversaw another sacrifice, but the animal had a deformed liver. The soothsayer believed it was a sure portent of doom and warned Caesar that his life was in danger for a period of 30 days which ended on March 15.

In reality, all Spurinna did was accurately outline the dangerous political climate in Rome. Caesar had many enemies, and they wanted him dead before he left Rome on March 18. Nothing happened until the morning of March 15 when Caesar’s wife, Calpurnia, told him that she had a dream where she held his bloodied body. Caesar also had a dream that he was flying in the air and held hands with Jupiter. When Spurinna oversaw yet another sacrifice that spelled doom, Caesar agreed to postpone the meeting. However, Decimus arrived and persuaded the dictator to come to the Temple to announce the postponement in person.

A slave came to Caesar’s house with a warning, but the dictator had already left. He was handed a scroll outlining details of the plot on the way to the Senate, but did not read it. Mark Antony was warned of a plot the night before and tried to reach Caesar only to get delayed on the way. The meeting was held in the Curia behind the Temple of Pompey and Caesar entered the room and climbed on his golden throne.

Plutarch wrote that Caesar was handed a petition by Lucius Tullius Cimber who wanted his exiled brother recalled to Rome. The other plotters gathered around to offer support, but Caesar waved him away. However, Cimber grabbed the dictator’s shoulders and pulled down his tunic. A surprised Caesar reportedly said: “Why, this is violence!” Before he knew what was happening, a man named Servilius Casca had stabbed him.

The end came swiftly as a number of other men attacked Caesar with their daggers. He was stabbed a total of 23 times, but only one of the blows was fatal. It was by no means a clean assassination as a number of the senators accidentally stabbed one another in the melee. As he was dying, Caesar reportedly said “You, too, my child!” to Brutus and the remaining senators fled the scene as confusion reigned. Mark Antony prevented plans to throw Caesar’s corpse in the Tiber and confiscate his property.

The Bloody Assassination of a Roman Dictator “Julius Caesar”
Dramatic painting of the assassination of Caesar.


The conspirators had no idea what to do after killing Caesar as they had no plan of action. In fact, they reportedly asked Cicero what they should do next since they had given no thought to the consequences of the murder. Brutus spoke from a platform at the foot of the Capitoline Hill but failed to calm the angry crowd. The people of Rome apparently wept as Caesar’s body was brought home and on March 20, the funeral procession took place as the dictator was burned on a pyre.

The real problem for the conspirators was that they failed to win over the army. The soldiers were expecting to go to war and wanted a large payout from whoever was going to lead Rome. Brutus and co. were unable to appease the soldiers in time and had to flee the city. According to Caesar’s will, Octavian was left in charge, and he defeated the forces of Brutus and Cassius at the Battle of Philippa.

Both men committed suicide soon after. Ultimately, the Second Triumvirate, between Octavian, Mark Antony, and Lepidus, succeeded in avenging Caesar’s death but led to another civil war. Octavian emerged victorious and became Rome’s first emperor.