The Death of Caesar

15.03.14: 2058th anniversary of the death of Julius Caesar (100-44 BC).

Karl Theodor von Piloty, "The murder of Caesar" (1865)
Karl Theodor von Piloty, “The murder of Caesar” (1865)

[81] Now Caesar’s approaching murder was foretold to him by unmistakable signs. A few months before, when the settlers assigned to the colony at Capua by the Julian Law were demolishing some tombs of great antiquity, to build country houses, and plied their work with the greater vigour because as they rummaged about they found a quantity of vases of ancient workmanship, there was discovered in a tomb, which was said to be that of Capys, the founder of Capua, a bronze tablet, inscribed with Greek words and characters to this purport: “Whenever the bones of Capys shall be moved, it will come to pass that a descendant of his shall be slain at the hands of his kindred, and presently avenged at heavy cost to Italy.” And let no one think this tale a myth or a lie, for it is vouched for by Cornelius Balbus, an intimate friend of Caesar. Shortly before his death, as he was told, the herds of horses which he had dedicated to the river Rubicon when he crossed it, and had let loose without a keeper, stubbornly refused to graze and wept copiously. Again, when he was offering sacrifice, the soothsayer Spurinna warned him to beware of danger, which would come not later than the Ides of March; and on the day before the Ides of that month a little bird called the king-bird flew into the Hall of Pompey with a sprig of laurel, pursued by others of various kinds from the grove hard by, which tore it to pieces in the hall. In fact the very night before his murder he dreamt now that he was flying above the clouds, and now that he was clasping the hand of Jupiter; and his wife Calpurnia thought that the pediment of their house fell, and that her husband was stabbed in her arms; and on a sudden the door of the room flew open of its own accord.
Both for these reasons and because of poor health he hesitated for a long time whether to stay at home and put off what he had planned to do in the senate; but at last, urged by Decimus Brutus not to disappoint the full meeting which had for some time been waiting for him, he went forth almost at the end of the fifth hour; and when a note revealing the plot was handed him by someone on the way, he put it with others which he held in his left hand, intending to read them presently. Then, after several victims had been slain, and he could not get favourable omens, he entered the House in defiance of portents, laughing at Spurinna and calling him a false prophet, because the Ides of March were come without bringing him harm; though Spurinna replied that they had of a truth come, but they had not gone.

[82] As he took his seat, the conspirators gathered about him as if to pay their respects, and straightway Tillius Cimber, who had assumed the lead, came nearer as though to ask something; and when Caesar with a gesture put him off to another time, Cimber caught his toga by both shoulders; then as Caesar cried, “Why, this is violence!” one of the Cascas stabbed him from one side just below the throat. Caesar caught Casca’s arm and ran it through with his stylus, but as he tried to leap to his feet, he was stopped by another wound. When he saw that he was beset on every side by drawn daggers, he muffled his head in his robe, and at the same time drew down its lap to his feet with his left hand, in order to fall more decently, with the lower part of his body also covered. And in this wise he was stabbed with three and twenty wounds, uttering not a word, but merely a groan at the first stroke, though some have written that when Marcus Brutus rushed at him, he said in Greek, “You too, my child?” All the conspirators made off, and he lay there lifeless for some time, until finally three common slaves put him on a litter and carried him home, with one arm hanging down. And of so many wounds none turned out to be mortal, in the opinion of the physician Antistius, except the second one in the breast.
The conspirators had intended after slaying him to drag his body to the Tiber, confiscate his property, and revoke his decrees; but they forebore through fear of Marcus Antonius the consul, and Lepidus, the master of horse.

[81] Sed Caesari futura caedes evidentibus prodigiis denuntiata est. Paucos ante menses, cum in colonia Capua deducti lege Iulia coloni ad extruendas villas vetustissima sepulcra dis[s]icerent idque eo studiosius facerent, quod aliquantum vasculorum operis antiqui scrutantes reperiebant, tabula aenea in monimento, in quo dicebatur Capys conditor Capuae sepultus, inventa est conscripta litteris verbisque Graecis hac sententia: quandoque ossa Capyis detecta essent, fore ut illo prognatus manu consanguineorum necaretur magnisque mox Italiae cladibus vindicaretur. Cuius rei, ne quis fabulosam aut commenticiam putet, auctor est Cornelius Balbus, familiarissimus Caesaris. Proximis diebus equorum greges, quos in traiciendo Rubiconi flumini consecrarat ac vagos et sine custode dimiserat, comperit pertinacissime pabulo abstinere ubertimque flere. Et immolantem haruspex Spurinna monuit, caveret periculum, quod non ultra Martias Idus proferretur. Pridie autem easdem Idus avem regaliolum cum laureo ramulo Pompeianae curiae se inferentem volucres varii generis ex proximo nemore persecutae ibidem discerpserunt. Ea vero nocte, cui inluxit dies caedis, et ipse sibi visus est per quietem interdum supra nubes volitare, alias cum Iove dextram iungere; et Calpurnia uxor imaginata est conlabi fastigium domus maritumque in gremio suo confodi; ac subito cubiculi fores sponte patuerunt. Ob haec simul et ob infirmam valitudinem diu cunctatus an se contineret et quae apud senatum proposuerat agere differret, tandem Decimo Bruto adhortante, ne frequentis ac iam dudum opperientis destitueret, quinta fere hora progressus est libellumque insidiarum indicem ab obvio quodam porrectum libellis ceteris, quos sinistra manu tenebat, quasi mox lecturus commiscuit. Dein pluribus hostiis caesis, cum litare non posset, introiit curiam spreta religione Spurinnamque irridens et ut falsum arguens, quod sine ulla sua noxa Idus Martiae adessent: quanquam is venisse quidem eas diceret, sed non praeterisse.
[82] Assidentem conspirati specie officii circumsteterunt, ilicoque Cimber Tillius, qui primas partes susceperat, quasi aliquid rogaturus propius accessit renventique et gestu[m] in aliud tempus differenti ab utroque umero togam adprehendit: deinde clamantem: ‘ista quidem vis est!’ alter e Cascis aversum vulnerat paulum infra iugulum. Caesar Cascae brachium arreptum graphio traiecit conatusque prosilire alio vulnere tardatus est; utque animadvertit undique se strictis pugionibus peti, toga caput obvoluit, simul sinistra manu sinum ad ima crura deduxit, quo honestius caderet etiam inferiore corporis parte velata. Atque ita tribus et viginti plagis confossus est uno modo ad primum ictum gemitu sine voce edito, etsi tradiderunt quidam Marco Bruto irruenti dixisse: καὶ σὺ τέκνον; Exanimis diffugientibus cunctis aliquamdiu iacuit, donec lecticae impositum, dependente brachio, tres servoli domum rettulerunt. Nec in tot vulneribus, ut Antistius medicus existimabat, letale ullum repertum est, nisi quod secundo loco in pectore acceperat.
Fuerat animus coniuratis corpus occisi in Tiberim trahere, bona publicare, acta rescindere, sed metu Marci Antoni consulis et magistri equitum Lepidi destiterunt.

—Suetonius Tranquillus, Life of the Divine Caesar (81-82)

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