How did Julius Caesar die

Assassination of Caesar

Julius Caesar should not only be known to Asterix readers. The successful ruler was murdered by rivals in 44 BC Source: © faberfoto-it, shutterstock

Over 2000 years ago, on March 15, 44 BC, Gaius Julius Caesar was murdered. The successful general and skilful regent had risen to become the sole ruler of Rome and not only made friends with it.

On the morning of that March 15th, the Senate, the most important political body of the Roman Empire, met in the hall of the Pompey Theater in Rome. Gaius Julius Caesar, recently dictator, i.e. supreme ruler of the Roman Empire, did not feel well that day. His wife tried to persuade him to cancel the meeting because of premonitions. But Caesar's confidante Brutus persuaded the ruler to attend the meeting.

No sooner had Caesar taken his seat in the Senate than a group of senators surrounded him. Unexpectedly, they drew their daggers and stabbed. Brutus, whom Caesar had loved like a son, was one of the assassins. While he was still dying, Caesar called out the now famous sentence: "You too, Brutus?" and then collapsed covered in blood.

Caesar's political rise

In the course of his political career, Caesar had made it from the lower offices of quaestor and aedile to consul. At that time, two consuls ruled the Roman Republic for one year. In order to obtain this office, he entered into a three-man alliance, a so-called triumvirate, with Pompey and Crassus. While Caesar was on campaigns in France (Gaul) and Great Britain, Pompey was proclaimed sole consul in Rome. Crassus had previously died on a campaign.

So it came to a civil war between the party of Pompey and the followers of Caesar. Caesar had been asked by Pompey to renounce his rule over the army. But Caesar did not want to give up his power and moved with his army from Gaul towards Rome.

When he crossed the river Rubicon between Gaul and Italy, he is said to have said: "Alea iacta est." (literally: the dice has been thrown, we say: the dice have been cast). In fact, he managed to retake Italy within a very short time. He persecuted Pompey and his followers in further wars in Spain, Greece and in the province of Africa.

How did the murder come about?

He returned to Rome gloriously and was appointed dictator for life. Actually, the Roman constitution provided for the office of dictator with unrestricted power only for times of crisis. Such a ruler should be used for a maximum of six months in order to be able to make decisions quickly and to avert external threats. But Caesar received this office for life.

That was a thorn in the side of the supporters of the republic. Some senators, seeing their political influence waning since Caesar's autocracy, decided to do away with the tyrant. They included Gaius Cassius and Marcus Junius Brutus. On March 15, 44 BC, they stabbed the sole ruler Caesar together.

Caesar today

Today we come across the name and person of Caesar not only in history lessons. Anyone who learns Latin will learn to read his report on his campaigns in France, “De bello gallico”. Asterix readers know Caesar anyway! And our calendar also goes back to a calendar reform by Caesar, the so-called Julian calendar. He introduced the leap year and determined the length of the months. Incidentally, July was given this name in his honor, after all Caesar had the first name Julius.

You can find out more about the Therma in WAS IST WAS Volume 75, Ancient Rome. Ancient world power