Goal:The goal of this assignment is to write an essay based on the primary source documents provided below. The expectation is that you will use all of your documents in a meaningful way in writing this paper.
Introduction The assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C.E is one of the most famous events in history. While the conspirators believed their actions would bring about a return of the republic, the ensuing civil war led to the age of the Pax Romana and one man rule under Caesar’s adopted son and heir, Augustus. All of the sources below discuss this seminal event and all have been edited.
Essay Question: Using your knowledge of the period and the sources below (it is the expectation is that you will use all of these sources in your paper) discuss at least three reasons (or causes) of this assassination given by the authors. In your concluding paragraph state whether you think Julius Caesar’s assassination was justified.
For more information on how to write this assignment please download “how to write a document based essay” and the sample document based essay. Both are found under course content. Failure to use the sources below will result in a failing grade for this assignment. Failure to use ALL of the documents will result in a lower grade on this assignment. Don’t take shortcuts. Use of outside sources of any kind will be considered plagiarism and the paper will receive a zero. ONLY THE TEXTBOOK AND THE SOURCES BELOW CAN BE USED ON THIS ASSIGNMENT.THE TEXTBOOK IS NOT A DOCUMENT AND SHOULD ONLY BE USED FOR A BACKGROUND UNDERSTANDING OF THIS TOPIC AND NOT AS A SUBSTITUTION FOR USE OF THE DOCUMENTS.
Here is a sample thesis statement: Julius Cesar’s assassination was one of the famous events in ancient history. Numerous writers discussed this assassination in their works. These writers argued that __________________________, __________________________ and ____________________________________________________led to the death of Julius Caesar.
All of the documents are numbered. The author’s name is given first, then the title, then the year or approximate year written. The document itself is in italics.
From this time they tried the inclinations of all their acquaintances that they durst trust, and communicated the secret to them, and took into the design not only their familiar friends, but as many as they believed bold and brave and despisers of death. For which reason they concealed the plot from Cicero, though he was very much trusted and as well beloved by them all, lest, to his own disposition, which was naturally timorous, adding now the weariness and caution of old age, by his weighing, as he would do, every particular, that he might not make one step without the greatest security, he should blunt the edge of their forwardness and resolution in a business which required all the dispatch imaginable. As indeed there were also two others that were companions of Brutus, Statilius the Epicurean, and Favonius the admirer of Cato, whom he left out for this reason: as he was conversing one day with them, trying them at a distance, and proposing some such question to be disputed of as among philosophers, to see what opinion they were of, Favonius declared his judgment to be that a civil war was worse than the most illegal monarchy; and Statilius held, that to bring himself into troubles and danger upon the account of evil or foolish men did not become a man that had any wisdom or discretion. But Labeo, who was present, contradicted them both and Brutus, as if it had been an intricate dispute, and difficult to be decided, held his peace for that time, but afterwards discovered the whole design to Labeo, who readily undertook it. But a meeting of the senate being appointed, at which it was believed that Caesar would be present, they agreed to make use of that opportunity; for then they might appear all together without suspicion; and, besides, they hoped that all the noblest and leading men of the commonwealth, being then assembled as soon as the great deed was done, would immediately stand forward and assert the common liberty. The very place too where the senate was to meet seemed to be by divine appointment favorable to their purpose. It was a portico, one of those joining the theatre, with a large recess, in which there stood a statue of Pompey, erected to him by the commonwealth, when he adorned that part of the city with theporticos and the theatre. To this place it was that the senate was summoned for the middle of March (the Ides of March is the Roman name for the day.
…Now news was brought that Caesar was coming, carried in a litter. For, being discouraged by the ill-omens that attended his sacrifice, he had determined to undertake no affairs of any great importance that day, but to defer them till another time, excusing himself that he was sick. As soon as he came out of his litter, Popilius Laenas, he who but a little before had wished Brutus good success in his undertaking, coming up to him, conversed a great while with him, Caesar standing still all the while, and seeming to be very attentive. …
Now when the senate was gone in before to the chamber where they were to sit, the rest of the company placed themselves close about Caesars chair, as if they had some suit to make to him…. When Caesar entered, the whole senate rose up to him. As soon as he was sat down, the men all crowded round about him, and set Tillius Cimber, one of their own number, to intercede in behalf of his brother that was banished; they all joined their prayers with his, and took Caesar by the hand, and kissed his head and his breast. But he putting aside at first their supplications, and afterwards, when he saw they would not desist, violently rising up, Tillius with both hands caught hold of his robe and pulled it off from his shoulders, and Casca, that stood behind him, drawing his dagger, gave him the first, but a slight wound, about the shoulder. Caesar snatching hold of the handle of the dagger, and crying out aloud in Latin, “Villain Casca, what do you?” he, calling in Greek to his brother, bade him come and help. And by this time, finding himself struck by a great many hands, and looking around about him to see if he could force his way out, when he saw Brutus with his dagger drawn against him, he let go Cascas hand, that he had hold of and covering his head with his robe, gave up his body to their blows. And they so eagerly pressed towards the body, and so many daggers were hacking together, that they cut one another; Brutus, particularly, received a wound in his hand, and all of them were besmeared with the blood. Caesar being thus slain, Brutus, stepping forth into the midst, intended to have made a speech, and called back and encouraged the senators to stay; but they all affrighted ran away in great disorder…
There were various reasons which affected each and all of them and impelled them to lay hands on the man. Some of them had hopes of becoming leaders themselves in his place if he were put out of the way; others were angered over what had happened to them in the war, embittered over the loss of their relatives, property, or offices of state. They concealed the fact that they were angry, and made the pretense of something more seemly, saying that they were displeased at the rule of a single man and that they were striving for a republican form of government. Different people had different reasons, all brought together by whatever pretext they happened upon.
At first the ringleaders conspired; then many more joined, some of their own accord because of personal grievances, some because they had been associated with the others and wished to show plainly the good faith in their long standing friendship, and accordingly became their associates. There were some who were of neither of these types, but who had agreed because of the worth of the others, and who resented the power of one man after the long-standing republican constitution. They were very glad not to start the affair themselves, but were willing to join such company when someone else had initiated proceedings, not even hesitating to pay the penalty if need be…. Moreover, men who had been friends of Caesar were no longer similarly well disposed toward him when they saw people who were previously his enemies saved by him and given honors equal to their own. In fact, even these others were not particularly well disposed toward him, for their ancient grudges took precedence over gratitude and made them forgetful of their good fortune in being saved, while, when they remembered the good things they had lost in being defeated, they were provoked. Many also hated him because they had been saved by him although he had been irreproachable in his behavior toward them in every respect; but nevertheless, the very thought of receiving as a favor the benefits which as victors they would readily have enjoyed, annoyed them very much.
Then there was another class of men, namely those who had served with him, whether as officers or privates, and who did not get a share of glory. They asserted that prisoners of war were enrolled among the veteran forces and that they received identical pay. Accordingly, his friends were incensed at being rated as equal to those whom they themselves had taken prisoners, and indeed they were even outranked by some of them. Too many, also, the fact that they benefitted at his hands, both by gifts of property and by appointments to offices, was a special source of grievance, since he alone was able to bestow such benefits, and everyone else was ignored as of no importance. When he became exalted through many notable victories (which was fair enough) and began to think himself superhuman the common people worshipped him, but he began to be obnoxious to the optimates and to those who were trying to obtain a share in the government. And so, every kind of man combined against him: great and small, friend and foe, military and political, every one of whom put forward his own particular pretext for the matter in hand, and as a result of his own complaints each lent a ready ear to the accusations of the others. They all confirmed each other in their conspiracy and they furnished as surety to one another the grievances which they held severally in private against him. Hence, though the number of conspirators became so great, no one dared to give information of the fact. Some say, however, that a little before his death, Caesar received a note in which warning of the plot was given, and that he was murdered with it in his hands before he had a chance to read it, and that it was found among other notes after his death.
Something else, such as it was, took place which especially stirred the conspirators against him. There was a golden statue of him which had been erected on the Rostra by vote of the people. A diadem appeared on it, encircling the head…. Then the people clamored that he become king and they shouted that there should be no longer any delay in crowning him as such, for Fortune had already crowned him. But Caesar declared that although he would grant the people everything because of their good will toward him, he would never allow this step; and he asked their indulgence for contradicting their wishes in preserving the old form of government, saying that he preferred to hold the office of consul in accordance with the law to being king illegally.
Such was the people’s talk at that time…. There were many who were quite willing that Caesar be made king openly. …Then those also were excited who wished to lay hands on him not to recover liberty but to destroy the entire extant system; they were looking for an opportunity to overcome one who seemed to be absolutely invincible.
But it was the lot of this great man, who behaved with such clemency in all his victories, that his peaceful enjoyment of supreme power should last but five months. For, returning to the city in October, he was slain on the ides of March. Brutus and Cassius were the leaders of the conspiracy. He had failed to win the former by the promise of the consulship, and had offended the latter by the postponement of his candidacy. There were also in the plot to compass his death some of the most intimate of all his friends, who owed their elevation to the success of his party, namely Decimus Brutus, Gaius Trebonius, and others of illustrious name. Marcus Antonius, his colleague in the consulship, ever ready for acts of daring, had brought great odium upon Caesar by placing a royal crown upon his head as he sat on the rostra at the Lupercalia. Caesar put the crown from him, but in such a way that he did not seem to be displeased.
In the light of experience due credit should be given to the counsel of Pansa and Hirtius, who had always warned Caesar that he must hold by arms the position which he had won by arms. But Caesar kept reiterating that he would rather die than live in fear, and while he looked for a return for the clemency he had shown, he was taken off his guard by men devoid of gratitude, although the gods gave many signs and presages of the threatened danger. For the soothsayers had warned him beforehand carefully to beware the Ides of March; his wife Calpurnia, terrified by a dream, kept begging him to remain at home on that day; and notes warning him of the conspiracy were handed him, but he neglected to read them at the time. But verily the power of destiny is inevitable; it confounds the judgment of him whose fortune it has determined to reverse.
But a baleful frenzy which fell upon certain men through jealousy of his advancement and hatred of his preferment to themselves caused his death unlawfully, while it added a new name to the annals of infamy; it scattered the decrees to the winds and brought upon the Romans seditions and civil wars once more after a state of harmony. His slayers, to be sure, declared that they had shown themselves at once destroyers of Caesar and liberators of the people: but in reality, they impiously plotted against him, and they threw the city into disorder when at last it possessed a stable government. Democracy, indeed, has a fair-appearing name and conveys the impression of bringing equal rights to all through equal laws, but its results are seen not to agree at all with its title. Monarchy, on the contrary, has an unpleasant sound, but is a most practical form of government to live under. For it is easier to find a single excellent man than many of them, and if even this seems to some a difficult feat, it is quite inevitable that the other alternative should be acknowledged to be impossible; for it does not belong to the majority of men to acquire virtue. And again, even though a base man should obtain supreme power, yet he is preferable to the masses of like character, as the history of the Greeks and barbarians and of the Romans themselves proves. For successes have always been greater and more frequent in the case both of cities and of individuals under kings than under popular rule, and disasters do not happen so frequently under monarchies as under mob-rule. Indeed, if ever there has been a prosperous democracy, it has in any case been at its best for only a brief period, so long, that is, as the people had neither the numbers nor the strength sufficient to cause insolence to spring up among them as the result of good fortune or jealousy as the result of ambition. But for a city, not only so large in itself, but also ruling the finest and the greatest part of the known world, holding sway over men of many and diverse natures, possessing many men of great wealth, occupied with every imaginable pursuit, enjoying every imaginable fortune, both individually and collectively, – for such a city, I say, to practice moderation under a democracy is impossible, and still more is it impossible for the people, unless moderation prevails, to be harmonious. Therefore, if Marcus Brutus and Gaius Cassius had only reflected upon these things, they would never have killed the city’s head and protector nor have made themselves the cause of countless ills both to themselves and to all the rest of mankind then living.
It happened as follows, and his death was due to the cause now to be given. He had aroused dislike that was not altogether unjustified, except in so far as it was the senators themselves who had by their novel and excessive honors encouraged him and puffed him up, only to find fault with him on this very account and to spread slanderous reports how glad he was to accept them and how he behaved more haughtily as a result of them. It is true that Caesar did now and then err by accepting some of the honors voted him and believing that he really deserved them; yet those were most blameworthy who, after beginning to honor him as he deserved, led him on and brought blame upon him for the measures they had passed. He neither dared, of course, to thrust them all aside, for fear of being thought contemptuous, nor, again, could he be safe in accepting them; for excessive honor and praise render even the most modest men conceited, especially if they seem to be bestowed with sincerity.
The privileges that were granted him, in addition to all those mentioned, were as follows in number and nature; for I shall name them all together, even if they were not all proposed or passed at one time. First, then, they voted that he should always ride, even in the city itself, wearing the triumphal dress, and should sit in his chair of state everywhere except at the games… In addition to these remarkable privileges they named him father of his country, stamped this title on the coinage, voted to celebrate his birthday by public sacrifice, ordered that he should have a statue in the cities and in all the temples of Rome, and they set up two also on the rostra, one representing him as the savior of the citizens and the other as the deliverer of the city from siege, and wearing the crowns customary for such achievements. They also resolved to build a temple of Concordia Nova, on the ground that it was through his efforts that they enjoyed peace, and to celebrate an annual festival in her honor. ..And they voted that Caesar should be sole censor for life and should enjoy the immunities granted to the tribunes, so that if any one insulted him by deed or word, that man should be an outlaw and accursed, and further that Caesar’s son, should he beget or even adopt one, should be appointed high priest. As he seemed to like all this, a gilded chair was granted him, and a garb that the kings had once used, and body-guard of knights and senators; furthermore they decided that prayers should be offered for him publicly every year, that they should swear by Caesar’s Fortune, and should regard as valid all his future acts. …When he showed himself pleased with these honors also, they accordingly voted that his golden chair and his crown set with precious gems and overlaid with gold should be carried into the theatres in the same manner as those of the gods, and that on the occasion of the games in the Circus his chariot should be brought in. And finally they addressed him outright as Jupiter Julius and ordered a temple to be consecrated to him and to his Clemency, electing Antony as their priest like some flamen Dialis.
When they had begun to honor him, it was with the idea, of course, that he would be reasonable; but as they went on and saw that he was delighted with what they voted, – indeed he accepted all but a very few of their decrees, – different men at different times kept proposing various extravagant honors, some in a spirit of exaggerated flattery and others by way of ridicule. At any rate, some actually ventured to suggest permitting him to have intercourse with as many women as he pleased, because even at this time, though fifty years old, he still had numerous mistresses. Others, and they were the majority, followed this course because they wished to make him envied and hated as quickly as possible, that he might the sooner perish. And this is precisely what happened, though Caesar was encouraged by these very measures to believe that he should never be plotted against by the men who had voted him such honors, nor, through fear of them, by anyone else; and consequently he even dispensed henceforth with a body-guard. …Hence most men suspected him of being inflated with pride and hated him for his haughtiness, when it was they themselves who had made him disdainful by the exaggerated character of their honors. After this occurrence, striking as it was, he increased the suspicion by permitting himself somewhat later to be chosen dictator for life.
…And when they met in the assembly, the assassins had much to say against Caesar and much in favor of democracy, and they bade the people take courage and not expect any harm. For they had killed him, they declared, not to secure power or any other advantage, but in order that they might be free and independent and be governed rightly. By speaking such words they calmed the majority, especially since they injured no one. But fearing, for all that, that somebody might plot against them in turn, they themselves went up to the Capitol, in order, as they claimed, to pray to the gods, and there they spent the day and night. And at evening they were joined by some of the other prominent men, who had not, indeed, shared in the plot, but were minded, when they saw the perpetrators praised, to lay claim to the glory of it, as well as to the prizes which they expected. But for them the event proved most justly the very opposite of their expectations; for they did not secure any reputation for the deed, because they had not had a hand in it in any way, but they did share the danger which came to those who committed it just as much as if they themselves had been in the plot.
Our tyrant deserved his death for having made an exception of the one thing that was the blackest crime of all. Why do we gather instances of petty crime – legacies criminally obtained and fraudulent buying and selling? Behold, here you have a man who was ambitious to be kingof the Roman People and master of the whole world; and he achieved it! The man who maintains that such an ambition is morally right is a madman; for he justifies the destruction of law and liberty and thinks their hideous and detestable suppression glorious. But if anyone agrees that it is not morally right to be kind in a state that once was free and that ought to be free now, and yet imagines that it is advantageous for him who can reach that position, with what remonstrance or rather with what appeal should I try to tear him away from so strange a delusion? For, oh ye immortal gods! Can the most horrible and hideous of all murders – that of fatherland -bring advantage to anybody, even though he who has committed such a crime receives from his enslaved fellow-citizens the title of “Father of his Country”? Expediency, therefore, must be measured by the standard of moral rectitude, and in such a way, too, that these two words shall seem in sound only to be different but in real meaning to be one and the same.
What greater advantage one could have, according to the standard of popular opinion, than to be a king, I do not know; when, however, I begin to bring the question back to the standard of truth, then I find nothing more disadvantageous for one who has risen to that height by injustice. For can occasions for worry anxiety, fear by day and by night, and a life all beset with plots and perils be of advantage to anybody?
Caesar left in the minds of some of his friends the suspicion that he did not wish to live longer and had taken no precautions, because of his failing health; and that therefore he neglected the warnings which came to him from portents and from the reports of his friends. Some think that it was because he had full trust in that last decree of the senators and their oath that he dismissed even the armed bodyguard of Hispanic soldiers that formerly attended him. Others, on the contrary, believe that he elected to expose himself once for all to the plots that threatened him on every hand, rather than to be always anxious and on his guard. Some, too, say that he was wont to declare that it was not so much to his own interest as to that of his country that he remain alive; he had long since had his fill of power and glory; but if aught befell him, the Republic would have no peace, but would be plunged in civil strife under much worse conditions.
About one thing almost all are fully agreed, that he all but desired such a death as he met; for once when he read in Xenophon how Cyrus in his last illness gave directions for his funeral, he expressed his horror of such a lingering kind of end and his wish for one which was swift and sudden. And the day before his murder, in a conversation which arose at a dinner at the house of Marcus Lepidus, as to what manner of death was most to be desired, he had given his preference to one which was sudden and unexpected.
He died in the fifty-sixth year of his age, and was numbered among the gods, not only by a formal decree, but also in the conviction of the common people. For at the first of the games which his heir Augustus gave in honor of his apotheosis, a comet shone for seven successive days, rising about the eleventh hour [about an hour before sunset] and was believed to be the soul of Caesar, who had been taken to heaven; and this is why a star is set upon the crown of his head in his statue. It was voted that the curia in which he was slain be walled up, that the Ides of March be called the Day of Parricide, and that a meeting of the senate should never be called on that day.
Hardly any of his assassins survived him for more than three years, or died a natural death. They were all condemned, and they perished in various ways—some by shipwreck, some in battle; some took their own lives with the self-same dagger with which they had impiously slain Caesar.