In this story of the most famous assassination in history, “the last bloody day of the [Roman] Republic has never been painted so brilliantly” (The Wall Street Journal).
Julius Caesar was stabbed to death in the Roman Senate on March 15, 44 BC—the Ides of March according to the Roman calendar. He was, says author Barry Strauss, the last casualty of one civil war and the first casualty of the next civil war, which would end the Roman Republic and inaugurate the Roman Empire. “The Death of Caesar provides a fresh look at a well-trodden event, with superb storytelling sure to inspire awe” (The Philadelphia Inquirer).
Why was Caesar killed? For political reasons, mainly. The conspirators wanted to return Rome to the days when the Senate ruled, but Caesar hoped to pass along his new powers to his family, especially Octavian. The principal plotters were Brutus, Cassius (both former allies of Pompey), and Decimus. The last was a leading general and close friend of Caesar’s who felt betrayed by the great man: He was the mole in Caesar’s camp. But after the assassination everything went wrong. The killers left the body in the Senate and Caesar’s allies held a public funeral. Mark Antony made a brilliant speech—not “Friends, Romans, Countrymen” as Shakespeare had it, but something inflammatory that caused a riot. The conspirators fled Rome. Brutus and Cassius raised an army in Greece but Antony and Octavian defeated them.
An original, new perspective on an event that seems well known, The Death of Caesar is “one of the most riveting hour-by-hour accounts of Caesar’s final day I have read....An absolutely marvelous read” (The Times, London).
Strauss (Masters of Command), a professor of history and classics at Cornell University, provides a glimpse of the events surrounding March 15, 44 B.C.E., when Julius Caesar, Roman "dictator in perpetuity," was stabbed to death in the Senate chambers by a crowd of conspirators. With a keen focus on the conspiracy itself, Strauss examines Caesar's rise to power while looking closely at his colleagues, soldiers, and friends (many of whom turned on him). He runs through the many reasons the perpetrators had for committing such a shocking act, outlines the various alliances and honor codes, and addresses the assassination's aftermath. The political intrigue receives ample attention, as Strauss follows players such as Brutus, Cassius, and Decimus through subsequent political and cultural events. He also goes into detail about what the immediate scene might have looked like, covering funeral customs of the day: the wax masks of the deceased worn by actors walking in the procession, the roles different figures played in the funeral. Strauss's writing is stilted and the material may be most accessible to those with some knowledge of ancient Rome, but most readers will find this an informative and dramatic tale.