Part 7: The Assassination

The Senator-Conspirators have been waiting around since early morning, their daggers lay hidden beneath their robes. [Dagger = Pugio en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pugio] Also hidden somewhere nearby are a group of Gladiators owned by Decimus Brutus. The Gladiators will be called upon if things start to go wrong. A Senator named Popilius Laenas whispers to Brutus and Cassius, "My wishes are with you, that you may accomplish what you design and I advise you to make no delay, for the thing is now no secret". They are now probably past the point of no return, it is either kill Julius Caesar or themselves.

They await Julius Caesar near the entrance and on the steps of the Curia Pompey. Julius Caesar's litter arrives and he steps out. Popilius Laenas walks over and starts talking to Julius Caesar, the conspirators can't hear what is being said but think the worst. Popilius kisses Julius Caesar's hand and walks away, he was just talking business with Julius Caesar. I wonder if he was trying to be on the winning side? Wishing the conspirators luck if they won and acting if everything was normal with Julius Caesar if he won?

Julius Caesar starts up the steps and sees the Soothsayer (fortune-teller) Spurinna who had told him earlier (within fifteen days) "Beware of a danger that will come no later than the Ides of March" (Beware the Ides of March). Julius Caesar mockingly says to him in passing "The Ides of March have come". Spurinna calmly replies "Yes, but not yet passed".

Julius Caesar enters the Curia Pompey alone, his friend and ally Marc Antony is kept outside engaged in a contrived conversation with either Decimus Brutus or Gaius Trebonius. [I'd guess Decimus, from the doorway he'd be able to easily call to his Gladiators if things went wrong inside. It would be the best place for him.] Marcus Lepidus was also said to have arrived with Julius Caesar and Antony, assume he was also taken aside in a phony conversation. [A bit of irony: While Julius Caesar was walking across the Curia Pompey floor, he would see the back of Temple "B" through the window (if not curtained) to the left of the podium. The name of that temple is "Fortuna Huiusce Diei" (Good Fortune On This Day).

Walk across the street to that place I mentioned before, that tree, the closest one to you, is actually in the middle of the rear remains of the Curia Pompey ( Photo 15 ). Look over to Temple C on your right, alongside that ditch. The Curia Pompey's right wall (iron fence) comes out from under the sidewalk and butts right up to the rear wall of that temple. The Curia Pompey's rear wall ran over to your left behind Temple B, but that last 30% of rear wall is completely missing along with the left side wall ( Photo 13 ).

But if you move over to the left so that you are directly behind that first (left) column of Temple B and look over the railing directly straight down ( Photo 15 - stand right there), you will see a small section of stone blocks coming out from the sidewalk. This is all that remains of the left side wall (*just* to the left (1.5 m) of that broken column on the ground ).

For a diagram of this walk over to the stairs to the right of you. #1 marks the "Remains of the central exedra of Pompey's Porticus. Used as the Senate House, it was here that Julius Caesar was assassinated on March 15, 44 BC". #1 is exactly where that tree is located! Ok back to the tree :-) , what actually remains below you is the concrete core and rooms? that were below the Curia Pompey floor ( Photo 14, photo 15, photo 16 ). Look at the ground level around Temple B and remember the Curia Pompey was entered by walking up the front steps ( Photo 10a ). So somewhere (in space and time :-) ) hovering this rubble was the floor, podium and the large Statue of Pompey.

So look at the back wall and imagine say 0.5 meter for the wall thickness, the large Statue of Pompey on a 1-meter square base against the back wall. (Think of the Curia Julia) In front of the Statue on the slightly raised podium was Julius Caesar's chair. I used a diagram by Christian Meier (author and Professor of Ancient History), he shows the two large windows on each side of the podium. I also noticed extra support (stone blocks) along the back wall where these windows would be ( Photo 14, photo 15 ). So it's safe to assume that below you (the *tree* in Photo 15 ) and above the ruins about 3 meters from the back wall was where Julius Caesar died. His chair was probably somewhere directly below you (looking straight down) along with the area he was surrounded and stabbed.

Pompey was a great general and once a political ally who had married Julius Caesar's daughter Julia in an arranged marriage to bond their alliance. He really loved her but she died young. Julius Caesar defeated Pompey in a civil war and he was murdered escaping to Egypt but not on Julius Caesar's orders. Not really friends but Julius Caesar respected him. So dying at the foot of the Pompey's Statue was a bit of poetic justice for Pompey.

Julius Caesar walks over to his chair (an elaborate camp stool actually) and sits down. He's surrounded by the conspirators (many of these men are men he trusts and/or had pardoned after winning the civil war). Some to pay their phony respects and others with petitions. Tillius Cimber is in the forefront with a petition on behalf of his exiled brother. They are starting to annoy and crowd Julius Caesar, he scolds them for their disrespect towards him and his office.

Cassius against his beliefs, looks to the Statue of Pompey and silently asks/prays for assistance. Suddenly Tillius grabs Julius Caesar's robe with both hands and pulls it down from his neck. This is the prearranged signal to attack. Publius Casca who is behind Julius Caesar stabs him slightly between the shoulder and the neck. Julius Caesar grabs Casca's hand/dagger and with his other hand stabs Casca in the arm with his stylus (pen). And shouts "Vile Casca, What does this mean?" Julius Caesar rises still struggling with Casca. Casca yells in Greek "Brother Help!", asking his real brother for Help.

Now they all attack, for they all have promised one other that they all will inflict one wound. A pact in blood that will tie them all together, for better or worse. In the bloody frenzy that ensues they have also mistakenly cut one another (Brutus receives a bad cut on his hand). Julius Caesar is still fighting for his life until he sees Brutus (Julius Caesar's longtime mistress's son, a good and trusted friend and one who he had pardoned after the civil war plus had given a good position too) with his dagger drawn.

Julius Caesar looks to Brutus and says in Greek "Even you, my child", he then stabs Julius Caesar in the groin. (Suetonius claims Julius Caesar said to Brutus in Greek "Kai su, teknon?" "Even you, my child?" "Et tu, Brute?" "Even you, Brutus?" is Latin from Shakespeare's play.)

Julius Caesar bleeding from the 6-8 attackers' 23 stab wounds falls at the base of the now bloodied Statue of Pompey and covers his head and legs with his robe (head covering is common in Greece and Italy when dying) and dies.

It happened so quickly that the Senators in their seats were in shock and then a panic ensued as they all tried to exit at once. Brutus attempts to give a speech on the reason for their act but no one is waiting around to listen.

Antony and Lepidus flee the area and go into hiding, not knowing Brutus has forbidden their deaths. His first major mistake, he should have listened to Cassius and the others. The conspirators leave the Curia Pompey and march en mass to the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill.

Julius Caesar's body lies alone for about three hours until slaves sent by his wife retrieve it.

Cleopatra and her 3-year-old son Caesarion by Julius Caesar flee Rome to Alexandria. She and Antony will become lovers in about three years and commit suicide in fourteen years. Julius Caesar and Cleopatra's son will be murdered on Augustus's orders, he was advised that "A multiplicity of Caesars is not a good thing". Later Augustus has the Statue of Pompey moved into Pompey's theatre and the Curia Pompey walled up. The Ides of March will also be now called the "Day of Parricide", the Senate will never again meet on that fateful day.

Next: Part 7b: More about the Actual Site of the Assassination
[Home]                         copyright (c) 2012-2018 by Jeff Bondono                         [Walter's Tours of Ancient Rome]