‘Et tu, Brute?’
On 14 March, 44 BC, the conspiracy of 66 noblemen, conspiring under the leadership of Gaius Cassius Longinus and Marcus Junius Brutus, culminated in the assassination of Julius Caesar. The task of these conspirators, who referred to themselves as ‘the liberators’, was meticulously planned – Caesar had intended to leave Rome on March 18 for a military campaign in Parthia, the region around modern-day Iraq.
The dictator of the Roman Republic was stabbed 23 times in a location near the Theatre of Pompey following a senate meeting. Upon being wounded by Brutus, Caesar is famously said to have cried, “Et tu, Brute?” – accusing the man he thought was his friend.
The two men had a close affiliation. Brutus’ mother was engaged in an intimate relationship with Caesar and although the two had fought as rivals in the civil war, Brutus was spared from death and later promoted by Caesar to the office of praetor, and was later appointed governor of Gaul. The involvement of Brutus in the plot against Caesar instils in the events of that day a sense of tragedy and betrayal.
The plot against Caesar was a manifestation of fears amongst the senate of the potential for tyranny, following Caesar’s self-appointment as dictator perpetuo – dictator in perpetuity. In this sense, Caesar played a significant role in the demise of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire.
Following the assassination, Marcus Antonius, a Roman politician and general, summoned the senate and managed to work out a compromise that allowed the assassins to remain unpunished. This was under the condition that appointments made by Caesar would remain valid. This was done in order to ensure no cracks emerged in the governing bodies of the empire.
Alongside a legacy of unrivalled military precision and power, Caesar was a notable author of Latin prose. His death inspired anger amongst the lower classes, amongst whom he had enjoyed significant popularity.
IMAGE: Clara Grosch