During his reign, the great Emperor Julius Caesar conquered many territories and acquired a great force in the world. The Roman Senate grew afraid of being overthrown by his power and so conspired to murder Caesar, the Pontifex Maximus. The greatness of the Emperor is still noted within the city of Rome today, and his story has been preserved so that it is possible to retrace the final hours in the life of this great ruler.
We begin at the night before the murder, when Julius Caesar already knew that something was about to happen. During a dinner-party at the house of wealthy Romans someone posed the question: “How would you like to die?”. At these types of events it was not uncommon to tackle important debates, so Caesar responded: “Subitam et celerem”, fast and quick. The second omen of death came during the night, when Caesar’s own wife dreamt that her husband was going to die.
The Imperial Forum
Due to these coincidences - and after the bad omens of fortune-tellers - it was impossible not to have bad feelings, so the following day Caesar decided not to go to the Senate. It was at this precise moment that the first traitor entered the scene, the unsuspected Decimus Brutus (later dubbed the “poisonous witch”). The two men had fought together in the Battle of Gaul and in the civil wars, yet it was his task to bring Caeser to the Senate and so Brutus persuaded Caesar to go in person to the senators to cancel the meeting.
Despite being the most important public figure in Rome, Caesar began his journey towards death unescorted knowing he had the protection of all the Senate, who had sworn on their lives to protect him. According to reporters of the time, Caesar left the Domus Publica at around 10 in the morning and crossed the Forum overlooked by the Temple of Venus, which celebrates the descent of Gens Julia and then the Emperor from the goddess Venus. Julius Caeser then covered the Via Sacra, crossed the Julius Caesar Forum and reached Piazza Venezia where he stood before something we know today as the Altar of the Fatherland.
The Temple of Venus
Here a very important encounter took place. According to a reporter of the time named Svetonio, the Greek philosopher Artemedoro stopped Julius Caesar to hand him a note, repeatedly urging the Emperor to read it before getting to the Senate.
The note was never read by the Pontifex Maximus who continued on his way along Via delle Botteghe Oscure, a street that, in ancient Roman times, was very tight and narrow.
Via delle Botteghe Oscure
At the end of that street Caesar reached the place of his murder, Largo Argentina. In the very heart of Rome, this archaeological site held the Curia of Pompey where the general would sit during meetings with the senators. There were around 60 of them there and they stabbed him 23 times. The public revolted against the senators, thus beginning a period of harsh civil war. Within three years all the conspirators were dead and none by natural causes.
Largo Argentina, luogo dell'assassinio di Giulio Cesare
Even today the exact place of the crime is still known. Academics have in fact sculpted a plaque requested by Octavian Augustus, the adopted son of Julius Caesar, to remember his father and to pass down the conviction of the murder to future generations. For great lovers of history - or for those who are simply curious - it is possible to relive the Ides of March thanks to the Historical Group of Rome, who every year on the 15th of March reenact Caesar’s final hours.
Gaius Iulius Caesar
Roman Forum from above
Largo Argentina, reenaction of the murder scene