Gregg Wallace visits cat shelter at Julius Caesar’s place of death
The Roman dictator, politician and military general played a critical role in the demise of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire. In 60BC, Caesar, Marcus Licinius Crassus and Pompey The Great formed the First Triumvirate, a political alliance that dominated Roman politics for several years. But his later populist and authoritarian reforms angered the elites, who began to conspire against him and on the Ides of March (March 15), 44BC, Caesar was assassinated by a group of rebellious senators led by Brutus and Cassius.
Expert in ancient history Dr Emma Southon explained how it unfolded inside the Roman Senate during History Hit’s ‘Killing God’ series.
She said: “Caesar enters, goes and sits in his fancy chair, Tillius Cimber grabs Ceasar and starts by asking for mercy for his brother who has been exiled.
“Some of the sources say that he grabs Caesar’s toga to hold him down in the seat, and some say he is doing it to expose his neck.
“What happens next is a guy called Servilius Casca stabs him – he either stabs him from behind and it comes into his shoulder, or it’s through the front.
Julius Caesar was assassinated
Caesar was a Roman dictator, politician and military general
“This is where the accounts differ. Everyone agrees Casca stabs and it’s somewhere in the neck area, but Caesar’s reaction changes on whether the source liked him or not.”
Dr Southon detailed the first account that surfaced.
She said: “The earliest version was written about 20 or 30 by Nicolaus of Damascus who was writing for Octavius.
“He tells a detailed version where, as soon as he is stabbed, Caesar jumps up and is immediately piled on.
“He doesn’t react, he is just immediately knocked to the ground and stabbed all over.
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Expert in ancient history Dr Emma Southon
“He said it looked like a brawl.”
But there were more.
Dr Southon added: “The second version is Suetonius, who was writing a biography of Caesar about 150 years later.
“He says that as soon as Caesar is stabbed he stabs Casca’s hand with his stylus.
“He then tries to jump up, but because he sees all the swords and daggers he loses heart.
“His focus becomes to try and maintain his dignity so he tries to cover his head and legs.
But the expert revealed two more accounts that differed slightly.
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Accounts of Caesar’s death vary
She added: “The third version is Plutarch, who is writing about the same time as Suetonius, 150 years later.
“He is writing a biography of Caesar and trying to make it a parallel to Alexander the Great.
“In his version, Caesar basically says ‘what the hell are you doing?’ and holds on to the dagger which causes Casca to call for help.
“He is surrounded but fights back really hard until [Marcus] Brutas stabs him in the groin.”
And the final painted Caesar in a different light.
Dr Southon continued: “The fourth version comes from Appian about 180 years later and is writing a history of the civil wars.
“In this version, which is my favourite, Caesar grabs Casca as he stabs him and throws him across the room.
Professor Marco Conti, from The American University of Rome
“But as he throws him he leaves his side open and he is stabbed.
“He is stabbed in the thigh by Brutas and thrown around like a wild beast.”
The death of Caesar was one of the most significant moments in history, with its story often told in books, theatre and film.
But a team of Spanish researchers claimed they had pinpointed the exact spot where Caesar fell after finds made on a massive dig in Rome.
Professor Marco Conti, from The American University of Rome, said: “According to a recent publication, scholars made the hypothesis that the spot where Caesar was mortally wounded is actually this bus stop here.
“We have to imagine that the Curia of Pompey, the space in which they had the meetings of the Senate, was located across the street here.
“Not much of the ancient spot is visible today, but this is the actual location of the assassination.”
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The researchers said the spot was next to the bus and tram stop in an area of Rome known as Torre Argentina, visited by millions because of a vast archaeological dig.
At the time of Caesar’s death, however, they believed the assassination took place at the bottom of a series of steps, in a small square area just three metres wide in a building known as The Curia of Pompeii.
The team from the Spanish National Research Council found a concrete structure measuring just three metres wide and two metres deep.
After examining historical documentation they realised it was a box built by Augustus, son of Caesar, to be placed covering the spot where his father was murdered.
The positioning of the box showed it would have been at the lowest point of the Curia where Caesar would have sat on a chair, the point where he was stabbed.
Whether he died there or not is still up to interpretation, according to the researchers, as it is unclear whether Caesar was moved after he was injured.
But it still helps to rewrite his final moments once more.