Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
THE ASSASSINATION OF CÆSAR
 AN important meeting was arranged to be held in the Senate
house on the 15th March 44 B.C. The conspirators fixed
this, the Ides of March, as the day on which they would
assassinate the Dictator. They knew that he would come
to the Senate unarmed and without guards, as was his
On the evening of the 14th, as Cæsar sat at supper,
the conversation, strangely enough, was about the kind
of death that one would wish to die.
The Dictator glanced up from the letters he was reading
and said abruptly, "A sudden one," and then went on
with his reading.
Rumours of the plot may have got abroad, but whether
that was so or not, Cæsar had for some days been told
of evil omens, and had been warned to beware of danger.
Among other warnings, a soothsayer had told him that
evil would befall him on the Ides of March. Now the
Ides of March fell on the 15th of the month.
The night before the 15th, Cæsar's wife, Calpurnia,
tossed in her sleep, breaking out at length into sobs
as though in great sorrow. She was dreaming that she
held in her arms the dead body of her husband.
In the morning she begged him with tears not to go to
the Senate-house that day.
At length her tears and the warnings that had reached
him, made him first hesitate and then yield to her
Meanwhile the senators had assembled, among them the
 conspirators armed with daggers which were concealed in
the cases of their writing stilus.
When Cæsar did not come they grew impatient. What had
happened? Had he perchance discovered their treachery?
The conspirators were uneasy, and they found it hard
to conceal their uneasiness.
At length Decimus Brutus, one of their number, offered
to go to see why Cæsar had not come, and if necessary
to entice him to the Senate.
Decimus found Cæsar at home, cast down by evil omens
and by the fears of Calpurnia.
Then Decimus pretended to laugh at the great Cæsar for
being disturbed by such forebodings. He scoffed at the
soothsayer and his prediction that evil would befall
Cæsar on the Ides of March, he mocked at the story of
evil omens. "Will Cæsar let it be told that because
of such things he would not come to the Senate-house?"
said the false friend.
Perhaps Cæsar was half ready to laugh at his own
fears, but in any case the words of Decimus hurt his
pride, and in spite of all that Calpurnia could urge,
he determined to go back with Decimus to the Senate.
It was now about eleven o'clock. As Cæsar crossed the
hall of his house, his bust fell and broke in pieces.
Afterwards it was said that perhaps this was done by
some friend or servant to warn him what would befall
him should he leave the house. At the time, the broken
bust seemed but another of the omens of evil with which
of late he had been surrounded.
But he left the house and stepped into the street. As
he walked along he passed the soothsayer, and with an
attempt at gaiety he called to him, "The Ides of March
"Yes," answered the wise man, "they are come, but
they are not past."
As was ever the way, the crowd pressed close to offer
petitions to him as he passed along the street.
One man seemed more eager even that the others to
 hand a paper to the Dictator, and when at length he
succeeded, he said hurriedly, "Read it without delay,
Cæsar, for it concerns your safety." But the paper
was never read, for the Dictator handed it with others
to his attendant.
No sooner had Cæsar reached the Senate-house and taken
his seat than the conspirators crowded around him, one
of them, named Cimber, offering him a petition.
It was one which the Dictator had already refused to
grant, and he was annoyed at the persistence shown by
Moreover, the other conspirators joined him in his
entreaties, pressing ever closer and closer around the
Dictator, until only those in the plot were near to
Cæsar was now really angry and turned away from
Cimber, again refusing his request. As he did so,
Cimber pulled Cæsar's toga down from his neck. It was
the signal upon which the conspirators had agreed.
Casca, who was to give the first blow, thereupon drew
his dagger and struck Cæsar on the shoulder. Either
through fear or haste he did little harm by his stroke.
In a moment Cæsar had sprung to his feet, and seizing
hold of Casca's weapon, he cried, "Vile Casca, what
does this mean?"
But immediately daggers were drawn on every side of
him, and blow after blow descended upon his body, while
angry faces looked into his.
Unarmed as he was, Cæsar yet struggled desperately
with the assassins, until he caught sight of Decimus
Brutus, whom he loved, among his murderers, ready to
Then crying, "Et tu,
Brute?" "Thou, too,
Brutus?" he covered his face
with his toga and fell to the
ground, his body covered with many wounds.
Cæsar was dead. And it is said that nature herself
mourned for the great man stricken to death by those
whom he had befriended. For, for a whole year the sun
shone dull and faint, while grey clouds were stretched
across the sky like a funeral pall. Cæsar was