| On the Shores of the Great Sea|
|by M. B. Synge|
|Book I of the Story of the World series. Focuses on the civilizations surrounding the Mediterranean Sea from the time of Abraham to the birth of Christ. Brief histories of the Ancient Israelites, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Scythians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans are given, concluding with the conquest of the entire Mediterranean by Rome. Important myths and legends that preceded recorded history are also related. Ages 9-18 |
THE DEATH OF CÆSAR
"The last of all the Romans, fare thee well."
 AFTER a three months' stay in Egypt, during which time, he made friends with Cleopatra, Cæsar returned to Rome. He
had been made Dictator a second time, and was to hold the post for ten years. A thanksgiving of forty days was
decreed, temples and statues were raised in his honour, a golden chair was placed in the Senate for him to sit
in. He was called the "Father of his country," a name that Cicero had already borne, and four triumphs were
celebrated in his honour.
In return Cæsar feasted the Roman people at twenty-two thousand tables, and entertained them at combats of wild
animals and gladiators, beneath awnings of the richest silks. For Pompey had built a splendid theatre in Rome,
in which lions and elephants, and men known as gladiators, who fought with swords, for the amusement of the
people, engaged in combat before crowds of delighted spectators; for the Romans thought the shedding of blood
was pleasing to their gods.
But Cæsar did more than this. He made new Roman laws, he tried to bridge over the terrible inequality, between
the very rich and the very poor, he added hugely to the number of senators, he
 arranged the foreign provinces, and he rearranged the calendar. This was a very important piece of work. Up to
this time the year had been made to consist of three hundred and fifty-five days; but as that did not exactly
fit in, with the revolution of the earth round the sun, an extra month, had to be added at intervals. This made
great confusion, and festivals for the harvest and vintage came three months before there was any corn or
The Julian calendar, as it was called, made the year to consist of three hundred and sixty-five days and six
hours; which arrangement lasted for one thousand six hundred years after the death of Cæsar.
So Cæsar became undisputed master of this mighty empire of Rome. He had shown himself to be, not only one of
the greatest conquerors, the world had ever seen, but one of the greatest statesmen. He governed Rome, as a
king, in all but name. It was reported in the city, that he wished to be called king. Did he not dress in royal
purple robes, had he not given himself all the airs of kingship?
One morning some one placed a crown of laurels, upon the head of his statue, which stood in the Forum. It was
done publicly, in the midst of a vast crowd, in Cæsar's presence. The wreath was torn down. A few days later,
as he was riding through the streets of Rome, he was saluted by
 the mob as "king." A stifled murmur of disapproval ran through the crowd.
"I am no king, but Cæsar," cried the Roman Dictator hastily.
Yet again the prize of kingship seemed within reach. Cæsar was in his golden chair, dressed in purple, and
wearing a wreath of bay wrought in gold, presented by the senators. He was presiding over a popular festival,
when suddenly the chief performer approached Cæsar, and drawing a small crown from his girdle he placed it on
Cæsar's head, saying, "The people give you this, by my hand."
As Cæsar took off the crown, a loud burst of applause broke from the people.
"I am not king," he said in a loud voice; "the only king of the Romans is Jupiter." Saying which, he ordered
the crown to be carried, to the temple of Jupiter, in the Capitol.
The question of kingship was over, but there was a spirit of unrest and distrust abroad in Rome. Men hated this
supreme power; they thought Cæsar was a tyrant, and they wished to see Rome free. Cæsar knew there was danger,
but he went daily to the Senate, unarmed, and without a guard.
"It is better to suffer death once, than always to live in fear of it," he had replied loftily to those who
Cicero—the foremost orator of his day—did not
 agree with such rashness, on the part of one, whose life was yet so precious to Rome.
"Be you watchful," he urged in a brilliant speech in the Senate, where Cæsar was sitting, but a few weeks
before his murder. "All our lives are bound up in yours. With sorrow I have heard you say that you have lived
long enough. For your country, you have not. Put away, I beseech you, this contempt of death. Be not wise at
our expense. Your work is unfinished. It remains for you to rebuild the constitution. Live till this is done.
Live till you see your country at peace. Your life shall continue fresh in the memory of ages to come: men will
read with wonder of empire and provinces, of the Rhine, the ocean, and the Nile, of battles without number, of
amazing victories, of countless monuments and triumphs; but unless this State be wisely established, your name
will not live. Therefore, we beseech you, to watch over your own safety."
But Cæsar heeded not, and a secret plot, to kill him, went forward. An important meeting of the Senate had been
called for the 15th of March. The day was known in ancient Rome, as the Ides—i.e., the middle day of the month.
This was the day fixed for the murder of Cæsar. He had been warned by a soothsayer, that this should happen,
and it is said he was restless and nervous, when the morning came. Unarmed, however, he shook off his
uneasiness; he crossed the hall of
 his palace on the way to the senate-house. As he did so, his own statue fell and broke in pieces on the stones.
Outside the senate-house, he met the soothsayer, who had warned him.
"The Ides of March are come," said Cæsar, laughing.
"Yes," answered the soothsayer in a low voice, "but they are not gone."
Cæsar entered the senate-house of Rome for the last time. The senators rose to do him honour, as he took his
seat, in the golden chair. Men gathered round him. He knew them all. There was not one, who did not owe him
gratitude. He had no suspicions.
Suddenly some one stabbed him in the throat. He started from his chair with a cry. He was surrounded by swords
and gleaming steel. For a moment he tried to defend himself. Then seeing Brutus, his friend, with raised sword,
he drew his cloak over his face, "And thou too, Brutus?" He uttered the words with his last breath as he fell
dead at the foot of Pompey's statue, beside his golden chair.
The Senate rose in confusion and rushed out to proclaim to the Romans, that the tyrant was dead, and Rome was
free, while the body of the great Cæsar lay alone in the senate-house, where but a few weeks ago, Cicero had
told him, that every senator would die, before harm should reach him.
 "We have killed the king," cried Cicero in bitterness of heart, "but the kingdom is with us still. We have
taken away the tyrant, but the tyranny still lives."
The great Roman Republic was ended. It had narrowly escaped being a kingdom. It was now to be an empire under
an emperor—an empire so vast and so important that the history of the world henceforth became the history of
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