The Sunday Leader

Julius Caesar’s Last Words

By Tia Goonaratna

The Death of Caesar: the story of history’s most famous assassination by Barry Strauss is brilliant. Through William Shakespeare, the story of Julius Caesar was famous as a tragic story, but finding an account of the events that took place in a language that is reader friendly has been a difficult task. Now, thanks to Barry Strauss, the events of March 15, 44 BC are available as the true account of what took place.

Shakespeare, in the name of telling a good story, dramatised the events to be an amateur and idealistic affair. However, the real assassination had more to its story than meets the eye. ‘The real killing, however, was a carefully planned paramilitary operation, a generals’ plot, put together by Caesar’s disaffected officers and designed with precision.’

The story begins seven months before the death of Julius Caesar. Caesar was planning to enter Rome to declare the end of Civil War. Three men were beside him at this point; Brutus, Mark Anthony, and Octavian. Even though we know according to history who betrays Caesar, the build up to the revelation was done so profoundly that it is impossible not to feel the tension and the excitement. Whether you are into history, know the story or just have a read, you will still be taken away with the compelling story telling.  Each character is described clearly and well detailed: Mark Anthony as the handsome, athletic and self-assured young man, Decimus, wealthy military hero on the rise, and Octavian, not of pure Roman blood, but ambitious, intelligent and ruthless.

Caesar’s assassins regarded him as a military dictator who wanted the powers of a king. It was believed that Caesar’s views would change the Roman way of life and would make senators obsolete. Even though the assassins gathered support from the common people, they didn’t stand a chance against Caesar’s soldiers who flooded the city. This is when the Republic became the Empire. Cleopatra is housed just outside the city, and she is wishing to have her son recognised as Caesar’s child. This is amidst the political back and forth for discovering Caesar’s heir. The fight to save the Republic is driven by jealousy, dislike, and self-interest.  Thanks to letters and accounts from people who survived that period, such as Cicero, the true accounts from both the side are explained. Even Caesar’s dreams, omens and signs that ‘warned’ him of the coming danger are expressed. Most of the myths that take place around the day are also cleared and Caesar’s last words are also included. This is not just a book telling a story we already know. This is a clear up of what we have believed for so long and also giving us a glimpse of what happened after the assassination of Julius Caesar.

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