Today is the 15th of March, the so-called Ides of March. On this day, 2060 years ago (44 BC), several conspirators led by Brutus assassinated Gaius Julius Caesar, one of the most prominent historical figures of ancient times.
Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman who lived from 100 BCE to 44 BCE. He played a pivotal role in the transition of the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire.
Caesar was born into a patrician family in Rome and received a good education. He showed great military skill from an early age and quickly rose through the ranks of the Roman army. He served in several campaigns in Gaul (modern-day France) and Britain and became a popular figure in Rome due to his military victories and political acumen. In 49 BCE, Caesar crossed the Rubicon River with his army, an act that was considered a declaration of war against Rome. He defeated the forces of his political rival, Pompey, and became the undisputed ruler of Rome. He was appointed dictator for life in 44 BCE, a move that was seen as a threat to the traditional republican system of government. Caesar’s reign was marked by a series of reforms and ambitious building projects, but it was cut short when he was assassinated by a group of senators in 44 BCE. The assassination plunged Rome into a period of political instability and led to the rise of his adopted son, Octavian, as the first emperor of Rome.
After Caesar’s assassination on March 15, 44 BCE, his body was taken to the Roman Forum for a public funeral. The funeral was a grand spectacle designed to honor Caesar’s memory and rally the people of Rome behind his cause. His body was displayed on a bier in the center of the Forum, surrounded by wax effigies of all the people who had conspired against him. After the funeral procession, Caesar’s body was taken to the Field of Mars, where a funeral pyre was built. The pyre was adorned with flowers, and Caesar’s body was placed upon it. The pyre was then set alight, and Caesar’s body was consumed by the flames.
On the site of Caesar’s cremation in the Forum Romanum, a temple was built as a tribute to a comet that appeared shortly after Caesar’s death. The comet was believed by some to carry Ceasar’s soul. The temple was named the Temple of Divus Iulius, now called simply the Temple of Ceasar. On the picture above, a part of its ruins traditionally believed to be Julius Caesar’s grave.
On the picture below, a view onto Forum Romanum from the Palatine Hill. The location of Caesar’s grave is marked with a black ring.
The Roman Republic had a complex system of government with multiple branches, but over time, this system became corrupt and ineffective. The political elite became increasingly self-serving, and the common people became disillusioned with the government. In the late Republic, a series of civil wars and political crises further weakened the government. Caesar introduced new laws to reform the Roman economy and social system, and he also initiated a massive building program that included the construction of public works such as roads, aqueducts, and public buildings. Despite his many accomplishments, Caesar was a controversial figure. He was seen as a threat to the traditional Roman Republic system of government. This was the reason why he was assassinated by a group of senators who feared his growing power.
His adopted son Octavian gradually consolidated his power and in 27 BCE, he was granted the title of Augustus, meaning “revered one”. Augustus became the first emperor of Rome, and he established a new system of government that was more centralized and authoritarian than the Republic. Under the Roman Empire, the emperor held supreme power and was assisted by a small group of advisors. The Senate still existed, but its power was greatly reduced. The emperor was responsible for governing the empire and maintaining law and order. The military became more important under the empire, and the emperor was also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The conversion from the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire had a profound impact on Rome and on the history of the Western world. It marked the end of the Republic and the beginning of a new era of imperial rule that would shape the course of history for centuries to come.