The Ides of March, the Demise of Caesar

The Ides of March (March 15) may be the single greatest catalyst in Roman history. Many remember the Ides of March because it was the day Brutus betrayed Caesar, but you may not know what led to the event, or how Rome would be shaped afterward.

Caesar left Rome at a young age, due to political reasons, and joined the military. He was an exceedingly good soldier, and earned a reputation for being a fierce leader.  He later studied and became a great public speaker and politician. Due to political issues he began his notorious conquest of Gaul, in which he was very successful, and grew famous as an outstanding general.

He was ordered to return to Rome, because the senate believed he was gaining too much power. Caesar obliged, but returned to Rome with his army behind him. The senate feared for their lives and fled Rome.

Caesar was elected dictator of Rome in 48 BC. He made drastic changes to Rome politically and culturally. He reorganized local government, the calendar, relieved debt, and expanded the senate. He spread wealth as well, which the poor people of Rome praised him for. However in doing so he was also granting himself vast amounts of power.

Senators saw the growth of power and feared Caesar we making Rome into a monarchy, with himself set to be king. This led to his eventual assassination by members of the Senate, led by Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus. The words ‘Et tu Brute?’ (And you Brutus?) are often quoted as his last words to his friend, Brutus. In fact, they were made popular by Shakespeare’s play, named for Caesar, and there is no evidence that he actually said them.

Caesar was seen as a champion of the poor, so this act led to more unrest in the empire.  Gaius Octavius, a relative of Caesar’s, retaliated against his conspirators with the help of the Roman citizens who loved Caesar, and gained power. He was then named the first emperor of Rome. This is seen as the end of the Roman Republic, and the beginning of the Roman Empire, which would last for four hundred years.

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