Today I am launching a series entitled Travel Back in Time that will examine events from the past with a view to assessing their impact on today’s world.
If Julius Caesar hadn’t been assassinated on the 15th of March in 44 BC, it’s debatable anyone would know what the word “ides” meant!
There would be no Shakespearean tragedy entitled Julius Caesar, no famous, “Et tu, Brute?” What a loss!
Caesar’s name itself became a title, adopted by his successor Octavian; it was promulgated by the Bible, by the famous verse, “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s”. The title became the German Kaiser and Slavic Tsar/Czar.
The murder itself had far reaching effects on the Roman Empire. The assassins did not foresee that Caesar’s death would precipitate the end of the 500 year old Roman Republic. The Roman middle and lower classes, with whom Caesar was immensely popular and had been since before Gaul, became enraged that a small group of aristocrats had killed their champion.
Antony, who had been drifting apart from Caesar, capitalized on the grief of the Roman mob and threatened to unleash them on the guilty, perhaps with the intent of taking control of Rome himself. To his surprise and chagrin, Caesar had named his grandnephew Gaius Octavian his sole heir, bequeathing him the immensely potent Caesar name and making him one of the wealthiest citizens in the Republic.
The crowd at the funeral boiled over, throwing dry branches, furniture and even clothing on to Caesar’s pyre, causing the flames to spin out of control, seriously damaging the Forum. The mob then attacked the houses of Brutus and Cassius, two of the assassins, where they were repelled only with considerable difficulty, ultimately providing the spark for the civil war, fulfilling at least in part Antony’s threat against the aristocrats.
Antony did not foresee the ultimate outcome of the next series of civil wars, particularly with regard to Caesar’s adopted heir. Octavian, aged only 18 when Caesar died, proved to have considerable political skills, and while Antony dealt with Decimus Brutus in the first round of the new civil wars, Octavian consolidated his tenuous position.
To combat Brutus and Cassius, who were massing an enormous army in Greece, Antony needed soldiers, the cash from Caesar’s war chests, and the legitimacy that Caesar’s name would provide for any action he took against them. In November 43 BC, the Second Triumvirate was officially formed, composed of Antony, Octavian, and Caesar’s loyal cavalry commander Lepidus. Because Caesar’s clemency had resulted in his murder, the Second Triumvirate reinstated the practice of proscription, abandoned since Sulla. It engaged in the legally sanctioned murder of a large number of its opponents to secure funding for its forty-five legions in the second civil war against Brutus and Cassius. Antony and Octavius defeated them at Philippi.
Afterward, Mark Antony formed an alliance with Caesar’s lover, Cleopatra, intending to use the fabulously wealthy Egypt as a base to dominate Rome. A third civil war broke out between Octavian on one hand and Antony and Cleopatra on the other. This final civil war, culminating in the latter’s defeat at Actium, resulted in the permanent ascendancy of Octavian, who became the first Roman Emperor, under the name Caesar Augustus, a name that raised him to the status of a deity.
The effects on modern day life of the expansion of the Roman Empire begun under Augustus cannot be overstated. Because of the Empire’s vast extent and long endurance, the institutions and culture of Rome had a profound and lasting influence on the development of language, religion, architecture, philosophy, law, and forms of government in the territory it governed, particularly Europe, and by means of European expansionism throughout the modern world.
BTW I’ve just released a boxed set of The Montbryce Legacy Series. Four books at significant savings.